As an irony junkie, I enjoy watching federal officials argue that they should be able to run the country's educational system at the same time they flunk the basics. For example, the Clinton Administration once posted this map on the White House website:
There are a number of interesting things about this map.
- Apparently, Owensboro, Kentucky, isn’t in Kentucky anymore. In fact, it looks like Kentucky isn’t in Kentucky anymore. It has moved to Tennessee.
- Illinois has annexed the entire western portion of Kentucky, completely cutting off everything south and west of Union county, and with it Kentucky's access to the Mississippi River.
- It seems that Kentuckians were so infuriated by the loss of western Kentucky — and their state’s very name — that they invaded their neighbors to the east, capturing the city of Roanoke, Virginia.
- Both Minnesota and Iowa have led incursions into South Dakota, conquering and dividing up that state’s southeastern corner. South Dakota’s largest city, Sioux Falls, has fallen into the hands of wild-eyed Minnesotans. Everything south of Sioux Falls is living under brutal Iowan occupation.
So the other day, while in a lobby shared by CNN and the U.S. Department of Education (ED), a poster on the ED side bearing the following logo caught my eye:
The proper usage of further and farther is the subject of some dispute. Authorities have traditionally instructed that farther is used when discussing distance (Maine is farther from DC than New York) while further expresses a difference of degree (he further refined his craft). Some argue that the distinction has been effectively erased by usage. But I figured that since the ED's new slogan was based on the common expression "you'll go far," there was a good chance that I had struck gold.
Yet the fun had really just begun. When I pulled out my mobile phone to snap a photo, a very large man jumped up from behind the security desk and interposed himself between me and my prize. He told me to put the camera away. Irony or no irony. Why? Federal building. Therefore, no taking pictures. Of a poster. In the lobby. Of a building that doesn't house, and isn't near, anything even mildly important. (Okay, that's not fair. If anything happened to those offices, who would all those former college attendees blow off?)
By the time I was done at CNN, an even larger man (the first man's supervisor) wanted to have a word with me. I wonder if their demeanors would have been different had the CNN reporter and cameraman not happened to follow me downstairs.