Ronni Bennett has an excellent post up at Time Goes By referencing Ralph Keyes, writing in Editor & Publisher, wherein he advises writers against retrotalk, that is, phrases and idioms that many young people or immigrants may not be familiar with.
It’s just another example of lowering standards to meet the masses (and make them feel good about themselves–that “everybody is a star” philosophy that I think is so asinine) rather than raising the level of literacy and encouraging the masses to rise to meet it. I can hear the teachers screaming now, but come on, this has been a slowly degenerating process of learning for several decades now and I am in awe that no one understands the problem well enough to see the solution. As Ronni points out, if anything, these days there are faster, easier, more immediate ways of learning than ever before via the internet.
Frankly, I think that everyone would be better off–teachers, parents, and most importantly, the kids themselves–if more rather than less were expected of them. This, from a Washington Post article in which Susan Jacoby is quoted, should worry us:
“That leads us to the third and final factor behind the new American dumbness: not lack of knowledge per se but arrogance about that lack of knowledge. . .it’s the alarming number of Americans who have smugly concluded that they do not need to know such things in the first place. Call this anti-rationalism — a syndrome that is particularly dangerous to our public institutions and discourse.”
It seems to me, that older generations, with their minds stuffed to overflowing on decades of words can still quickly pick up on all the new terminology that comes from each new concept and trend, then the younger ones can bother to go look up what they don’t immediately ‘get.’ Maybe something good will come of the knowledge.