Umm, This.

So, it’s interesting, listening to people talk these days, quite frankly, in terms of their words, their language, their speech. I have an issue, with what everyone’s saying – not like everyone everyone but, you know, it’s just their actual words when they talk about complex issues and such, or like politics, what with the whole Trump thing and Senate hearings and everything that goes with that. I was a high school English teacher for sixteen years, so I started noticing all this, you know, frankly, during class discussions. I’m also a bit of a news hound, so that’s how I started noticing this on-air style of speeching, of making it sound thoughtful and taking them seriously. And it’s so much out there, like an epidemic or something, which is interesting, which speaks to on-line streaming and TV news, talk radio, and pretty much the whole 24-hour news cycle.

Here’s the thing, though, because I guess substantive quality will always be up for debate, but that’s just it – it’s so wide-ranging that it’s like people have no idea they’re even doing it, which is interesting. It’s almost like it’s the new normal, which really begs the question – are people getting dumber? Is education failing us? In terms of intelligent debate, that will always be something that probably might be true or false. And let’s have those conversations! But in terms of intelligible debate, it’s interesting because, when I listen to how people are talking, it gets really interesting because when I listen what they actually say, it’s like they’re making it all up on the spot in the moment as they go, so it’s just that that makes me not as sure it’s intelligent as it’s less intelligible. But it’s all in a sober tone, and they’re just expressing their opinion, which is democracy.

And that’s the thing – if you challenge anybody with all what I’m saying, clarity-wise, it’s interesting, they’ll get all defensive and whatnot, like it’s a personal attack that you’re calling them stupid or whatever, like you’re some kind of Grammar Jedi.

And, I mean, I get that. So that’s where I think people don’t really get it because I totally get where they’re coming from.

Seriously, who would want to be called like not intelligent or anything all like that, whatever, especially if we’re trying to discuss serious world issues like the whole Russia thing that’s been happening or the environment or all the issues in China and the Middle East? Or terrorism and all? I mean, if you look at all that’s happening in the world right now, but you’re going to get that detailed of the way someone talks, maybe you should look in the mirror.

SNL did the most amazinggggggg job with all this, with Cecily Strong on Weekend Update as The Girl You Wish You Hadn’t Started A Conversation With At A Party. Comedy-wise, she even makes a point, but basically, she’s furthering the point about intelligence, except I’m talking about intelligibility. But still, if you haven’t seen it, what can I tell you? You’re missing out, SO FUNNY. She. Is. Amazing.

The other thing, and this one’s especially interesting, is just how there’s just SO MUCH out there, what with Google and the Internet, and Wikipedia, so who could possibly be expected to know every single detail about all the different political things or the economy and all the stuff that’s out there? And it’s even more with speaking because pretty much most people aren’t like writing a book or something. (W’ll, and that’s just it – nobody speaks the way they write, so… )

Anyway, so yeah, no, it’s interesting. At the end of the day, first and foremost, one of the things that’s interesting is that everybody deserves to have a say because that’s democracy. But the world gets so serious, probs I just need to chill and ease off, see the bright side, like jokey Buzzfeed headlines or Five Thirty-Eight’s “Comey Bingo.” News it up! There’s plenty of other examples. How about an article based entirely on a viral tweet, for an audience intimately familiar with pop culture? The world faces serious aspects, for sure, but the thing is, work hard but party harder. I mean, we’re only here for a good time, not a long time!

And it’s interesting ‘cuz people seem to require more frequent, more intense, more repeated engagement, to spice up their attention spans. There’s some good drinking games, too, on that, because politicians! I know, right? But not like drunk drunk, just like happy drunk, you know? Not sure if all this counts as it means we’re getting dumber, per se, but it’s just interesting.

So, yeah, it’s interesting because we’ve come such a long way, and history fought for our freedom and everything, so I just really think going forward we should just really appreciate that, and all, you know?

Author: Scott Robertson

Scott is a Canadian school teacher, a doctoral candidate in Education, an avid gardener, and a football (soccer) coach. He is also a Dad. Scott worked in high school classrooms for 17 years, teaching mostly Secondary English. He describes learning as a continual renovation: intentional self-reflection aimed at personal growth, alongside people who share similar aims. At the core of his lessons is personal responsibility, an approach to living with integrity by adopting the habit of thinking. It's a blend of philosophy, literature, grammar, history, and science, all tied in a bundle by classical rhetoric. His students often described his approach to be unlike others they knew—mostly in a good way—which prepared them for post-secondary school and adulthood, citizenship, and whatever else. Outside the classroom, Scott has been coaching football (soccer) since 1990 and still enjoys playing, too, except when he’s too injured—then he tries to play golf instead.

3 thoughts on “Umm, This.”

  1. You’re on point when you call this type of speech democratic – and in a democracy, not everyone *is* intelligent. That’s one of the things that’s appealing about Trump – he appeals to the under-educated masses. If those of us who consider ourselves intelligent want to be heard in a democracy, we have to do the same – keep ostentatious vocabularies to book clubs (and blogs), and make daily conversations (and Facebook posts) relatable.

    (P.S. Hi Mr. Rob!)


    1. Hey Jon,

      First of all, I’m honoured that you submitted a comment. You have the distinction of leaving the first one, ever, so maybe you’re somewhat honoured, too!

      Something I learned to monitor while I was coaching – this was earlier than my teaching although then as well – was not teamwork or skills my players were learning, not even the game itself. It was underneath, the procedures and routines they were learning so that they could show up for training and jump right in once we were on the field. In coaching, it was coined “Training to Train” (by a brilliant guy at UVic), yet it took nearly fifteen years for this province’s Old Boys network to even begin accepting it. They were so convinced by the procedures and routines they had learned back in the day – what training had always been was obviously what it would forever be. Today, that UVic model is worldwide, and not just limited to soccer.

      The Old Boys were not dummies. They were intelligent (granted, a few were a bit full of themselves too), and they worked from their frame-of-reference. As I say, fifteen years later, some new evidence finally persuaded them to change. Likely, by now, you see my point.

      I’ve found it helpful to distinguish between intelligence and education. I’d have said to you or any students about two words, if they meant the same thing, we’d use the same word. Plenty of people are intelligent, in different kinds of ways, but their education is complexity – a lot of moving parts, as they might say at the lower levels of discourse.

      I agree that Trump’s appeal is base, coarse, vulgar, whatever. I’d chalk some of that up to raw emotion – a lot of people are angry, embittered, bemused, and fed up with self-serving governance. A lot are frightened and uncertain by rapid cultural changes – you’d know from being there that 300million is a lot of dissemination and generations of time, particularly as the education system is generally poor (on that point, I agree). Since 2008, a lot are desperate, jobless, even homeless. Now it’s Medicare, on top of some of the worst polarisation they’ve experienced. Under the circumstances, I’m not sure I’d point to a lack of intelligence. The USA is a tinderbox right now, and I fear the wrong emotion could strike like a match.

      Fair enough, intelligence isn’t distributed evenly at birth. We’ve all met those people, not saying they aren’t out and about. But generally I’ve found it’s warranted to give people credit. Sometimes, too, there’s a difference between what we consider intelligent as compared to whether we simply disagree, which is one of the motives behind this whole blog of mine – see past ourselves, get in close, and listen – not just attentively but with empathy. It’s harder with people we don’t like but, then I’d argue, all the more necessary. I think Trump won as much because too many people on both sides failed to listen this way while (ironically, I know) Trump succeeded at it, however superficial he actually was.

      Fair enough, as well, keep the vocab down to a dull register or risk alienating yourself from those you need to reach. You know me, concise precise. But you know what? Where I was conscious of my vocab with Gr 9s, or even with Seniors, I also refused to dumb it down. I figured it was better to challenge at an appropriate level, and keep a higher expectation (at the cost of students’ higher frustration!) But generally it helped raise the level because ‘challenge’ simply became the culture. I think this vocab one is more art than science. But agreed, relatable is probably the final test because a sophisticated audience might prefer ostentatious, and suddenly you’re no further ahead with them. Know your audience, though, that’s where I agree with you in principle.

      Brilliant, thanks for posting! Should have known I could count on U.


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