Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Arrogance, Ignorance, and Education

The United States emerged as a world super power after WWII, undamaged at home with a military industrial complex dwarfing that of any other nation. We wisely used our strength to invest in our future with the interstate highway system, construction projects, the GI Bill, and then pursued true greatness itself in the 60s with Civil Rights legislation and unprecedented support for education. This included the landmark Higher Education Act of 1965, which opened the country's colleges and universities as never before. It was magnificent, and it transformed us from not just a military superpower, but into the most powerful economic force in the history of the human race.

Then in 1980 we elected a man who insisted that government was an evil on top of the backs of the American people. Never mind that we had the highest standard of living on the planet, the greatest transportation infrastructure, the greatest education system, the most advanced science and technology, and our flag on the moon several times over. Reagan/Bush I inflicted massive deficits, gutted programs, and more than quadrupled the national debt. While Reagan failed to destroy the Department of Education, he succeeded in planting many razor blades in the educational system.

The mushrooming national debt helped elect Bill Clinton, who in eight years restored sanity and established a surplus.

Then SCOTUS put serious stupid in the White House, who had a deficit orgy to toss trillions at tax cuts for billionaires and two corrupt and utterly bungled Vietnams. Money for education? Roads? Infrastructure? Why pay to teach your kids when you can pay to kill people in other countries?

Conservative outrage over deficit spending is such the lie. If a Republican is in the White House and the deficit spending transfers funds to the rich or pays for a war, then SPEND!!! Borrow quattro-megamondoquizintotillion and borrow it TODAY!! Obama is quite possibly a one term president, and when his successor takes office, watch the noise about the debt return to its Bush era silence.

Reagan's razor blades have inflicted the internal bleeding he desired. America has slipped from first to twelfth in college degrees among 25-34 year olds, and it is not because academic standards have climbed. The situation is complicated, but the key drivers are 1) the financial burden inflicted on the students and 2) huge numbers of students leaving the K-12 system unprepared for college. Universities find themselves forced to devote ever increasing amounts of energy to remedial courses. Graduation rates are an appalling 40%, and these are six year rates.

Canada now ranks first, followed by Korea, Russia, Japan, New Zealand, Ireland, Norway, Israel, France, Belgium, and Australia. (Complete Report PDF.) Now, China and India lag us in percentage ranking, but in numbers, they dwarf us. America started hemorrhaging intellectual hegemony in the 80s, bleeding that slowed with Clinton, but then became a massive bleed out during Bush II. Yes, we restored a functioning brain into the White House in 2008, but other components of the public discourse have amply compensated for this.

For example, in addition to the blind denial of evolution and climate change, the persistence of birthers and other tea noise conspiracies, conservatives are now suggesting that Einstein's Theory of Relativity must be wrong because "virtually no one who is taught and believes relativity continues to read the Bible."

Think about that.

We also have Sarah Palin's telling reaction when a woman identified herself as a teacher. The contempt and ignorance is thick enough to taste, and you can tell you are listening to an arrogant buffoon who knows nothing about a classroom and remembers positively nothing from what happened when she was in one.

If you think education is expensive...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's collective denial, x4mr. In the "private most pit of their gut" they know but won't let themselves admit even to themselves that they know.

If you really know denial, you see how amazing it is. Their religion and world view is their life. That's why the feelings are so strong. It is rooted in fear and insecurity.

The hostility to evolution, science, same sex marriage, global warming, .... is the same willful ignorance clinging to ideas they are too frightened to question.

8/11/2010 3:17 PM  

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