language, ignorance, mindlessness

Let’s continue discussing some of the questions raised by my right honourable friend dark-eye in his last post.
I take it we agree, then, that there’s no point in being nasty to the checkout slave for using the harmless phaticism “have a good one.” I think it’s likewise anal-prescriptivist, and a waste of energy, to fulminate over people saying “where’s it at.” English varies by region and social class; different variations obey different systems of rules; so what?
It isn’t so much annoying that people use clich├ęs and buzzwords as it is distressing that they can’t do any better. Too many Americans can’t express themselves worth a shit or tell you in what century the Civil War took place. Why?
I think that’s a complex question with no definitive answer, just competing theories. Part of the cause must be that fools sit around staring at the veg box for too many hours of their lives — that’ll make you stupid, for sure. Part of it is undoubtedly due to failures in the public education system, which in turn are attributable in large measure to severe underfunding and our policymakers’ fucked up spending priorities. The way stuff like U.S. history is typically taught in school gives students little reason to remember it — a series of disconnected factoids, trivia. Who cares? Chomsky called it right when he said (don’t ask me exactly where) that school is a system of enforced ignorance. That’s no mere eccentricity — it’s literally true in too many cases.
For people like dark-eye and me it is nonetheless appalling how ignorant people are. We’re Old School. The fact that your history teacher sucked is no excuse. The fact that whenever you please, you could go onto the Web and find out when the Civil War was is no excuse. There are some things that people should know Just Because.