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Sunday, March 11, 2012

Ignorance is Strength? Krugman's just joshin'

Someone wrote me that Krugman must have read my post, last week. Sadly, I guess he didn't, but I certainly agree with him.
One of the key points in this essay is that the idea put forward by Santorum that people who go to college are less likely to be people of faith is simply not true.
One of the coolest books I've read about the idea of faith and science coexisting in one person is "The Invention of Air" about Joseph Priestly. The best book on science, faith and politics I've ever read (well, probably the only one). (learn more here)
Rational Enlightenment, baby!
By the way, the point of public education in America, including secondary education, is to keep the people educated and employable.
Isn't a strong middle class what we all want and need to keep America strong????

March 8, 2012

One way in which Americans have always been exceptional has been in our support for education. First we took the lead in universal primary education; then the “high school movement” made us the first nation to embrace widespread secondary education. And after World War II, public support, including the G.I. Bill and a huge expansion of public universities, helped large numbers of Americans to get college degrees.

But now one of our two major political parties has taken a hard right turn against education, or at least against education that working Americans can afford. Remarkably, this new hostility to education is shared by the social conservative and economic conservative wings of the Republican coalition, now embodied in the persons of Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney.

And this comes at a time when American education is already in deep trouble.

About that hostility: Mr. Santorum made headlines by declaring that President Obama wants to expand college enrollment because colleges are “indoctrination mills” that destroy religious faith. But Mr. Romney’s response to a high school senior worried about college costs is arguably even more significant, because what he said points the way to actual policy choices that will further undermine American education.

Here’s what the candidate told the student: “Don’t just go to one that has the highest price. Go to one that has a little lower price where you can get a good education. And, hopefully, you’ll find that. And don’t expect the government to forgive the debt that you take on.”

Wow. So much for America’s tradition of providing student aid. And Mr. Romney’s remarks were even more callous and destructive than you may be aware, given what’s been happening lately to American higher education.

For the past couple of generations, choosing a less expensive school has generally meant going to a public university rather than a private university. But these days, public higher education is very much under siege, facing even harsher budget cuts than the rest of the public sector. Adjusted for inflation, state support for higher education has fallen 12 percent over the past five years, even as the number of students has continued to rise; in California, support is down by 20 percent.

One result has been soaring fees. Inflation-adjusted tuition at public four-year colleges has risen by more than 70 percent over the past decade. So good luck on finding that college “that has a little lower price.”

Another result is that cash-strapped educational institutions have been cutting back in areas that are expensive to teach — which also happen to be precisely the areas the economy needs. For example, public colleges in a number of states, including Florida and Texas, have eliminated entire departments in engineering and computer science.

The damage these changes will inflict — both to our nation’s economic prospects and to the fading American dream of equal opportunity — should be obvious. So why are Republicans so eager to trash higher education?

It’s not hard to see what’s driving Mr. Santorum’s wing of the party. His specific claim that college attendance undermines faith is, it turns out, false. But he’s right to feel that our higher education system isn’t friendly ground for current conservative ideology. And it’s not just liberal-arts professors: among scientists, self-identified Democrats outnumber self-identified Republicans nine to one.

I guess Mr. Santorum would see this as evidence of a liberal conspiracy. Others might suggest that scientists find it hard to support a party in which denial of climate change has become a political litmus test, and denial of the theory of evolution is well on its way to similar status.

But what about people like Mr. Romney? Don’t they have a stake in America’s future economic success, which is endangered by the crusade against education? Maybe not as much as you think.

After all, over the past 30 years, there has been a stunning disconnect between huge income gains at the top and the struggles of ordinary workers. You can make the case that the self-interest of America’s elite is best served by making sure that this disconnect continues, which means keeping taxes on high incomes low at all costs, never mind the consequences in terms of poor infrastructure and an undertrained work force.

And if underfunding public education leaves many children of the less affluent shut out from upward mobility, well, did you really believe that stuff about creating equality of opportunity?

So whenever you hear Republicans say that they are the party of traditional values, bear in mind that they have actually made a radical break with America’s tradition of valuing education. And they have made this break because they believe that what you don’t know can’t hurt them.


  1. I grew up in a very conservative blue collar area. I was the first in my family to ever attend college. My first job after graduating was with a company with a new policy of hiring college graduates (they had very few people at the company who had attended post-secondary school). I was never a "degree-flaunter" and only a few of my friends had gone to college, but I was picked on and called names (I guess you coud call it bullying) because I had gone to college. It happened mostly at that company but also at family get togethers. I toughened up and handled it, and eventually the attitude changed for the better. I still see glimpses of it when I go back there.

    This anti-education political stance throws me back to those days. I find it frightening to think of it becoming policy. Add to that the backward motion on women's' rights and I'm having nightmares. Has anyone read "The Handmaid's Tale"?

  2. Rational enlightenment, yeah baby!

    People forget that the Founders weren't operating in a vacuum, they were reacting to the politics of the time. Knew that kings always justified their power on divine right, claiming that God gave them their power.

    But the Founders were different. They recognized that opinions about God were irrelevant to political power! Power was rightly held in human consent to government, and trusted that people were rational enough to make intelligent choices.

    The modern Republican party dismisses this, choosing to pander to religious fears and prejudices rather than reason.

    That's why Republicans chose to go to war on women's rights. They don't think that women are smart or strong enough to make intelligent choices. They're wrong!

    Think about it this way: If this country was based on the Bible, as Republicans say, where is this located in the Bible? What chapter and verse contains the word "Democracy?" Where can you find human rights in Jesus' teachings?

    You can't. The Founders trusted in the human capacity of reason and the ability to discover truth.

    Republicans know that if people get educated to this fact, they'll lose power. So they're anti-education.

    It's scary.