**Originally posted in my previous blog, “Cooley Says.”
A lot has happened since my last post. I became an aunt, an unimaginable oil spill began threatening the Gulf coast, the Celtics lost their NBA Championship, and international authorities finally found a way to put Joran van der Sloot in a prison cell.
It’s been a busy few weeks for everyone, but yesterday I was reading the news and became very upset. People were talking about Obama’s address about the Gulf Coast crisis, and CNN reported on a “study” that found Obama’s speech was “too complicated” for most Americans because of its 9.8 grade level and pesky 20+ word sentences.
This bothered me.
I’m tired of the words “intelligent” and “eloquent” being partnered with the words “misdirected” and “poor choice.” I’m not speaking only of this speech; the oil spill speech was far from Obama’s best, but this kind of rhetoric has followed him since he first tossed his hat into the ring. It’s also followed other politicians, experts, and speakers who have the audacity to use words with more than six letters. Commentators and audiences sigh over these speeches like tenth graders who don’t want to crack open their copies of The Canterbury Tales. “It’s too hard,” they seem to whine. “Just sum it up so I can go play X-Box, dammit.”
This all got me wondering. What would our modern audiences, pundits, and commentators have said about “The Gettysburg Address”? Perhaps “It’s okay, but four-score and seven years ago? Call it 87, teach.” What about the famous “I Have a Dream” speech? “Ugh,” you can imagine our modern commentators saying. “Come on, Martin. Just say what you mean. Who knows where Stone Mountain is, anyways? I don’t have time to Google that mess.”
Are we losing our ability to appreciate good language and smart ideas? Do we need everything boiled down to 140 characters or bust? Again, I know the Gulf Coast speech wasn’t Obama’s finest (even I’ll admit that there were missteps there), but why do we keep clawing into the guy and other speakers for the sin of eloquence? Why do we let people criticize them for sounding “too smart” or “too educated”? When did having a college degree become a handicap? When I think about this, I can’t help but wonder what on earth we are telling a generation of American students who are falling behind in math and science while their class sizes expand exponentially with each local budget cut.
I was stopped at a red light last night and got to thinking about what would happen if William Shakespeare suddenly found himself in 2010. I wrote a little short story, as I like short fiction when I’m bored (or licking my wounds from a blistering Celtics loss), so enjoy.