By Dan Mikel
What do you remember about fourth grade? Your school? Your teacher? Your friends?
I hope you have a better memory than I have. I remember some things about fourth grade, but not a whole lot. I remember playing kickball in the school gym. I remember an art teacher who came into our class occasionally and I remember starting to learn how to play a trumpet. I also remember going to the school library and reading books that were written at a fourth-grade level: Treasure Island, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, Black Beauty, Little House in the Big Woods and others.
So, why am I thinking about fourth grade? A recent article in Newsweek indicated that “President Trump has the lowest vocabulary level of any modern president…” The facts are that compared to every president since Herbert Hoover, our current president communicates with others at a fourth-grade level. Might President Trump’s “elementary” vocabulary be plus with some people?
Time has marched on and my attention has been drawn beyond fourth grade. As the biblical admonition says, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man, I gave up childish ways.”
In today’s society we are grappling with “grown -up” issues such as attacks on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. We need to consider the very real possibility of right to work laws in Minnesota and how devastating that would be; immigration policies that impact union workers; and gerrymandering that is a concern to all Minnesotans. Solutions to these issues require thinking beyond the fourth-grade level. Yet we need to communicate regarding these complex problems in ways that are easily understood. Does the listener feel an emotional connection to what we are saying? Both are important to effective conversations.
Let’s resolve to sharpen our communication skills in 2018. You can do that by attending the 2018 Minnesota AFL-CIO Campaigns Conference on February 15-16 described elsewhere in the Retiree Bulletin.
We can’t be in fourth grade forever.