The great decider’s collider course

by Jim Longworth

I am one of those folks who supports passage of a federal law to make English the official language of these once-united States. That’s because hordes of illegal immigrants no longer assimilate but instead segregate, which results in cultural discord as well as wasteful taxpayer funded programs.

Now, however, I support such a law for a different reason. According to USA Today, more than 11 million adults in America can’t read a newspaper, and only 13 percent of us are able to compare viewpoints in two editorials. Certainly a majority of these illiterate folks are illegals, but I’m also concerned about native-born Americans who are deficient in our language. And I’m not just talking about economically disadvantaged people.

During the recent Ohio State/Michigan football game, one of the announcers, referring to a pass interference call under video review commented, “Let’s see what happened when he ‘collisioned’ with him.” Apparently the word “collided” was not available for use at the time. I was appalled and looked for someone to blame. The highly-paid announcer? The college he attended? The network?

No, I decided to blame George Bush. After all, his daily slaughter of the English language has signaled to America that it’s okay to be grammatically incorrect. In fact, the lack of speaking skills in this country is pervasive, reaching far beyond the broadcast booth or the White House.

Recently I taught part-time at UNCG, and was shocked to learn that 80 percent of my students couldn’t compose a simple essay. Their spelling was horrid, verbs didn’t agree, pronouns were misplaced, vocabulary was elementary and, worst of all, they just couldn’t write a coherent thought.

Our president once proclaimed himself to be “the Decider” (the phrase “decision maker” was not available that day), and his lack of communication skills has obviously enabled our dysfunctional discourse. Of course, George Bush is not solely to blame for our language crisis, but it has certainly worsened on his watch (including American students scoring lower on tests than their counterparts in other industrialized nations).

There is already a precedent for dealing with language-butchering broadcasters.

Back in the 1960s, baseball legend Dizzy Dean was fired from the CBS Game of the Week because thousands of teachers complained that his grammar (“that guy just ‘slud’ into third base”) was having a bad influence on their students.

Firing a president, however, is a bit more difficult. Sure, Bush should have already been impeached over his mishandling of the war and for allowing the Patriot Act to abuse civil rights. But in the meantime we need to create a federal program to deal with his verbal deficiencies.

I call it “No President Left Behind”. In the short run it may help George to be a better speaker and in the long term it can prevent his successors from falling through the language cracks.

I hope you will support my proposal because if we fail to act quickly, then the point of this commentary has been “mute.”

Jim Longworth is host of “Triad Today” which can be seen Friday mornings at 6:30 a.m. on ABC 45 (cable channel 7), and Sunday nights at 10 p.m. on MY48 (cable channel 15).