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Is Congress getting dumber?

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Congress now speaks at almost a full grade level lower than it did just seven years ago.

...

Of course, what some might interpret as a dumbing down of Congress, others will see as more effective communications. And lawmakers of both parties still speak above the heads of the average American, who reads at between an 8th and 9th grade level.

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. (You can find more comparisons here)

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.

...

Overall, the complexity of speech in the Congressional Record has declined steadily since 2005.

...

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact cause of the decline. 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.

The data indicate that part of the decline has to do with new junior members speaking at a lower grade level than more senior members, and some of it has to do with individual senior members simplifying their speech over time.

...

Among the newest members (those with 1-3 years in their seat), there is drop off in speech level as we move from the center out to either extreme of the political spectrum ... For the next cohort (4-10 years of experience), the same pattern continues on both the political right and left.

...

For the next cohort (11-20 years in their seat), the pattern on the right (more conservative, simpler speech) remains, but the pattern on the left reverses (there is a slight correlation between more liberalism and higher speech grade level). In the most senior cohort (more than 20 years in their seat), Republicans speak, on average, at a higher level than Democrats, with only the slightest relationship between conservatism and more simple speech.

http://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/2012/05/21/congressional-speech/

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i think a good chunk of this can be attributed to congressmen's staff, as it's THEY/THEM that are writing the majority of what gets into the Congressional Record.

So, to blame it on 'The Man' is disingenuous, blame it on 'The Man's Helpers' instead.


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i think a good chunk of this can be attributed to congressmen's staff, as it's THEY/THEM that are writing the majority of what gets into the Congressional Record.

So, to blame it on 'The Man' is disingenuous, blame it on 'The Man's Helpers' instead.

If my team fails to perform, people blame management. Why? Because management put and keeps the team together.

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If my team fails to perform, people blame management. Why? Because management put and keeps the team together.

Alas, different hiring standards for 'your team' vs The Man's team.

But I understand yer point.


Sometimes my language usage seems confusing - please feel free to 'read it twice', just in case !
Ya know, you can find the answer to your question with the advanced search tool, when using a PC? Ditch the handphone, come back later on a PC, and try again.

-=-=-=-=-=R E A D ! ! !=-=-=-=-=-

Whoa Nelly ! Want NVC Info? see http://www.visajourney.com/wiki/index.php/NVC_Process

Congratulations on your approval ! We All Applaud your accomplishment with Most Wonderful Kissies !

 

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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.

I thought there were 12 grades?


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After hearing debates in Parliament, you begin to realize how dense US congressman really are. If you put 90% of US Senators or Congressman in Parliament they would be shutdown and laughed out of the room.

agree. i gets my oratory skills solely from watching prime minister's questions , these last 20 years. [Thank You C-Span].

I thought there were 12 grades?

The scale had to skew, to handle the use of language.


Sometimes my language usage seems confusing - please feel free to 'read it twice', just in case !
Ya know, you can find the answer to your question with the advanced search tool, when using a PC? Ditch the handphone, come back later on a PC, and try again.

-=-=-=-=-=R E A D ! ! !=-=-=-=-=-

Whoa Nelly ! Want NVC Info? see http://www.visajourney.com/wiki/index.php/NVC_Process

Congratulations on your approval ! We All Applaud your accomplishment with Most Wonderful Kissies !

 

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Congress now speaks at almost a full grade level lower than it did just seven years ago.

...

Of course, what some might interpret as a dumbing down of Congress, others will see as more effective communications. And lawmakers of both parties still speak above the heads of the average American, who reads at between an 8th and 9th grade level.

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. (You can find more comparisons here)

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.

...

Overall, the complexity of speech in the Congressional Record has declined steadily since 2005.

...

It’s hard to pinpoint the exact cause of the decline. 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.

The data indicate that part of the decline has to do with new junior members speaking at a lower grade level than more senior members, and some of it has to do with individual senior members simplifying their speech over time.

...

Among the newest members (those with 1-3 years in their seat), there is drop off in speech level as we move from the center out to either extreme of the political spectrum ... For the next cohort (4-10 years of experience), the same pattern continues on both the political right and left.

...

For the next cohort (11-20 years in their seat), the pattern on the right (more conservative, simpler speech) remains, but the pattern on the left reverses (there is a slight correlation between more liberalism and higher speech grade level). In the most senior cohort (more than 20 years in their seat), Republicans speak, on average, at a higher level than Democrats, with only the slightest relationship between conservatism and more simple speech.

http://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/2012/05/21/congressional-speech/

And what would the Flesch-Kincaid test grade the likes of Sarah Palin and her level of communication? Any guesses? :whistle:


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And what would the Flesch-Kincaid test grade the likes of Sarah Palin and her level of communication? Any guesses? :whistle:

The "likes" of Joe Biden included?

Edited by Leatherneck

"The Marines I have seen around the world have the cleanest bodies, the filthiest minds, the highest morale, and the lowest morals of any group of animals I have ever seen. Thank God for the United States Marine Corps!" - Eleanor Roosevelt, First Lady of the United States, 1945.

"Retreat hell! We just got here!"

CAPT. LLOYD WILLIAMS, USMC

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