Jack Ingram

In December, I read a Washington Post article, the content of which has been fresh on my mind since. The article highlighted a recent study which claimed that “only 41 percent of college students could be classified as ‘proficient’ in prose – reading and understanding information in short texts – down 10 percentage points since 1992.” The low scores are allegedly “attributed to most state schools not being particularly selective, accepting most high school graduates to bolster enrollment.” The article concluded that, “there is a failure in the core values of education . . . (Students) are told to go to college in order to get a better job . . . But the real task is to produce educated people.”

I thought to myself, “maybe some students, but not Poly students, right?”


Every letter to the editor printed last Thursday in response to my column evinced that some Cal Poly students are unable to comprehend even the most simple prose in the form of satire.

I’m not saying that those who wrote in aren’t the “brightest crayons in the box,” but the letters speak for themselves.

I’m embarrassed that I have to explain this at a so-called institution of higher learning, but I will, since poor reading comprehension appears to be stifling debate among some students: Satire is “a type of literary technique used to attack or expose human vice or folly through irony, derision, sarcasm or caustic wit.”

In other words, much like the Danish cartoon that caused many fundamentalist Muslims to riot in recent weeks, my column was not meant to be taken literally, but figuratively. Yet, like these Muslim rioters, some of our Cal Poly students lack not only a sense of humor, but sense enough to distinguish between the literal and the figurative.

Maybe this will help. Here’s an example of two such phrases:

Figurative: “All the letters to the editor last week were so insightful and informative.”

Literal: “I feel dumber after having read all the letters to the editor last week.”

See the difference?

My claims (regarding conservatives and liberals) were purposely stereotypical and ridiculous. I’m illustrating how the abortion debate is one of stalemate; arguments for and against are based entirely upon deeply entrenched and misguided stereotypes of the opposition, an idea consistent with my earlier columns.

Many of the diatribes claimed that I was calling conservatives names. That’s a ridiculous claim, one that has more merit on a playground than in a political forum.

One letter demanded that I provide answers to the issues I address. But that is not the job of a journalist, much less an Op/Ed columnist. Don’t expect journalists to spoon-feed you all the answers – that’s the role of legislators. The South Dakota law was the substantive basis of my last column; all else was figurative rhetoric and peripheral at that.

So profound is the affliction, that even the liberal who wrote in thought that I was literally calling liberals “commies.”

Another student chided, “Can you imagine a country where one small group of ‘elitists’ controls the whole country and its resources? I can, it’s called communism.”

In case anyone else was asleep that day in POLS 112, such a system isn’t describing communism, but capitalism. Capitalism is “an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership (not public) of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private (not public) decision”. While communism is “a theory advocating elimination of private property, a system in which goods are owned in common and are available to all as needed.”

This same student also claimed that the U.S. is void of elitists, “elites” being defined as “a group of persons who by virtue of position or education exercise much power or influence.”

Am I to believe that the 545 Ivy Leaguer alumni (435 representatives + 100 senators + 9 justices + 1 president) who occupy the most powerful and influential positions within our federal government are not elitists? Riiight-

My favorite is the student who claimed that I “support the killing of innocent unborn babies” while I “oppose the killing of vicious murderers.”

First, if anyone thinks that the death sentence is given only to murderers, please, drop the coloring books now – pick up a real book like, “Ultimate Punishment,” by Scott Turow.

I don’t support the killing of anyone – babies or criminals alike – and this is why: Using a conservative approach to interpret the Constitution (called strict construction, whereby the literal meaning of language is interpreted as being the true and only meaning), it becomes crystal clear why abortion isn’t murder.

According to the Constitution, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States . . . No State shall . . . deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

The key phrase is “born or naturalized.” Unborn babies are not “born,” and are therefore not “persons,” much less “citizens” with constitutionally protected rights. Abortion patients – mothers – do possess such rights, as do criminals, albeit to a lesser extent. Hence, people cannot call themselves “pro-life” while supporting the “death penalty” without sounding hypocritical and nonsensical.

Jack Ingram is a political science senior and a Mustang Daily columnist.

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