Friday, March 17, 2006

To each his own, but only for some

Yesterday, Bernie Schoenburg asked for my thoughts on one of the governor’s TV spots. Well, actually, he asked his readers for their opinion, and it may have even been a rhetorical question. Still, I feel it would be rude of me not to reply.

If you missed Schoenburg’s column yesterday, he wrote of an exchange that he had with the governor’s office concerning the relative accuracy of a statement concerning the governor’s proposed tax credit for higher education. It says: “now Governor Blagojevich is fighting for a thousand-dollar tax credit for each child going to college.”

Schoenburg thinks that the statement is misleading because it implies that all college students qualify, when in fact, there are some fairly wide-reaching restrictions. As proposed, the credit can only be claimed for students who have at least a B average and are enrolled as freshmen or sophomores at in-state schools.

A spokesperson for the governor believes that the statement does convey the proper meaning because it doesn’t say “every child.” He also mentions that a 30-second television spot is not conducive to detailed explanations, as they tend to distract from the message.

The spokesperson is correct that the details would distort the message. Details would have tainted it with a degree accuracy while sapping it of its grandiosity.

At issue here is the word “each.” By using it with no other qualification, it means the same as “every.” If they had replaced “each child” with “children”, the statement would be clearer. I think most people assume that there will be some restrictions when the government starts handing back money. By including the word “each,” that assumption is challenged and it begins to look like an across-the-board offer.

Another example: If I were to offer a free T-shirt to “each” visitor to blogfreespringfield, I’m sure that all five of you would expect a shirt. You’d probably be none too happy when you later found out that only those who post positive comments about me are eligible for the free offer. You also probably wouldn’t vote for me as best blogger in the Illinois Times next “Best of Springfield” issue.

The spokesperson accused Schoenburg of parsing words. But Schoenburg isn’t guilty of being a grammar hen; he’s simply applying a literal interpretation to the governor’s words. I can see how a politician might prefer that we not do that, what with their penchant for playing both sides of an issue. Words have a pesky tendency to convey meaning that doesn’t always conform to the spin with which they are being delivered.

Separate from the grammar issue, I also disagree with the spokesperson’s assertion that each child has the opportunity to benefit from the program. It’s true that a student can choose to matriculate in-state rather than out-of-state. I also believe that if a student can get accepted at a given college or university, they are capable of earning a B average at that institution. But once a student has earned 30 credit hours, there is nothing they can do to regain their underclass status. And who knows, without that extra 1,000 bucks, they might have to forfeit their upper-class status.

It doesn’t really matter though. The ad will continue to run without revision. If someone as intelligent as Bill Clinton could quibble over the meaning of the word “is”, we have no hope of getting Blagojevich to understand the meaning of “each.”

9 comments:

Monkey Boy said...

I heard you are giving away free t-shirt's here. How do I get one?

Anonymous said...

I want a T-Shirt

from primo design

don't tell me you don't get the family discount there. Where's my t-shirt? I wanna t-shirt!

Anonymous said...

Kinda frightens me that I might be as anal-retentive as you are, but.....

I was kinda bothered by Gidwitz's claim that as head of Helene Curtis, he "employed over 1,100 Illinois families."

1,100 Illinois workers, yeah. Families, uh-uh. In that assertion, he was almost Blagoyevivh-ian. Blagojevich-esque. A lot like Gov. G-Rod.

BlogFreeSpringfield said...

Anal retentive? I have the courage to point out errors in grammar that threaten to destroy the very foundation of our democracy and for this I'm called anal retentive? How about patriot, that would be more fitting.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, and how about the tee-shirt? That would be appropriate.

BlogFreeSpringfield said...

How can I give away a T-shirt to someone who insists on remaining anonymous?* Would I stick it in a plain brown paper bag and leave it in a designated phone booth at a predetermined time? And no cops?


*not that I have any, but I could.

Monkey Boy said...

Yeah, give your name you coward!

Just look at me, I'm not hiding anything. I both a monkey and a boy, thus my ability to type and easily climb trees.

Anonymous said...

I want a GD BFS tee-shirt.

I'm one of the 5 faithful readers and responders and I DESERVE a tee-shirt. I'm proud to be in such good company, my hirsute and odiferous little friend. You, too, should have a shirt that tells the world: " I read and respect the opinion of Dan Naumovich"

Dan, Krekel's parking lot, Tues 11pm, leave shirt behind Chicken Car"

Make it triple XXX, any color but gray.

DutchK9 said...

I saw your article in the Springfield Paper and am interested as you in the blogging industry. How does one become a blogger? Once you blogged, are your thoughts respected by the number of your bloggings and comments from other bloggers, or is one blog enough? How can I meet you so that you can tutor me on the ways of blogging? I don't have many skills in return, but I can teach you how to poke somebody in the eye with a hot soildering iron. If you can't teach me one on one it is okay because I am watching you. I am always watching you!