Politics: Language and Priorities

By Tom Arthur from Orange, CA, United States (vote for better tape Uploaded by Petronas) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Democrats took a drubbing at election time, as they are wont to do when voters are apathetic (and barriers to voting are erected). That’s my analysis of the results of yesterday’s elections.

We’ve been examining language over our last two posts, first in ecology and education, then on business, and now just a quick point about the use of language in our discourse on politics. Let’s examine a small tidbit from today’s NY Times:

The uneven character of the economic recovery added to a sense of anxiety, leaving voters in a punishing mood, particularly for Democrats in Southern states and the Mountain West,where political polarization deepened. [Bold added]

Here we see evidence of a common tactic in discussions of politics (HW assignment: scan the other articles from other news sources on the election and round-up other examples) — the personification of a mass of people as one entity. Can we truly state, with statistical accuracy and scientific verification, that voters, en masse, have been possessed by vengeance? Seems to me like such analysis and rhetoric is highly suspect, given the variety of contextual and individual decisions that voters may have made when choosing their positions on any given ballot.

NY Ballot Proposal 3: Technology, or Natural Light?

While we’re on the topic of the elections, I wanted to make an unrelated point about Ballot Proposal #3 in New York, which passed along with the other two measures on the ballot. For non-New Yorkers, this proposal

… authorizes the sale of state bonds of up to two billion dollars ($2,000,000,000) to provide access to classroom technology and high-speed internet connectivity to equalize opportunities for children to learn, to add classroom space to expand high-quality pre-kindergarten programs, to replace classroom trailers with permanent instructional space, and to install high-tech smart security features in schools.

I’m all for “replacing classroom trailers with permanent instructional space.” But this proposal’s general intent completely misses the mark. What should be a higher priority: retrofitting and building school infrastructure to incorporate more natural light, fresher air, and more greenery? Or installing more Smartboards and broadband access in schools?

Putting a Smartboard and wi-fi in a decrepit classroom will do little to benefit children. Children need healthy school environments first; Smartboards and broadband can come later. Let’s hope that we can redirect this misguided proposal towards this better purpose.

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