Friday, October 31, 2008

What About an Eighth Grade Clarity Committee (EGCC)?

More than wealth, guns, knives, attack dogs, alarm systems, heavy armor, etc., our first line of defense against what life can dish out in today's society - protecting ourselves from private industry, our government, financial and legal system - is learning to read. The average reading level in America - approximately 8th grade - enables the "average" American to read and comprehend the New York Times. Some may argue that that's not good enough. However, when you consider the average IQ is 100, the vast inequity built into our education and socioeconomic system - the number of people struggling to put food on the table - America's reading level is just about where it should be. In other words, American citizens are doing the best they can with what they've got to work with.

Assuming we the people, have lived up to our end of the bargain, what can we expect from the federal government? What is their role? Well, according to the U.S. Constitution, the role of the federal government is to "promote the general welfare". That is, government should provide a level playing field as much as possible that allows every citizen the chance to take advantage of what the United States has to offer. This is certainly not the case when institutions are allowed to write documents and disclosures in such a way that the complexity far surpasses the average American citizen's reading capacity. Credit card disclosures, mortgage contracts, and credit derivatives, especially, surpass the reading level of some of the most learned people in the United States!

Why can't we demand that every American has the right to understand what we pay for, vote for, and depend on a daily basis? Why is it legal that corporations and institutions can obscure documents and disclosures on purpose, clearly, for their own gain?

The answer is easy. A confused American is very profitable American. The objective is clearly to make most Americans feel powerless and stupid. No one likes to admit their failure to comprehend the tax code, real estate papers, statutes, executive orders, affidavits, jury instructions, insurance contracts, investment contracts, 16 page credit card agreements (printed on tissue paper in microscopic type, written on the "twenty-seventh" grade reading level) and all consumer-finance contracts and anything and everything written in legalese.

What would happen if every piece of legislation, every contract, credit card agreement, and basically anything legally binding had to pass through the Eighth Grade Clarity Committee (EGCC), made up of a diverse group of high achieving eighth graders of average to above average intelligence, as a final test of clarity. If all the eighth graders appointed understand, it passes...if not, it must go back for a rewrite until the EGCC grasp whatever it is being tested with little effort.

It's been proven that complex subjects can be translated into plain language with no loss of accuracy or precision. It's been proven that plain language saves time, money, and most importantly, sanity.

People like myself will be most appreciative and I think we would see a thriving, productive, and most importantly, an informed America evolve.

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