May 29, 2012

Dumbing Down or Wising Up?

In light of the upcoming 2012 presidential elections, the push to “get out the vote” and the call for increased civic engagement nationwide, let us be reminded what a huge part literacy plays in all of this!

A recent study by the Sunset Foundation reported that today’s Congress collectively speaks at a 10.6 grade level. The study analyzes various cornerstone governmental addresses/publications and has assigned grade levels at which they were written.

  “…Whether you see it as plainspeak or you see it as a dumbing down, the data are clear: The overall complexity of speech in the Congressional Record has dropped almost a full grade level since 2005” (Drutman, 2012).

Plainspeak? Dumbing down?

Are these really the only two viable lenses through which we should view this trend?

If we look at current literacy trends, it is certainly worth noting that in Central Texas alone, 121,074 adults age 16 years and older struggle with reading or cannot read at all.

While some may say it’s dumbing down, maybe in fact politicians are finally wising up to the realities of their audience. I think we could all agree Congress has been speaking over the heads of the average American for years. Is it really such a terrible thing to start breaking down some of the overall complexity- a.k.a. - political lingo and jargon within our governing bodies?! How can we expect to be a government for the people by the people, after all, if the people do not comprehend?

Literacy is foundational for an individual’s ability to participate and engage with their community, whether it is to engage politically or simply buy groceries or fill out a job application. That is why organizations such as LCCT continue to work to expand the quality and availability of literacy services in Central Texas.

Check out how literacy services are shaping Central Texas by visiting our website to learn more about the specific partner agencies and programs we support.

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