Dumbing Down: What We Hide & Why We Hide It

I remember one of the earliest tasks I had in junior high school was to look up words in a dictionary that I did not know and expand my vocabulary. I couldn’t tell you now what some of those words were, but I can tell you they were hard. I remember the feeling of accomplishment as I learned them. I was getting smarter and the pride of knowing it made me feel better about myself than I knew was possible.

I remember the first time I started hiding my words. I was at a family gathering and everyone around me was talking in short, simple sentences. I remember thinking that my big words would sound out of place and snobbish if I spoke them there. I remember intentionally not using them so I could avoid hurting the people I loved. That was the beginning of my dumbing down.

Dumb down = to convey some subject matter in simple terms to avoid seeming condescending with technical or academic language; to become simpler in expression or content; to become unacceptably simplistic

Synonyms: oversimplify, downplay, trivialize, vulgarize, simplify

I told myself that dumbing down was a good thing because I wasn’t making others around me feel bad; I never stopped to consider that I might have challenged them to better themselves. It never occurred to me that I was potentially causing more harm than good.

South Beach Diet Whipped Chocolate Almond Snack Bars Close

I remember when diet food first started coming out. It was all the rave to find chocolate in low calorie, low fat versions. We thought all of these options made chocolate more approachable for those of us who found extra pounds in the real thing. But no matter how good a bar or cookie or cake looked, it was but a poor understudy for the real thing. It left you wanting the real thing even more.

When you oversimplify something, you create a distorted view of the truth and you set yourself and others up to believe the lie that something is not as important as it really is. When I dumbed down my language, I trivialized the importance of education and intellect. I robbed myself and others of the beauty of my work by removing its refined, subtle, and complex qualities.

I let shame and fear hide my intellect because I thought a simplified version of myself would be more inspiring and relatable. But when I think of the people I have found inspiring and relatable, I realize they were all people who were not afraid to be themselves and strive for excellence in their particular set of skills. They challenged others and bettered the world not by downplaying their gifts but by intentionally sharpening them. I believe that is what we are all called to do.

What are you gifted at doing?

What are you doing to better yourself in those areas?

How are you sharing those gifts with others?

5 thoughts on “Dumbing Down: What We Hide & Why We Hide It

  1. So true.

    *Sonja A. Redmon* *Director of Basic Skills* *Wayne Community College* *Walnut 228* *Phone: 919-739-6903* *Fax: 919-736-1707*

    *http://www.waynecc.edu/continuing-ed/basic-skills/ * [image: Picture]*Look for us on face book at *

    *Basic Skills – Wayne Community College*

    On Mon, Sep 11, 2017 at 9:32 AM, rebeccawhitman wrote:

    > rebeccawhitman posted: “I remember one of the earliest tasks I had in > junior high school was to look up words in a dictionary that I did not know > and expand my vocabulary. I couldn’t tell you now what some of those words > were, but I can tell you they were hard. I remember the fe” >

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  2. An excellent post. The world of fiction is so “dumbed down.” Compare Jane Eyre with a modern novelist! I’m at fault too. I confess to reading the fluff often rather than reading “The Tale of Two Cities” or other books of that type. And I’m even worse when it comes to reading devotional material.

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  3. I believe there’s a time and place for dumbing down words. While children are very young we all tend to do that to a degree but once children are capable of forming words of their own I believe we owe it to them to speak to them the way we wish to be spoken to. I remember as my daughter approached her high school graduation we spent a good portion of her senior year expanding her vocabulary in preparation for her to go to college. It was fun the way we each looked for new words to slip into our daily conversation somehow. We each looked for a word we thought the other might not know and they would have to look it up to figure it out. Learning can be fun if we make it so.

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    • Thank you for sharing a parenting spin on this post. I think you found a clever way to handle vocabulary expansion, and I am glad that you shared it here. Thanks for reading and for sharing!

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