Monday, August 8, 2016

Unclear on an Important Concept

I played Cards Against Humanity for the first time this weekend at a family reunion. If you don't know about it, it's a game very similar in format to Apples to Apples, where one person reads aloud a card with a phrase that has a fill-in-the-blank spot. The other players have 10 cards with words or phrases on them, and they try to choose the one that best fits the blank. Or at least the one that will make the person who reads the card aloud laugh the most.

In Apples to Apples, the cards contain fairly innocuous phrases, while in Cards Against Humanity the phrases are written to shock, outrage, or titillate. About 5 percent are things I wouldn't want to read out loud, and another 10 or 15 percent seemed designed to discomfit anyone who's not a straight, white male. Sometimes the combinations are funny, despite all this, so it was mostly enjoyable.

There was one moment that particularly caught me off guard, though, which didn't have to do with the offensive cards. It was a card that contained just one word: eugenics.

The randomly chosen prompt card was "War: What is it good for?" In the song lyrics the card refers to, the answer is "Absolutely nothing," but in the game, "eugenics" was the chosen answer.

The part of this that surprised me was that, before choosing eugenics as the answer, the card-reading player asked for a definition of the word. It turned out that, among the five people over 21, all of whom had attended or graduated from college, only two people (including me) had a completely clear understanding of the word. Two of them seemed to have never heard the word before at all. Most of the teen-aged players also said they didn't know the word, either.

I realize this is a small sample, and I may be making too much of it, but I was startled. I thought eugenics was a widely known concept (I mean, it's hard to learn much about the Holocaust without hearing the word), but this tiny, naturally occurring survey seems to indicate that it's not.

I hate to be one of those people who says, "What are we learning in this country?" But really.... what are we learning (and not learning) in this country?


Jo Lum said...

I learned about eugenics at ASL interpreting school. Alexander Graham Bell was married to a Deaf women and a huge proponent for eugenics in the Deaf community. In fact he only invented the telephone in an attempt to invent a hearing aid. He also was very against sign language and started a whole educational movement that still happens today where Deaf people are taught "orally" which means they have to learn to read lips, something that is proven a million times ineffective. AGB is pretty universally disdained in the Deaf community for all of these things.

Daughter Number Three said...

What was in the head of a person married to a Deaf woman who is in favor of eugenics for that very group?

I leaned a bit about AGB when in the town in Canada where he worked (or grew up or...bad memory, me, not sure what part of his life he lived there). They were very proud of him. No mention of these aspects, as I recall.