Top Ten Words Looked Up On Merriam-Webster Online:

1. Pretentious
2. Ubiquitous
3. Love
4. Cynical
5. Apathetic
6. Conundrum
7. Albeit
8. Ambiguous
9. Integrity
10. Affect/Effect

Source/Sauce (depending on what corner of the internet you’re from):
http://www.merriam-webster.com/top-ten-lists/top-10-most-frequently-looked-up-words/pretentious.html

This is utterly strange to me. I have known at least eight of those words since I was maybe thirteen. Ubiquitous I had to double-check the definition on, but I at least had a vague idea. The affect/effect difference I had bludgeoned into me at fifteen. Albeit I use a good deal, though sometimes I mangle the spelling terribly and have to look it up in my spell check.

Here’s my thing: As many thirteen year olds as are in the internet, I don’t think they could make those the top words all on their own. That means older folk are looking them up too. Now, I realize I was a weird kid that read too much, but SERIOUSLY?

What the hell is going on here?

Yes, yes, complaining about education going to hell in a hand basket with a cheeseburger and side of fries is not new, but this managed to significantly freak me out. I consider most of those common vocabulary words. One of my favorite insults is calling folk with an overblown sense of entitlement/their own importance a “pretentious prick,” part because it’s true, part because alliteration is fun. While some of these can be explained by assholes like me using them in forum conversations to demonstrate a point, (Ex: integrity, love.
“Integrity is defined by Merriam-Webster Online as having ‘firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values.’ You cannot claim you have integrity, as framed by the chivalric code, and then tell a woman she deserves to suffer whatever happens to her because she ‘got out of the kitchen.'” Yes, I’m that jerk.) , a lot of them cannot be as easily.

This bothers me a good deal, probably because my train of thought goes like this:

“If you don’t read enough to know those words at least by context clues, if not the formal definition, then you have little exposure to any world other than your own. You also have little exposure to any viewpoints other than your own and those people you keep close to you. Therefore, you probably don’t exercise your mind by trying to see from someone different’s perspective that often and are unaccustomed to thinking that deeply because you have never had to, which means you are painfully easy to manipulate. Wow. No wonder Bush got elected twice then those same people complained endlessly about him, and people are surprised when Obama hasn’t fulfilled his campaign promises– Not only do they blindly believe what they are told, they cannot see from any viewpoint other than the one they are taught by the people around them from birth so they cannot put themselves in anyone’s shoes to see WHY something isn’t working or isn’t a good idea. No wonder we’re all doomed if we have to depend on the common person’s vote. They can be easily manipulated into voting however the politicians want because they cannot think for themselves.” Long and winding train of thought, probably not entirely sound in reasoning, but I don’t think it’s too much of a leap.

Suddenly, I think I have found the answer to the rampant bipartisanship in America. I’m terrified. You know what, how about we scale back all those shiny earmarks and use the money that is currently going to politician’s pet projects for something else. Hey, let’s dock the salaries of professional athletes too, if we need some extra cash. Let’s pay teachers a better wage. Let’s get kids exposed to a variety of books, cultures, movies. Let’s get teachers that will discuss all of those things, the biases involved, why those biases exist, and how to see past them as well as our OWN biases. Let’s get rid of that textbook monopoly they’ve got running in Texas. And most importantly, present all academic points of view and keep parents, their biases, their religions, their prejudices the HELL out of their kids’ education. Or, of course, we can take the easier, cheaper way out to shore up our failing schools, but that one requires parenting. Ready?

Make your kids read a goddamn book instead of blowing people up in Halo. It doesn’t matter if it’s books, comic books (try Maus by Art Spiegelman on for size if you’re worried about comics being valid literature), fantasy, romance, I don’t care. Have them read maybe ten minutes a day to start, then work their way up to a half hour or so. Start with picture books. Eventually they’ll get from there through Twilight or Harry Potter and start craving something bigger and more adult. And for god’s sake, let your kid read what they want. Nothing will kill your desire to read faster than your every choice being shot down by someone who “knows best.” Guide gently if you must, but for the most part, leave them alone.

Please, please, don’t let the film Idiocracy become reality. I know I’m a freak and over reacting, but damn if it doesn’t seem like there are distant warning knells that it is possible.