How To ReadPosted: January 3, 2012
“Just think what happens in the mind of the person who knows the difference between restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses. Anyone who understands that distinction is on the brink of seeing the difference between simple fact and elaborative detail and may well begin to make judgments about the logic of such relationships. He may start bothering his head about the difference between things essential and things accidental, a disorder that often leads to the discovery of tautologies. Furthermore, anyone who sees the difference between restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses is likely to understand why modifiers should be close to the things they modify and thus begin to develop a sense of the way in which ideas grow from one another. From that, it’s not a long way to detecting non sequiturs and unstated premises and even false analogies.
Unfortunately, we just don’t know how to teach skillful reading and writing without developing many undesirable and socially destructive side effects. Should we raise up a generation of literate Americans, very little of the America that we know would survive. We depend on a steady background level of ignorance and stupidity. A skillful reader, for instance, cannot be depended upon to buy this after-shave rather than some other because he is always weighing and considering statements that just weren’t meant to be weighed and considered. He may capriciously and irresponsibly switch not only from one after-shave to another but even from one hot comb to another. Our industries depend on what we call “brand loyalty,” and thoughtful readers will all be brand traitors. They may, even probably will, go the next step and become brand nihilists who decide not to buy any after-shave or hot comb at all. It may even occur to them that the arguments for the ownership of trash compacters and toaster ovens are specious, and then they won’t buy any trash compacters or toaster ovens. Economic chaos will follow.
The next thing you know they’ll start listening very carefully to the words and sentences of the politicians, and they’ll decide that there isn’t one of them worth voting for anywhere on the ballot. There’s no knowing where this will end. The day will come when a President is elected only because those few feebleminded citizens who still vote just happened to bump up against his lever more often than they bumped up against the other guy’s lever. A President, of course, doesn’t care how he gets elected, but he might lose clout among world leaders when they remind him that he owes his high office to the random twitchings of thirty-seven imbeciles. That will be the end of network election coverage as we know it.”
Richard Mitchell, Less Than Words Can Say
Posted by Dave