The Sunlight Foundation, using its own Capitol Words invention, arrived at the conclusion that Congress has sunk a full grade level in the past seven years. My first reaction was, only one notch? And if you've also been wondering how it is that Americans consistently vote these clowns back into office over and over again, against their own economic interests, the answer is that Congress is still smarter than the average shlub, who reads at late 8th grade level:
Today’s Congress speaks at about a 10.6 grade level, down from 11.5 in 2005. By comparison, the U.S. Constitution is written at a 17.8 grade level, the Federalist Papers at a 17.1 grade level, and the Declaration of Independence at a 15.1 grade level. The Gettysburg Address comes in at an 11.2 grade level and Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech is at a 9.4 grade level. Most major newspapers are written at between an 11th and 14th grade level. (You can find more comparisons here)
All these analyses use the Flesch-Kincaid test, which produces the 'reads at a n-th grade level' terminology that is likely familiar to many readers. At its core, Flesch-Kincaid equates higher grade levels with longer words and longer sentences. It is important to understand the limitations of this metric: it tells us nothing about the clarity or correctness of a passage of text. But although an admittedly crude tool, Flesch-Kincaid can nonetheless provide insights into how different legislators speak, and how Congressional speech has been changing.So in other words, if Michele Bachman utters a sentence like: "As the mother of 260 foster children, I consider myself a huge fan of antidisestablishmentarianism" she would score off the congressional charts? Sorry, but this measuring tool is just screaming out to be gamed by stupid cheaters to make themselves look good. But to be fair, according to the Congressional database, Bachmann actually scored above the average shlub, speaking at a mid-9th grade level, or approximately the degree of difficulty of Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.
What a nightmare. Somebody wake me up.