By now, you have certainly all seen the controversial story that documents what we've all long suspected - that Congress is getting not only more partisan, but dumber. Here's the article from the Washington Post, although you may well have seen it other places (such as Kathy's blog) as well. The upshot of the story is that experts have documented a decline in Congressional smarts by determining that Congress on average speaks at a level an entire grade level lower than it did seven years ago: your average member of Congress today speaks at a 10.6 grade level, down from 11.5 in 2005. The average American, in contrast, speaks between the 8th and 9th grade level, which indicates that Congress is still (at least theoretically, and by one measure) smarter than we are.
I do not find this comforting.
According to the Post story, examples of the grade level of various important documents and speeches include the Constitution at a 17.8 grade level; the Declaration of Independence at 15.1; Lincoln's Gettysburg Address at 11.2; and Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech at 9.4. President Obama's State of the Union speeches (read this year's speech here) come in at around an 8th grade level.
Is Congress getting dumber because they need to come down to our level, or are they just getting dumber because of a focus on rigid doctrine rather than serious thought? Neither option is very appealing.
In a related development, you may have seen this article on CNN: Why Your Dental Plaque is Valuable.
Yes, Dear Readers, apparently when you floss your teeth, you rob future scientists of valuable information about your diet and general health because fossilized dental calculus (or plaque, or - to use the proper medical term - tooth gunk) can provide scientists with data which may help to identify and defeat diseases and reconstruct our dietary and health history.
This is interesting, of course, although I'm sure that Laura, my long-suffering dental hygienist*, is ready to lead a mob of dental professionals waving pitchforks, torches, and dental picks against the authors of the plaque study. But how does it relate to the dumbing-down of Congress? Consider the last line of the story:
"Your mouth is full of valuable information."
In the case of our current stable of Congressional ass clowns, I'm not so sure.
Have a good day. Speak well and floss often ... it doesn't matter what grade level you speak at if your breath will knock a buzzard off a garbage scow.
More thoughts tomorrow.
* Laura's imaginative ways to get me to floss included an appeal to my love of dancing: she told me that if I didn't floss regularly, the buildup of plaque on my teeth would affect my balance and, thus, my ability to dance properly. I give her an "A" for effort.