The quality of education and the general level of literacy in the United States have declined since the 1960s.  Today, ignorance is widespread and is both disappointing and infuriating.  Some people call the situation the “dumbing down of America.”
During the “space race” in the 1960s the United States was in competition with the Soviet Union in many fields, and the Federal Government funded programs to improve the quality of education.

I attended the Webster Groves, Missouri, public schools in the 1950s and 1960s.  By various measures (test scores, percentage of students graduating from high school, percentage of students who went on to higher education, PhDs per capita, and others) it was ranked as one of the most outstanding school systems in the United States.  My seventh- and eighth-grade English teacher was a perfectionist in all aspects of English grammar, punctuation, etc.  She instilled in her students an appreciation of excellence and accuracy and a habit of paying close attention to detail.  Even though I majored in physics at Washington University, I have continued to this day to be passionate about clear communication, which is the reason for having standards and rules.  When people deviate from them, the meaning in their writing and speech becomes less clear to their readers and listeners. Even after we learn what is meant when someone uses nonstandard pronunciation, grammar, punctuation, etc., so that we can perform a mental translation to what we think he really means, we still have to divert our attention to do the translation.  Mistakes and deviations in grammar, punctuation, pronunciation, etc. are like potholes in a road that take our attention away from driving safely, avoiding accidents, etc.

Another reason for using correct grammar, punctuation, and pronunciation is that people judge us by our speech and writing.  Your blunders lower other people’s opinions of you; those other people may be potential employers, writers of letters of recommendation, etc.  It pays to be right and to be smart.

(I know that my sentences are long; I will try to edit them when I can.)

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