Thursday, June 17, 2010

Over Our Heads?

CNN has a report about the President's speech in which the analyst says the President's speech probably went over the head of most of the audience. Why? It was written at the 10th grade level.

Tuesday night's speech from the Oval Office of the White House was written to a 9.8 grade level, said Paul J.J. Payack, president of Global Language Monitor.

What would have worked better? Obviously a lower grade level.

Obama's nearly 10th-grade-level rating was the highest of any of his major speeches and well above the Grade 7.4 of his 2008 "Yes, we can" victory speech, which many consider his best effort, Payack said.

I am going to assume, for the moment, that this guy knows what he is talking about and is not some elitist snob. Consider the implications of what he is saying. The speech was written at, essentially, the 14-15 year old level, yet to be effective it should have been written at the level of 12-13 year olds. Wrap your heads around that for a minute. If this was more than most people could handle, what does that mean for us as a nation navigating the increasing complexities of technology and a global economy?

If we can't comprehend this speech, then what makes us think we have the intellectual capacity to do much of anything worthwhile, besides operate our PCs and cell phones? If we lack the assumed intellectual capacity of 14-15 year olds, and are best approached as 12-13 year olds, do we also lack the emotional maturity that is the assumed provenance of adults? When Payack did his analysis I don't think he considered the implications, but I don't think they can be avoided. Or we can write Payack off as a word geek and just ignore him, and this.

No comments: