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Report: Members Of Congress Speak Like High School Sophomores

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posted on May, 21 2012 @ 02:15 PM
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This probably won’t come as much as a surprise to most of you, but it is now confirmed by an independent study…

The intelligence level of how our politicians speak is dropping.

Members Of Congress Speak Like High School Sophomores


The sophistication of federal lawmakers' speech patterns is on the decline, with members of Congress now talking, on average, at the level of high school sophomores. According to a new report by the Sunlight Foundation, Congress has fallen by almost a full grade-level since 2005.


Another less than surprising find in this study is that the further one goes out in either extreme from the center the greater the grade level drops.


"Particularly among the newest members of Congress, as you move out from the center and toward either end of the political spectrum, the grade level goes down, and that pattern is particularly pronounced on the right," said Lee Drutman, a political scientist at Sunlight.


Before you point fingers as to which side is speaking dumber, check this out:


Before 2005, Republicans spoke, on average, at a slightly higher grade level than Democrats. Since then, Democrats have been slightly higher.

*SNIP*

Rep. Dan Lungren (R-Calif.) has both the top lifetime average and the top average in this Congress. He is at the equivalent of grade 20 for this 112th Congress. Republicans also outnumber Democrats at the highest grade levels.


So how does one explain people graduating from places such as Notre Dame, Northwestern, Harvard, Georgetown, etc. etc. being seemingly unable to properly articulate their positions?

No definitive answer to this question from the study, but an interesting theory:


Sunlight did not reach a definitive conclusion on why lawmakers' speech patterns have become simpler over time, although Drutman wrote in a blog post, "Perhaps it reflects lawmakers speaking more in talking points, and increasingly packaging their floor speeches for YouTube. Gone, perhaps, are the golden days when legislators spoke to persuade each other, thoughtfully wrestled with complex policy trade-offs, and regularly quoted Shakespeare."


So, just how “dumbed down” have their words become? Check this disturbing factoid from the study:


Sunlight also found that members of Congress rarely use the 100 most common SAT words, which are likely very familiar to high school students.

In fact, only 10 members of Congress have used at least 20 of these words in the 112th Congress; only 92 members have used at least 10 of them. Thirty-two members did not use a single one of the SAT words.

The most commonly used SAT word was, ironically, "compromise." It has been used 1,820 times in this Congress as of the end of April. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has used it more than anyone else.


Has anyone else noticed the “dumbing down” of how our leaders seem to speak to voters?
What do you think about this study?
Do you believe it to be accurate, or not so much?
What effect, if any, do you think this effects how we are being governed?

Looking forward to your reply.

Peace.




posted on May, 21 2012 @ 02:21 PM
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Originally posted by Hessling
Gone, perhaps, are the golden days when legislators spoke to persuade each other, thoughtfully wrestled with complex policy trade-offs



Such relics are from the days when political representatives actually represented the people who voted for them. Also from the days when the debates were actual debates about policy.

Now of course, policy is already decided in the party backroom meetings, and there is no point whatsoever to go out onto the floor to debate them. The only reason being a chance to sell your policy to the public and show yourself as being worthy of reelection.

This is why its now simpler.
In the past, they were actually genuinely debating with each other, politician to politician. Now, they're reading from a sales brochure, selling to Joe Public.



posted on May, 21 2012 @ 02:28 PM
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Originally posted by alfa1

Originally posted by Hessling
Gone, perhaps, are the golden days when legislators spoke to persuade each other, thoughtfully wrestled with complex policy trade-offs



Such relics are from the days when political representatives actually represented the people who voted for them. Also from the days when the debates were actual debates about policy.

Now of course, policy is already decided in the party backroom meetings, and there is no point whatsoever to go out onto the floor to debate them. The only reason being a chance to sell your policy to the public and show yourself as being worthy of reelection.

This is why its now simpler.
In the past, they were actually genuinely debating with each other, politician to politician. Now, they're reading from a sales brochure, selling to Joe Public.


I think you nailed that one! Also, it makes good sense.

What a sad state of affairs.



posted on May, 21 2012 @ 02:32 PM
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I think the media are somewhat responsible for turning politics into such a farce. Politicians know that a concise dumbed down one sentence statement is far better than an articulate , well delivered argument.

I also feel that most politicians dont have much respect for the average member of the publics intelligence. I think the way they speak to us says more about what they think of us than anything.



posted on May, 21 2012 @ 02:52 PM
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Some interesting context on the methodology. Basically, they determine 'grade level' by the size of words and length of sentences.



Flesch-Kincaid scores can be determined as: 0.39 * (Words/Sentences) + 11.8 * (Syllables/Words) - 15.59.

All these analyses use the Flesch-Kincaid test, which produces the 'reads at a n-th grade level' terminology that is likely familiar to many readers. At its core, Flesch-Kincaid equates higher grade levels with longer words and longer sentences. It is important to understand the limitations of this metric: it tells us nothing about the clarity or correctness of a passage of text. But although an admittedly crude tool, Flesch-Kincaid can nonetheless provide insights into how different legislators speak, and how Congressional speech has been changing.


Check the website which published the results. They have some fun links to look into the study more:

sunlightfoundation.com...







Today’s Congress speaks at about a 10.6 grade level, down from 11.5 in 2005. By comparison, the U.S. Constitution is written at a 17.8 grade level, the Federalist Papers at a 17.1 grade level, and the Declaration of Independence at a 15.1 grade level. The Gettysburg Address comes in at an 11.2 grade level and Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is at a 9.4 grade level. Most major newspapers are written at between an 11th and 14th grade level.


sunlightfoundation.com...
edit on 21-5-2012 by stanguilles7 because: (no reason given)

edit on 21-5-2012 by stanguilles7 because: (no reason given)



posted on May, 21 2012 @ 03:00 PM
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Originally posted by alfa1

Originally posted by Hessling
Gone, perhaps, are the golden days when legislators spoke to persuade each other, thoughtfully wrestled with complex policy trade-offs



Such relics are from the days when political representatives actually represented the people who voted for them. Also from the days when the debates were actual debates about policy.

Now of course, policy is already decided in the party backroom meetings, and there is no point whatsoever to go out onto the floor to debate them. The only reason being a chance to sell your policy to the public and show yourself as being worthy of reelection.

This is why its now simpler.
In the past, they were actually genuinely debating with each other, politician to politician. Now, they're reading from a sales brochure, selling to Joe Public.


I think you maybe have an idealistic sense of what politicians in the past were. I cant honestly recall a time when they represented 'the people', for the most part. Politicians composing speeches with longer words and sentences a hundred years ago were just speaking to a more 'elite' audience of monied interests, not television commercials watched by average rubes.

Today's politicians speak to a national audience through a medium that requires soundbites. And those soundbites have to be easily digestible, hence the small words and sentences. I'm not sure one can really say todays politicians are actually dumber than those in the past based on that. They are just communicating through a different medium.



posted on May, 21 2012 @ 06:24 PM
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A decline in median intelligence (even it is is a calculated decline) is always accompanied by a slide into incivility. It's only a matter of time before we get to watch some Parliament style throwdowns, and I can't wait.



"I would respectfully like to point out that the honorable Congressman from Minnesota is a ***** ****** who deserves a good curb stomping!"

Also? Yeah, it's pandering.
edit on 21-5-2012 by Eidolon23 because:




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