Last week republican presidential candidate Rich Santorum said Obama was a snob for wanting all Americans to have the opportunity to go to college and get an education. He said this to the cheers and applause of a crowd of happy idiots.
The fact that higher education is good is almost axiomatic. (Don’t worry, we’ll wait while our conservative readers take a moment to google that big word.)
Got it? Good. Moving on.
Why do republicans like Santorum despise higher education? Simple. They view colleges as indoctrination mills where faithful, pure, and impressionable young people go to be brainwashed by a bunch of godless Marxists.
I would say the problem is that they are unable to accept that reality has a liberal bias, but I think the issue is deeper than that.
I don’t think they understand the concept of reality in the first place.
Without understanding the concept of reality, any argument made to stress the importance of reality might as well be in an alien language. They simply aren’t capable of comprehending. This isn’t because they’re bad people, or that they’re inherently stupid, just that they’ve never been exposed to the concept and have consequentially built up their entire world view on a foundation of ignorance.
I think this lack of an understanding of reality is the driving factor behind not only their disdain for education, but their mistrust of science and fervent religiosity. (But I’ll get to that in a moment)
How to do you about explaining reality?
Well, right now you’re in reality, whether you know it or not. It is the same as a fish that might not realize it is in water, but nonetheless is swimming in it. This place you’re in, it has laws. We don’t know every law there is, but we’ve been steadily finding out. So far we know this about the laws: You can’t break them.
This is not like a law against speeding where you can break it, and then get a ticket. You are not physically able to break these laws.
This place you’re in, it does not care who you are, how much money you have, or how strongly you feel about something. It will act in accordance to its laws and if you refuse to play along, you do so at your own peril.
So how do we know how to act in this place that has its own laws and doesn’t care about us? We watch. We test something and see how it works. If it does work, it fits with reality, if it doesn’t, then we must abandon the idea because it doesn’t fit. This may be extremely uncomfortable because people often have a lot invested in an idea, only to find out that it doesn’t fit. (And then a lot of them try to ignore that it doesn’t fit, only to eventually be destroyed for not playing along)
The richest, most powerful man in the world can stand on a beach and command the tide not to come in, but reality doesn’t care. If he refuses to move, he will drown. (That’s called natural selection, but that’s a different topic)
Unfortunately, republicans grow up being told that the world they live in is a certain way, even though that’s not how the world really is. Again, it’s not because they’re evil, or stupid, they are simply misguided. The older people telling them how the world is were also misguided by their parents, and their parents before them. Nevertheless, the children are taught to respect authority and that not questioning (faith) is a virtue.
The big disconnect comes with the idea of testing your views against how reality works to see if they stand up. This notion of testing is the heart of the scientific method. This disconnect also explains why conservatives are hostile to science. They just don’t operate that way.
College is a testing ground. People go to college in order to test ideas and see how they work. It is safer to test ideas in college where people outside won’t be impacted if something doesn’t work. Would you want a bridge builder testing a new design on an actual bridge that your family had to drive across? No. You’d want them to test it elsewhere to make sure it works, THEN come build the bridge.
College is a free market of ideas. This is possibly the only place we can make an analogy that conservatives might understand. What is the free market? Companies that are able to adapt survive, companies that don’t, fail. (Also a form of natural selection!)
In college, ideas that work succeed, ideas that don’t, fail. So with this in mind, lets look at colleges.
Yes, colleges tend to be more liberal. A conservative would look at that and think “well obviously that’s because all the teachers are Marxists.” The truth is, it is not that the professors are Marxists, it is that conservative ideas fail the test against reality. If they passed, if ideas like “less access to birth control=fewer pregnancies” held true with reality, then you’d see colleges backing that.
Colleges are instead a reflection of reality. If colleges look liberal, it’s because reality is liberal.
So what’s a conservative to do? Change and adaptation are antithetical to conservatism, so instead the buckle down and shove their fingers in their ears even harder. They denounce education, denounce learning, and try everything they can to undermine the threat to their understanding of the world. This usually is in the form of disuading people away from education, like Santorum just did, cutting funding to education, or even building up their own bubble.
It is possible for a child to go from home school, to a private evangelical college, to the job place without ever having to come in contact with a new idea. Naturally, the results are disastrous, but since they’ve been brought up to believe that the conservative world view is unquestionably correct, the fault for failure must always rest with some foreign enemy or saboteur.
The real tragedy is that, with these people in control of the country, when they refuse to move for the tide, we all drown.