Monday, October 4, 2010

The Failure of Education: An Example

We like to think that ignorance is confined, at least as to general topics, to uneducated people. That seemed to be true when I was young, but I suspect now that that was more perception than reality. Back then, there were relatively few people talking in mass media, and those who did --- reporters, anchormen, senators, admirals, generals, scientists --- generally maintained a certain gravitas, and spoke with some erudition. They didn't get on the air unless they could speak cogent, coherent, and --- politicians excepted --- concise English. As anyone will know after watching even half an hour of cable network news, this is manifestly no longer the case. Every ill-educated crackpot who can waive unexamined credentials under the nose of some desperate and time-pressed producer can now find his or her opportunity to befoul the marketplace of ideas with their peculiar brand of counterfeit reasoning, frequently clumsily expressed, and often at full volume. It's gotten so that even well-educated people no longer can be counted on to stop and consider before they put their ignorance on display for all the discerning world, wherein it will be noted, as well as for the uncaring world, wherein it will not.

My particular beef is with a presumably well-respected law firm, and with Here And Now, a nationally-available (on public radio, once an incubator and exemplar of erudition in America) news program produced by WBUR, the radio station at Boston University, which somewhat ironically pretends to excellence in education. 

On a number of occasions, the producers of Here And Now have thanked their corporate supporters on the air, including Hinckley, Allan & Snyder LLP, lauding it for providing legal expertise "throughout New England, and now in Connecticut." (Emphasis added.)

Surely somebody at Here And Now is aware that Connecticut has long been a part of New England. Surely somebody at WBUR is a former English major who recognizes redundancy. Surely somebody at Boston University has heard this frequently-delivered announcement, and surely somebody at Hinckley, Allan & Snyder LLP has listened to the announcement, either delivered to them by the program's producers for their approval, or on the actual broadcasts. Yet none of these surely well-educated radio producers or lawyers has thought to correct the appearance of ignorance that such an announcement projects.

It's bad enough when I hear Jon Stewart, of The Daily Show --- an intelligent and sophisticated guy, though he'd probably quibble with that characterization --- say, in an unscripted interview, that he and his staff "wean (sic) through" all the previous day's televised idiocy for stories on their program. I'm sure that if you asked him to write that down and say it once a day for months, he would immediately notice that the proper phrase is "weed through." But to have all these New Englanders go week after week in apparent obliviousness to the precise meaning of Here And Now's expression of gratitude is a far, far greater show of ignorance.

I bet this is what happened: somebody probably said, "You know, guys, if you say that, it means that either you think Connecticut is not part of New England, or that you're lying when you say 'throughout New England.'" But then somebody higher up, probably somebody with too much concern for economy of speech, said, "Well, people will know that what we really mean is that these lawyers now have an office in Connecticut."

Yes, we can figure that out. But while we're thinking about it, we're also thinking, with perhaps some exaggeration, "These people are idiots."  

That's probably not the image they were going for.

1 comment:

  1. You know they're still running that message for that law firm.


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