[lg policy] Is Donald Trump smarter than a third grader?

Baron, Dennis E debaron at illinois.edu
Thu Aug 20 00:10:05 UTC 2015

There’s a new post on the Web of Language:

Is Donald Trump smarter than a third grader?

One regrettable feature of the presidential campaign season is the inevitable ranking of candidate speeches by reading level. And so, after the first Republican debate, Politico’s Jack Shafer<http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/08/donald-trump-talks-like-a-third-grader-121340.html#.VdDdLXiZnV1> announced with glee that Donald Trump “talks like a third-grader,” while Ted Cruz’s language sounds more ninth grade. However, anyone who spends time around schoolchildren will tell you neither claim is true.

Shafer calculates candidates’ grade level by running transcripts of their debate responses through a formula known as the Flesch-Kincaid reading scale. Whether or not you agree that Trump is simple and Cruz, high-brow—among Republican candidates, simple has proven to be a vote-getter and high-brow is a dirty word—the fact is that formulas like Flesch-Kincaid, designed to measure the understandability of writing, fail miserably at that task, and they’re completely useless for rating speech. . . .

Read the whole post on the Web of Language:

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