Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Hey indeedy

James Michael Crotty discusses the Republicans' elevation of ignorance and stupidity to a virtue. His basic explanation is that it's the only way to preserve ideological purity, especially when your ideology is entirely counterfactual. Fair enough, but obviously it begs the question.

Why are so many Americans passionately committed to absurd beliefs? Obviously they are continually exposed to propaganda, but wealthy greedheads and religious con artists have the same opportunities in Europe Canada that they do here -- Fox News is huge in the UK BTW -- but the worship of idiocy is much less common elsewhere. If I tried to engage a Republican primary voter in a discussion about health care policy, it would be a big mistake for me to mention that I have a Ph.D. in the subject, and study it for a living. It's even worse -- I do that at an Ivy League university and I got the doctorate from Brandeis which is, well, you know. (It rhymes with U.) All that means is that I have no standing on the subject whatsoever, because I'm a pointy headed elitist.

I don't know the full explanation, but one hypothesis is that it's partly because higher education in this country is a luxury good largely reserved for the children of the affluent. The reason Scott Brown can attack Elizabeth Warren for her association with Harvard is that Harvard really is a marker of privilege. It makes sense intuitively for non-privileged people to doubt that people associated with ruling class institutions are actually on their side.

(So how do you explain George W. Bush? Well, he did go to Harvard (and Yale) but it obviously didn't rub off on him. He had a phony cowboy accent, had difficulty producing syntactically well formed sentences, and didn't believe in that ungodly science baloney.)

It would help a lot if higher education was free to everyone, with admission based on credible measures of people's prior preparation and potential to make good use of their education, and no account whatsoever for their parentage or financial resources. That would do a lot, I think, to change the cultural dynamic.

On another note, I should say something about World AIDS Day, even though it's basically a marketing tactic like National Pickle Week. It's still an occasion to reflect and take stock. I'll probably get around to it a day late.

1 comment:

Daniel said...

40 years ago I became the first in our family to get a college degree. My parents were 1st generation Americans, blue collar workers and convinced that a college education would provide their children the opportunities they did not have.

I went to state university where tuition was $285/yr. I could earn enough money in one month in the summer to pay for my tuition. Most of my friends in school came from similar backgrounds.

A university education was affordable in those days. I think we all know why it no longer is.