Americans, Like, Stupid?

I was sitting in the airport on Saturday morning in Buffalo, New York, eating breakfast.  The place was busy and there were very few free tables, so I was pretty close to the people around me.  I could easily hear their conversations, even though I wasn’t trying to do so. 

At an adjacent table, a young woman and a young man are eating and having a conversation.  I don’t know what they were talking about, but the young woman used the word “like” about seven hundred times.  It has become a place holder in our language today, a pause, a comma.  In an effort to get the idea across to the person being spoken to, the speaker feels they must compare what they are saying to something else. 

I have gotten onto my kids for using the word “like” excessively.  They are all intelligent young men and should be able to convey an idea without use of this annoying word.  I have even caught myself saying the word when it wasn’t necessary. 

What does this say about us as a nation?  Are we all illiterate?  Or are we just lazy? 

Our kids are not required to learn a foreign language, although they are required to take one year of a language.  They are not required to take enough math or science, and as a result, our kids are falling behind other countries who understand that an education in science and math makes a child a better problem solver, a better thinker, and a more functional adult.  When I was in high school, we learned in French class that French kids go to school 6 days a week.  That was a while back, so it may not be true any more, but I suspect it is still true.  Our kids go to school 180 days a year.  A school year here in Georgia is 180 days of instruction time.  They don’t have basic study skills, and they don’t have a basic understanding of how to even keep track of their money, forget about being able to do a physics calculation or understand how their bodies work.  This results in high school graduates who aren’t ready for college.  Trust me on this.  I have two kids in college. 

I have an even more blatant example of American laziness.  I was watching Mike Huckabee’s show on Sunday night, and he interviewed First Lady Michelle Obama.  During the interview, she used the phrase “y’know” more times than a freshman NCAA basketball player in his first TV interview.  This is an educated woman.  Did she need a teleprompter to sound less, I don’t know, stupid?  I find it ironic that the same woman who hasn’t  been proud of her country in her adult lifetime until her husband was elected can’t communicate effectively.  There were other things she said that are “tells” about how she feels about the commentators on Fox News, but that’s for another day. 

I don’t know about you, but I can pretty much tell whether or not a person is lazy or not by talking to them for about five minutes.  I read people.  I still give them a chance to prove me wrong, of course, but I am seldom wrong in this area.  A lot of people make determinations about people like that.  Especially during, say, a job interview.  First impressions are important and can mean the difference between getting a good job and sweeping floors for a living.  Not that sweeping floors is bad, but it’s a low paying job that requires relatively little from the employee.  And there is no need for it. 

The way you communicate matters.  Building a decent vocabulary is difficult, but we must start trying to communicate with our kids on a level that requires them to at least know how to use a dictionary.  That means that we must know first. 

So banish the word “like” in your house, unless it’s part of a simile.  Make your kids think.  Encourage them to challenge themselves, because Lord knows schools don’t do it any more. 

We aren’t stupid.  But we are lazy.  And I think stupidity would be a better excuse for not being able to compete globally.

By the way, if you have a choice in what languages to encourage your kids to take, try Chinese.  I have a feeling it may be a good skill to have, and soon.


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