For our students’ entire lives we have communicated that the reason to learn things is not to fulfill curiosities, but to see where you stack up relative to others. Grades are no longer a proxy for learning, but a lap time determining how well they’re doing at achieving a secure financial future. Under this system, a “B” is genuine cause for distress. A “C” is a disaster that points towards a ruined life.
At the same time, we have made it increasingly difficult to pay for a genuine education. The burden of loans threatens to strangle adult lives before they really begin. It is now impossible to work your way through college. Concerns over even paying for college are also at an all-time high. We communicate that a college degree is more important than ever and then make it more difficult to achieve.
Students look at the larger culture and see not a ladder of opportunity, but a treadmill of obligation. No wonder they’re distressed.”
You speak English, a futured language, and what that means is that every time you discuss the future or any kind of a future event, grammatically, you’re forced to cleave that from the present and treat it as if it’s something viscerally different. Now suppose that that visceral difference makes you suddenly disassociate the future from the present every time you speak. If that’s true, and it makes the future feel like something more distant and more different from the present, that’s going to make it harder to save.
If, on the other hand, you speak a futureless language, the present and the future, you speak about them identically. If that suddenly nudges you to feel about them identically, that’s going to make it easier to save.
Futureless language speakers, even after this level of control, are 30 percent more likely to report having saved in any given year. Does this have cumulative effects? Yes. By the time they retire, futureless language speakers, holding constant their income, are going to retire with 25 percent more in savings.
Can we push this data even further? Yes. Think about smoking, for example. Smoking is, in some deep sense, negative savings, right. If savings is current pain in exchange for future pleasure, smoking is just the opposite. It’s current pleasure in exchange for future pain. What we should expect then is the opposite effect. And that’s exactly what we find. Futureless-language speakers are 20 to 24 percent less likely to be smoking at any given in time compared to identical families. And they’re going to be 13 to 70 percent less likely to be obese by the time they retire.”
Our business is to see what we can do with the English language as it is. How can we combine the old words in new orders so that they survive, so that they create beauty, so that they tell the truth? That is the question.
And the person who could answer that question would deserve whatever crown of glory the world has to offer. Think what it would mean if you could teach, if you could learn, the art of writing. Why, every book, every newspaper would tell the truth, would create beauty.”