American X-ing: Democracy, Professionalism, and the Unwashed Masses

THE TURNING POINT

As the World Wide Web begins to net data pertaining to more and more of the global population, worldwide perspectives are becoming rapidly more and more relevant. It’s been thousands of years since our societies were limited to only those neighbors living just a stone’s throw away; but as the keyboard dust of the Digital Revolution begins to clear, we find ourselves in the infant age of Information[1], where, for the first time, we are confronted with the terms and conditions of membership in a global community. Consequently, America has begun to understand itself not in hierarchical terms of Empire or as an extra-sovereign force to be reckoned with, but instead in terms of our keystone role in the global political theater. As we strive to appropriately uphold the responsibilities that come pre-packaged with the privilege of controlling 27.1% of the world’s wealth (compared to a mere 5.17% of its population)[2], we’ve become more openly critical of our own inner-workings, and with good reason. The U.S. ranks 2nd in the world in general ignorance[3], 17th in educational performance[4], 25th in literacy[5], and a shocking 33rd in internet download speeds[6]. Statistics like these are antithetical to America’s international self-image; it’s high time that we confront their root cause.

In order to bolster our standing in global society, we need to bring together teachers, students, parents, and bureaucrats alike to analyze the systemic failure of our public education system. Some experts claim that the fault lies with our failure to fairly compensate teachers[7], whilst others complain that the federal bureaucracies that fund public schools aren’t properly equipped to address inequality in the status quo[8].

I contend, however, that the most tragic shortcoming of the post-exceptionalist American education system is our under-emphasis on professionalism. American students leave the classroom with little to no understanding of how their self-image, projected through their work, impacts their credibility. We vaguely acknowledge the importance of projecting a professionalist aesthetic by teaching “MLA” citation format, however, the evocative power of citing one’s references, versus constructing a bibliography, versus simply tagging the final page ‘Works Cited’ (not to mention the empathy communicated in the choice of footnotes over endnotes) goes almost entirely unnoted!

The solution is a simple one: it’s time to entirely reformat[9] our English curriculum. Instead of ingraining in our students’ minds useless, formulaic essay-writing techniques and petty, archaic grammatical rules of a language that, in fact, bends to their every whim, the primary goal of our English teachers should be to educate their students on the power of the font. Take, for instance, the appropriately named and universally ridiculed Comic Sans. I’d challenge you to find a single author making a significant contribution to their field who opts to publish their papers in Comic Sans, were I not already certain that such a paradox does not exist. Alternatively, consider the equally well-known Times New Roman. Billions of research papers, essays, and manuscripts are turned in every year by students who pride themselves on their choice of such a ubiquitous, understated font, but each and every one of them fall prey to the specter of tedium. In the eyes of a tired professor, their students’ papers begin to blur together; none are significantly different from the rest, thus each student’s stylistic quirks and wit are lost in the sea of unvaried, monoaesthetic typography.

Our failure to sufficiently inform budding American academics on the significance of their font choice plays such a central role in the depreciation of our academic culture that it constitutes an internally-directed War on Individuality. The public school system churns out citizens incapable of fully expressing themselves — citizens continuously victim to the coercive pressure of aesthetic uniformity. In truth, we have failed every student manufactured, processed, and packaged by the State; by excluding alternative vehicles of expression, we marginalize the positions that rely on them. An essay discussing the role of corporate propaganda in the perpetuation of urban food insecurity and racial inequality might be best served by a starkly stoic sans-serif font like Browallia UPC, while a paper analyzing different techniques for germinating lilacs may require a less dire, but equally dignified approach, like the subtle air of expertise evoked by Adobe Song Std L. Both arguments, of course, would be appallingly underserved by Times New Roman.

The implications of my argument are dire. In this rapidly evolving, many-faced, extensively networked society, American aesthetic ignorance is undermining our capacity to be academically competitive on the global scale. Unless our curriculum begins to address professionalism within the next decade, the reach of America’s hegemonic influence will begin to degrade exponentially. Our academic influence on world history is rapidly being eclipsed by that of the new powerhouses of innovation and discovery — those rising superpowers, the BRIC nations, particularly India and Russia. We cannot allow this War on Individuality to exacerbate the burgeoning academic contribution gap between our nation and the rest of the world. The only way to stand out in the flood of papers, essays, and ideas crushing in from all sides is to encourage the ‘Einstein’s, ‘Chomsky’s, and ‘Fukuyama’s of tomorrow to vary their font selections, to go the extra mile and find an aesthetic vehicle that augments their arguments, to protect and project the traditionally American, domineering, professionalist air through their writing, for the sake of the nation, and for the sake of us all.

[1] “Information Age.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 23 Apr. 2015. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_Age>

[2] “Distribution of wealth.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. Web. 23 Apr. 2015. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distribution_of_wealth>

[3] “Perceptions Are Not Reality: Things the World Gets Wrong.” Ipsos MORI. Royal Statistical Society and King’s College London, 29 Oct. 2014. Web. 23 Apr. 2015. <https://www.ipsos-mori.com/researchpublications/researcharchive/3466/Perceptions-are-not-reality-10-things-the-world-gets-wrong.aspx#gallery[m]/1/>

[4] “Index of Cognitive Skills and Educational Attainment.” Index Ranking. Pearson, Jan. 2014. Web. 23 Apr. 2015. <http://thelearningcurve.pearson.com/index/index-ranking>

[5] “Reading Literacy: Average Scores.” National Center for Education Statistics. Institute of Education Sciences, 2012. Web. 24 Apr. 2015. <http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/pisa/pisa2012/pisa2012highlights_5a.asp>

[6] “Household Download Index.” Download Speed by Country. Ookla, 2015. Web. 24 Apr. 2015. <http://www.netindex.com/download/allcountries/>

[7] Richwine, Jason; Biggs, Andrew G.; “Assessing the Compensation of Public-School Teachers.” The Heritage Foundation. November 1, 2011. < http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2011/10/assessing-the-compensation-of-public-school-teachers>

[8] Strauss, Valerie. “Public Education’s Biggest Problem Keeps Getting Worse.” Washington Post. The Washington Post, 17 Oct. 2013. Web. 08 May 2015. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2013/10/17/public-educations-biggest-problem-keeps-getting-worse/>

[9] Pun intended.

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