Corrupting language and education is a political strategy.

Words, their meanings, evolution, and usage are a subject of endless interest to me. Hardly a day passes when I don’t hear or read a word used in ways that are not only incorrect, but defy the actual meaning of the word in insidious ways. The topic emerges with such frequency in conversations in our home that our 12-year-old has taken to making jokes about it at my expense. This is a story worth retelling, so I will.

I mentioned previously that we read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer as a part of this semester’s literature course. The kids mostly read the book independently, but at particular intervals, we’d sit together and use the chapters as an opportunity for them to listen to me read, with appropriate intonations and emphasis so that they could fully appreciate the story and language. While I read, they also read long in their personal copies of the book. Yes, we procure three copies of every book their literature teacher assigns them.

One of the things it is important to do while studying classic books is guard against those which are slightly abridged or in which the language has been tweaked to be easier on the modern ear. I am very careful of that, and as I read a particular passage where Mark Twain referred to females as a sex, our 12-year-old stopped me and said, “Wait. My book says gender”. When I asked her to read the passage for me from her version, she smiled and said, “Nah, it says ‘sex’, I was just messing with you.” Touché, young one.

This changing of language, and the redefining of words in ways that our grandparents wouldn’t recognize is common, normal and mostly seen as harmless. For most of my life, I thought so too. That was before I came to realize that the evolution of language has not only accelerated, but has rapidly watered down the desire to think critically rather than simply emoting. Because I am short on time and also desire to leave openings for you all to fill any gaping holes in my argument, here are just a few examples of linguistic evolution that are not only frequent in occurrence but also shockingly unquestioned, even among the sharpest tools in the shed.

  • Sex, which is most accurately and classically defined as one of the two biological classifications assigned to male and female creatures, has been shifted to reference coitus or sexual intercourse and it has been replaced by the word gender, which changes male and female from biological realities to subjective identifications. Even I have to make a conscious effort to avoid the ambiguous gender when I really mean sex.
  • A matriarch is a mother who is the head of her family, household or tribe, and a patriarch is a father who is the head of his family, household, or tribe, but patriarchy is suddenly “the patriarchy, defined as a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are abused and excluded from power. Hmmm.
  • Health insurance, rather than understood as a type of insurance coverage which  covers medical and surgical expenses for a policy holder, has now been shifted and  defined as health care, which is more accurately and classically understood to mean doing the things which maintain and improve one’s physical and mental health. Ergo, you can be perfectly healthy, doing healthful things, but without health insurance, there is no health care*. Marginalized groups have higher percentages of members without “health care”. So we should look at what it means to be marginalized.
  •  Things and people which are marginalized are treated as insignificant or peripheral, and forgotten or abused as a result. At least, that’s the correct and accurate definition of marginalize. Today however, if you are a part of a minority group, you are hereby and forever labeled as marginalized because everyone is permanently slotted into the caste to which they belonged in 1950 America. This satisfies agendas of the current power brokers in education establishments and media. Even if you enjoy whole months of designated to your celebration, and every conceivable legislative policy is amended for your protection, you must be perpetually protected and elevated in status -by force if necessary. Marginalization has its privileges. The greater the number of marginalized groups you belong to, the more you need to be protected because….
  • Intersectionality. This one is so new my browser put the squiggly red line under it, even though it is ubiquitous in academia and grievance industry propaganda. I know how it works in practice, but I’m still working out the intricacies of its use so I’ll just offer the official definition. My dictionary defines intersectionality as “the interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage.” Standard application of intersectionality means that my combination of race, sex, and class, categorizes me as part of a marginalized group with no privileges at all (using the class I was born in rather than the class my zip code and husband’s career has placed us in). There’s even a rubric to tell me how marginalized I am!  I’m in a bad way, let me tell you! It sounds ridiculous, but consider that this is how the majority of Americans are being educated. Which brings me to my last word for today.
  • Education, which long, long ago was defined as an enterprise of instruction and discipline which is intended to enlighten the understanding, correct the temper, form the manners and habits, and fit youths for usefulness in their future stations has now been reduced to mean to go to school*.  School has become a convenient place to check off countless arbitrary boxes for the purpose of securing corporate employment. Fitness for future stations such as citizen, volunteer, spouse, parent, mentor, clergy or even logical thinker, is no longer included in our definition of education although these are all future stations to which most people aspire. That one can attend school for a full 17 years and yet be uneducated in ways that truly matter hardly occurs to anyone before the age of 30, when the extent our ignorance rushes in like a flood.

Just a few thoughts on linguistic evolution and why we must be ever so careful of how we educate our children. The transitions of today have profound implications on not only the people they become, but the world they have to live in.

* I realize that health insurance and health care are considered strongly correlated, as are schooling and education. Rather than flippantly dismiss that with “correlation does not equal causation”, I’ll just note that often our definitions of “healthy” and “educated” are the real issues.


14 thoughts on “Corrupting language and education is a political strategy.

  1. Bike Bubba says:

    Per your request, “gateway drug” and “addictive” appear to be being redefined these days, too. A gateway drug is no longer the drug you take on your way to heroin and crack, but rather any drug whose use is correlated to the use of others. Moreover, addiction is being redefined as any old bad habit rather than a physiological response to a drug that makes the presence of that drug “biologically necessary”.

    Dr. Orwell, please call your office. It would be doubleplusgood if you would help undo this doubleplusungood development.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Elspeth says:

    Thanks, Bike!

    “Addiction” is an excellent example. If someone is “addicted’ now its a disease beyond their control rather than just an ugly habit that needs to be broken through self-control and discipline.

    That reminds me…I was supposed to delete insta from my phone today…:P


  3. Curly sue says:

    This isn’t exactly what you’re talking about with word definitions, but somewhat related…I’m tired of seeing God’s creation of the rainbow (which is a symbol of His promise not to wipe us out again with a flood) being used to symbolize and promote a lifestyle that is unbiblical. Even Christians can get sucked into that because they’re afraid to display anything with a rainbow thinking people will “get the wrong idea.” Well, if that’s what they think, they already have the wrong idea because Genesis tells us what a rainbow really means.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. smkoseki says:

    Interesting post. My comments:
    1. Not really bothered by the gender craze. But I do enjoy taunting SJW with “sex” then referencing a dictionary when challenged to show them they are limited in their vocab. I am a bad man.
    2. I find “patriarchal” and “matriarchal” to be very useful words. E.g., my Irish/Native American relatives are matriarchal (think Hispanic male disinvestment), and my German ones patriarchal (think Amish) and it’s a real, true clarification where P’s are “run” by men, and the M’s “run” by women. Both work, just not together, and those words help articulate this misalignment.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. hearthie says:

    Language evolves – it always has evolved.

    But language has BEEN evolved intentionally in the last 50 years or so. Why? Well, post-modernism teaches us that what we think of a thing is more important than the thing itself (if, indeed, things are things at all). So using words to change reality is an intentional use of the natural evolution of a tongue.

    It is a known truth that you can alter someone’s perception of the world through language. There are things you can say in other languages that can’t be said in English- at least not easily. Those terms/words/phrases make thought balloons (convenient places) around which we build what we think we see.

    In other words, it ain’t innocent.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Elspeth says:

    @ Curly Sue:

    I agree that the rainbow has taken on an unfortunate connotation when it originally symbolized something so beautiful and full of hope.


  7. Elspeth says:

    But language has BEEN evolved intentionally in the last 50 years or so. Why? Well, post-modernism teaches us that what we think of a thing is more important than the thing itself (if, indeed, things are things at all). So using words to change reality is an intentional use of the natural evolution of a tongue.

    A very well-stated synopsis of my point here. Thank you, Hearth.

    You’re right. It ain’t innocent.


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