Education

Two centuries of red state suspicion of book learnin'

We all know how conservatives hold up home schooling as an ideal. In addition, they value private, charter, and religious schools over public schools (unless, of course, they’re owned by corporations). None of this disguises a deep-seated distrust for edu-ma-cation.

On February 25, at Talking Points Memo, Evan McMorris-Santoro reported on Rick Santorum’s reaction (which he subsequently walked back somewhat ) at a campaign appearance to President Obama’s plan to make college more accessible.

“President Obama wants everybody in America to go to college,” Santorum said. “What a snob!”

Santorum started by saying some people don’t need to go to college: “Not all folks are gifted the same way. Some people have incredible gifts with their hands.” He then suggested there was an sinister motive behind Obama’s push to get more Americans in college classrooms.

“There are good, decent men and women who work hard every day and put their skills to the test that aren’t taught by some liberal college professor… That’s why he wants you to go to college. He wants to remake you in his image,” Santorum said.

McMorris-Santoro then questioned some of those in attendance.

“I thought that was brilliant,” said Angie Clement of Commerce, Mich. “Not everybody has to go to college. We need garbagemen, we need welders, carpenters.”

… “I think he’s saying, ‘Do you think that that’s the only way you can be a successful person? To go to college?’” said another attendee, Elizabeth, who didn’t want her last name used. “That is snobbery. In this entrepreneurial country that we have, where fortunes are made in a lot of ways — they’re not only made by college-educated people.”

They all agreed that college can help some people — but they also agreed that universities are basically socialism factories.

“They try and disguise it with, you know, ‘equal opportunity’…” Stephen Clement began. … “Where does the social engineering stop?”

What amounts to conservative disdain for pointy-headed intellectuals is, of course, nothing new. In its recent Civil War issue, the Atlantic published an 1865 report by northern journalist Sidney Andrews on his visit to post-war North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. You can see Red State suspicion of education as we know it today foretold.

Stopping for two or three days in some back county, I was always seeming to have drifted away from the world which held Illinois and Ohio and Massachusetts. … There is everywhere a lack of intellectual activity. Schools, books, newspapers,–why, one may almost say there are none outside the cities and towns. … In the important town of Charlotte, North Carolina, I found a white man who owned the comfortable house in which he lived, who had a wife and three half-grown children, and yet had never taken a newspaper in his life. He thought they were handy for wrapping purposes, but he couldn’t see why anybody wanted to bother with the reading of them. … In that State I found several persons–whites, and not of the “clay-eater” class, either–who never had been inside a school-house, and who didn’t mean to ‘low their children to go inside one. … Between Augusta and Milledgeville I rode in a stage-coach in which were two delegates of the Georgia Convention. When I said that I hoped the day would soon come in which school-houses would be as numerous in Georgia as in Massachusetts, one of them answered: “Well, I hope it’ll never come,–popular education is all a d–n humbug in my judgment”; whereunto the other responded, “That’s my opinion, too.” These are exceptional cases, I am aware, but they truly index the situation of thousands of persons. It is this general ignorance, and this general indifference to knowledge, that make a Southern trip such wearisome work.

 At AlterNet, Sara Robinson recently wrote a scalding piece inspired by a New York Times article on how, as she summarizes, “blue states generally export money to the federal government; and red states generally import it.” Thus, progressives, especially in blue states, have “got every right to get good and angry about the fact that, by and large, the people who are getting our money are so damned ungrateful — not to mention so ridiculously eager to spend it on stuff we don’t approve of.” We’ll give Sara the final word on the red states’, uh, conflicted relationship with education.

Don’t ask us to pay to educate your kids if you’re not willing to have us teach them what we know about the world. We believe in free, comprehensive, rigorous and reality-based public education because it’s done more than any other government service to make us rich, powerful and successful; and we want the same for you.

We realize some of you aren’t too keen on public schools. It’s great that you want to take on more personal responsibility for educating your own kids. Just be warned: if you don’t teach them real science and real history — including evolution, climate change and the actual contents of the US Constitution — we’re probably not going to hire them. So we hope you’re also ready to take responsibility for that, too, which will probably mean supporting your grown kids in your basement until you die.

Categories: Education

21 replies »

  1. Good to see Sara on the rampage about this. And, of course, I’m reminded of the great little series that our own Wufnik did on this very subject a couple years back.

    As Wuf said, if these states want to secede they should and the Union should let them. I’m not at all sure I disagree.

  2. First, while not a Santorum supporter, his essential point is valid. Millions of college students have gotten and will get a degree, that while leaving them with a debt of tens of thousands of dollars, won’t help them get a job, beyond that which they could have gotten without a degree. Unless you are getting a degree in a hard science, you are wasting your time, unless you can get a job at a college or in government. Let’s face it, the major reason for most people to go to college (apart from girls and partying) is to get a well paying job with your new, shiny degree. Many trades, plumbers, electricians, etc. actually pay really, really well. Yes, the person won’t have a college degree at the end of the day, but he may well be waited on by a person with one at his local Outback!

    Second, the political Left has waged a culture war on America, at least since the Progressive Era. The Left now controls American education, lock, stock and barrel. Look at the NEA, the American Federation of Teachers and the like, if you don’t believe me. Look at what they support and their beliefs. Individual teachers may not be as radically leftwing as their union, but their leadership is hardcore left.

    Universities have been noted for being leftwing for decades or longer. Outside of a few private colleges, leftwing political beliefs are the norm amongst professors. Btw, I say “leftwing” rather than just liberal, because on college campuses, you will find a number of professors who view themselves as beyond liberal, and are, at minimum, socialists, but some who call themselves marxists or communists. The history of this trend is long and well documented, it was first noted, that I am aware of in 19th century Germany, where they were called “Kathedersozialisten” or “socialists of the (professorial) chair.” I am going to assume you will grant that college professors are more leftwing in their orientation on average. Various studies have shown this and been written on this.

    Third, the article reeks of arrogance. It is way of saying if you differ from the writer’s political beliefs, you are hostile to truth, education and everything right in the world. It is dogmatism without appeal. It is, at its heart, a fascist mentality. I mean that in the whole and truest sense of the word. From its pages you can almost hear…”to the gas chambers go!”

    You do realize, that in American history, some of the most successful and productive people, didn’t have college degrees right? Thomas Edison, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs come to mind off the top of my head. There is so much wrong with the article in terms of intellectual honesty and unsaid issues, like how American schools are failing, despite huge increases in sums and some of the largest per capita spending on education. None of this looks at the dumbing down of college curriculums either. But that’s ok, feel smugly superior, because likely all the people you know think exactly like you…and of course, all right thinking people are liberals!

  3. Samuel, if the blue states didn’t have the red states to keep them from carrying out their liberal beliefs to absurdity, the US would be completely bankrupt! See CA and IL for what the USA would be! lol

    • Tom, the actual facts tell the opposite story. You say: “if the blue states didn’t have the red states to keep them from carrying out their liberal beliefs to absurdity, the US would be completely bankrupt! See CA and IL for what the USA would be! lol”

      Yeah, lol. As this analysis (one of several on the subject here at S&R) demonstrates, it’s primarily the blue states (including CA and IL) that carry the freight. By and large, it’s the red states that are the recipients of tax welfare – that is, they’re the “taker” states while all those evil librul states are the ones who pay far more than they receive back.

      I’d frankly be perfectly happy to let each state subsist on its own capabilities for a few years just to see what happened. In any case, I always laugh when pissed off conservatives from taker states talk about secession. In truth, not much could be better for the states that remained.

  4. First, while not a Santorum supporter, his essential point is valid. Millions of college students have gotten and will get a degree, that while leaving them with a debt of tens of thousands of dollars, won’t help them get a job, beyond that which they could have gotten without a degree. Unless you are getting a degree in a hard science, you are wasting your time (unless you can get a job at a college or in government). Let’s face it, the major reason for most people to go to college (apart from girls/boys and partying) is to get a well paying job with your new, shiny degree. Many trades, plumbers, electricians, etc. actually pay really, really well. Yes, the person won’t have a college degree at the end of the day, but he/she may well be waited on by a person with one at the local Outback!

  5. Second, the political Left has waged a culture war on America, at least since the Progressive Era. The Left now controls American education, lock, stock and barrel. Look at the NEA, the American Federation of Teachers and the like, if you don’t believe me. Look at what they support and their beliefs. Individual teachers may not be as radically leftwing as their union, but their leadership is hardcore left.

    Universities have been noted for being leftwing for decades or longer. Outside of a few private colleges, leftwing political beliefs are the norm amongst professors. Btw, I say “leftwing” rather than just liberal, because on college campuses, you will find a number of professors who view themselves as beyond liberal, and are, at minimum, socialists, but some who call themselves marxists or communists. The history of this trend is long and well documented, it was first noted, that I am aware of in 19th century Germany, where they were called “Kathedersozialisten” or “socialists of the (professorial) chair.” I am going to assume you will grant that college professors are more leftwing in their orientation on average. Various studies have shown this and been written on this.

  6. That’s a bait and switch Sam, Tom didn’t say that. He said (and he’s right) when liberals are left to their own devices they will bankrupt them selves. The State budgets prove the point. Show me a liberal enclave, I’ll show show you budget short falls and wealth producers in full retreat. Want to see the future of America under liberal management leave your ivory tower and take a trip to Detroit. Oh, and I could swear that you were insinuating that educated liberal North Easterners created the wealth of the North East. A few of this country’s industrials did have a collage education, many did not. But as liberalism has grown up North, industry has headed South. And I could be wrong, but I don’t think one liberal arts professor has ever added a dime to the gross national product. Unless they first left the campus and then started their own company. Liberalism in almost by definition anti wealth creation.

    • Nice try. The states that have “bankrupted” themselves – let’s pretend that accurately described Wisconsin, for example – have done so because of Randites creating financial crises in order to do things like kneecap union structures. S&R has addressed that one, too, although other places have done it in far greater detail.

      Despite your dittohead rhetoric, there are zero cases of liberal states bankrupting themselves or coming anywhere close without cynical machinations by conservative elements like the Koch Brothers’ towel boy, Scott Walker.

  7. My rgument is about what liberals would do, if left to their own devices. So showing that blue states get less money back than red states, means nothing. Not sure how you think it does. 9 of the top 10 most indebted states, per capita, are blue states, interestingly Alaska the exception.

    Most state debt per capita
    1. MA
    2. AK
    3. CT
    4. RI
    5. NY
    6. NJ
    7. NH
    8. DE
    9. VT
    10. HI

    Conversely, of the 10 least indebted, 9 are generally what are considered to be red states.

    http://www.usgovernmentspending.com/compare_state_spending_2012dH0s

    • So, let me ask a hypothetical question here. Are you more likely to be indebted if I give you half of my money or if you give me half of yours?

      Also, nice try pretending that “indebted” means “bankrupt.”

  8. OK, Sam, fair enough. I ran the numbers with the debt as a % of GDP…is that better? I tried running it as a balance, but the calculation freaks out. With debt as a % of state GDP, it adds one more red state, Montana, while dropping…think it is Hawaii. And those states move to the just out of top ten range. Not surprisingly, the numbers tend to correlate.

    • I think we both know know that there is no fact, no data set, no analysis that can stand in the face of blind, a priori dogmatic conservative faith. And I promised myself that I’d stop wasting my breath. Believe what you like.

  9. And yes, while “indebted” is not “bankrupt” as you correctly point out. Indebted is a path to bankruptcy. The worse you are “indebted” as a percentage of your GDP, the more likely you are to break, either your taxpayers or go “bankrupt.”

    Sam, btw, while your argument about “rich” blue states sending money to “poor” red states has nothing to do with what I was saying. I am pleased to see you taking a line of thought against progressive taxation and redistribution of income. There may be hope for you yet. 🙂

  10. Sam, I don’t want you to think it is personal between you and me. I respect your opinion, but have a very different take on it. And for what it is worth, I think both Republicans and Democrats are ruining the country. Republicans want to keep defense spending high. Democrats want to keep social spending high. If we, Americans, don’t cut both, we are on the road to ruin. I have said before…the USA is a car heading towards a cliff, when Democrats are in charge we go at 70 mph towards the cliff, when Republicans are in charge, we go at 50 mph towards it. While you may switch the speeds of the two parties, I think most of us realize we are still heading towards that cliff.

    Respectfully yours,

    Tom

    • The numbers simply do not bear out what you say, though. If you do two things – get the defense budget to a level that approximates what the rest of the world does and return taxes to, I don’t know, Reagan levels, you simply no longer have ANY concerns with social program spending. None. What impact would an extra trillion dollars (or two) have on our budgetary issues, because that’s Iraq we’re talking about.

      All the complaining about horrible social spending is conservative rhetoric that only works if I accept obscenely low (as in historically by US standards and unprecedented low by developed democracy standards) taxes and a defense budget that nearly eclipses what they rest of the world COMBINED spends as working assumptions.

      I don’t. Neither should anyone else.

  11. Sam,
    I was trying to be nice and find some common ground with you, by at least acknowledging the guilt of both parties in running the country down. But you clearly have a bone you don’t want to give up. Oh well, I tried.

    Defense spending, while needing to be cut, is roughly 5% of GDP and declining. Entitlements are 10% of GDP and growing. Your arguments are specious at best. I love that you think the “low by developed democracy” standards means something! lol You mean all those “developed democracies” like in Europe, which is about to implode because of a generous welfare state? They don’t have big defense budgets, but their debt situations are as bad as ours! Or were you talking about Japan? They have a debt to GDP ratio of about 200%. So we should be like them, eh? Great thinking!

      • Also, the 5%/10% stat asks me to accept more in the way of silly assumptions because it supposes that military adventurism and domestic health and welfare are equivalent concerns. For instance, say you’re a dad with a family. You don’t have enough money to cover all the bills and the family starving. I say, you know, you really need to cut out all the money you spend on liquor, drugs and whores. You respond by showing me your monthly expenditures, which prove that you spend 10% of your money on food for the starving family and only 5% on liquor, drugs and whores. Your conclusion: you need to cut back on food for the family because that’s a bigger percent of the paycheck.

        If this means I “have a bone I don’t want to give up,” then I’m guilty as charged.

  12. Do you think I have never seen these graphs? I

    I know the US spends more than any country in the world on defense. We should have more than anybody else. I get in arguments with my conservative friends when I tell them it needs to go down from say $680 bn, down at least a fifth, and maybe a quarter overall. This would be $130 bn to $170 bn less than it is now.
    Which, I have to say is more than the Democrats are proposing. I argue with Reps about cutting defense spending and bringing the troops home and Dems about exploding entitlement programs.

    Not sure what your point is in showing the discretionary spending, since I know most of it is defense. Entitlements are mandatory spending. If you think this means something, it just means they are in different pots of money. Entitlements and servicing the debt are nearly $2 trillion by themselves if memory serves me. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are about 43% of the total budget. Interest on the debt, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid will blow up the budget and be larger than total revenues within 20 years at minimum…if we don’t have an economic meltdown before then (which I think is highly likely).

    The economic downturn is a large part of the deficit issue, no doubt. This mess isn’t of Obama’s making, it has been 50 years in the making with lots of both Dems and Reps involved. Obama didn’t make the mess, but I don’t think he has helped it much either, with a failed stimulus and continuing many of George W’s failed economic strategies. Obama has actually doubled down on many of W’s bad economic ideas (not to mention a number of his foreign policy ones too). What caused our mess was the Federal Reserve’s cheap money policy. Keeping interest rates artificially low helped fuel the housing bubble.

    I am not a huge fan of Republicans or Democrats.

  13. This may be as close to agreeing with Santorum as I ever get, but I prefer to think of it as just agreeing with Mike Rowe, as featured in this video:

    This is one issue where I think both sides have something of a point. The president is right that we need to more fully support college education, with the caveat: when it’s the right path for the individual. By the same token, I think we also need to more fully support vocational training, with the same exact caveat.

    I missed the Santorum speech and it’s late, so maybe someone could clue me in here. Is this actually an issue where the GOP would support increased spending, as long as it’s for vocational training? If not, how would a GOP advocate suggest the nation fulfill it’s stated ambition (as noted in the preamble) to promote the general welfare, in this case in regard to vocational training?