How America gets dumber
Words are America’s enemy. That may explain why the country’s international education rankings keep sinking year by year. Singapore beats us across the board (science, math, and reading). So does Canada. And Poland. Even Estonia.
We twist words into illogical concepts like “go missing,” “go extinct,” and “based off of” while avoiding historically important words that offend our genteel modern sensibilities. It’s myopic ignorance.
The board of education in the city of Duluth, Minnesota, recently banned Huckleberry Finn and To Kill A Mockingbird from its required reading list because they include the word “nigger.” Twain’s classic is considered to be the first genuinely American work of fiction, and Harper Lee’s novel about racial injustice in the Deep South won the Pulitzer Prize. Removing the word because it makes contemporary readers uncomfortable removes the essential context of history, society, and culture. It makes us blind, deaf, and exceedingly dumb about the arc of bigotry and prejudice.
Ignorance, the saying goes, is bliss. Not today it’s not. The less we know as a people, the more we’re prey to manipulation. The less discerning we become, the less precise. We allow ourselves to be persuaded that rules should be broken, not that they can be. And if we block out the past, we are assuredly condemned to repeat it.
Perverted snob appeal
We adopt expressions because they’re used by people who should know better, though it’s possible they don’t. They’re used and then spread like a linguistic epidemic. Or they’re spoken with a posh British accent and perceived to be better. Americans have erred in this for decades.
“Go missing” is a British idiom. It is also idiotic. “Missing” is not a destination. It is, like extinction, a state of (non)being. You can vanish or disappear or be missing or extinct, but you can’t go there.
You can go fishing because it involves a destination and an action. You can go mad because it tends to be a gradual journey. But you can’t go extinct. You either are or you’re not or, in between, you’re threatened with it.
For a while, everything seemed to be described as “awesome.” Yet, if everything is awesome, what’s left to describe something that actually is?