Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Idiocracies to Come

Nils August Andreson has stumbled upon the blindingly obvious:

In good universities across the nation, students flee the Republican Party. And the better the universities, it seems, the more drastic the trend ... Under Presidents Eisenhower and Nixon, Republicans championed science and knowledge. But over the past 30 years, national Republicans have formed an intensifying alliance with religious conservatives more skeptical of science and knowledge. I don’t know whether discarding evolution goes against common sense; but I’m pretty sure it goes against most Ivy League-educated senses ... To advance this alliance, national Republicans have derided elite universities as dangerous and hostile places ... In the age of Fox News and the Tea Party, the cultural war has heated up, and the anti-academic and anti-science rhetoric has intensified.
It's a grim picture, but only if you have a good-faith interest in the future of the USA as a creative, vibrant, cultured, productive, and free society. If, on the other hand, you just want movement conservatives to gain and hold political power, there's nothing worrying here at all. In fact, movement conservatives can participate in a virtuous-for-them circle in which driving down educational standards and funding, alongside a ceaseless vilification of learning, creates larger pools of voting dupes, er, motivated FoxNews patriots, who in turn elect more raving, nonsensical, pro-stupid politicians, who in turn perpetuate the Yankee Taliban's culture war against book-reading, curious-minded "elites." And so it spirals ever tighter and lower until we can no longer perceive that Idiocracy was, in its time, a parody -- and not only because fewer and fewer people can operate a DVD player.


god-free morals said...

We have a similar problem in the UK right now. Although our's is financial rather than faith/politics motivated, but still has a similar distrust of academia at its core.

Recently we've had several student protests, mainly about the raise in fees (a 300% raise). My main worry however is the cutting in funding to all universities in general but removed absolutely to universities with a focus on arts and humanities (there has been a common opinion since Thatcher that all such is a luxury). This means less jobs, no funding for research and thus less phds and less lecturers etc etc. Sorry, I could go on and on about this.

Here's a flavour:

Sheldon said...

Funny how they want to draw all these lines around "elite" universities. I was proudly educated in evolution first at a lowly state college, and then at a relatively lowly graduate school state university. I guess I am just a wanna-be cultural elite! :)

Dale said...

@Sean, I would fault the guy for narrowing the problem to elite universities (though he was only doing so because he felt he had some fairly strong demographic/voting data for those). Movement conservatives have a deep problem with people who think, whether in or outside an elite university. Anti-intellectualism is strong and enduring in this country, but that doesn't make it right.

@god-free, the attack on humanities is just as common here if not more so. There's a broad strain of elites -- actual elites, I mean -- who prefer specialized vocational training that will do nothing more than bend people's minds to fit the moment's workplace needs. Anything that develops critical or creative thinking is seen as deeply suspicious. This is short-sighted at best, but elites are nothing if not short-sighted.

Dale said...

Ooops, that was @Sheldon rather than @Sean.

Sean G said...

Well my comment probably would have been along the same lines. I'm surprised I didn't leave one, but maybe I felt my contribution about education being ostracized in modern politics was unnecessary. Either that, or I got hungry and had a peanut butter bar instead.