I have opinions of my own – strong opinions – but I don’t always agree with them. – President George Bush
The one thing you have to admit about the emergence of all of the teabagger candidates is that the political discourse in this country has gone from bad to worse. The intelligence quotient which has always been low in our political debates has certainly hit an all-time low. However, before I make that declaration I know that we still have two months remaining and anything is still possible. The recent performance of Arizona Governor Brewer and Republican Senatorial Candidate Angle in debates demonstrates what many of us have known to be true for a long time many voters select candidates not on perceived intelligence or merit but on identification with the candidate.
The one thing that has concerned me about the blanket assertion made towards blacks and President Obama (all black people voted for him because he was black) is that whites have been using identity politics forever. You don’t have to be a historian to realize that politics has rarely been a meritocracy. Can anyone argue that Bush II or Reagan were intellectual heavyweights? No group has used identity politics more than whites let’s not forget it has taken 44 white presidents to get to this one. So were all the whites who voted for whites racist? But I digress. Some have asserted that President Obama’s own educational achievements are fueling this wing-nut campaign against knowledge. I don’t believe this entirely because they had the same criticisms for any previous Democratic candidate who had similar achievements. Bill and Hillary were lambasted as cultural elitists out of touch with average Americans.
Let’s be honest stupid candidates are nothing new. What is troubling to me about the current trend of candidates especially the teabaggers is not that they are less than scholarly but the fact that their lack of knowledge is what makes them appealing to their constituents. There has been a steady assault on education by the wing-nuts for decades. We have been bombarded by the wing-nuts and their media outlets with the constant railing against the northeastern urban educated elite and their prejudice against the common folks. These are the folks who are leading the destruction of the family by promoting homosexuality. These are the folks who are destroying our social fabric by promoting affirmative action and giving away the country to lazy black folks. These are the folks who are destroying our education system by forcing integration. They are destroying “our America” with their social experiments.
There was a time in America when knowledge and education were valued and stressed as ways to overcome one’s humble beginnings. Many of our early presidents and statesmen were products of these opportunities. However, we also have an equally dark history of denying education to prevent groups from achieving success. We have been a country that has valued the pursuit of education not just for its material gains but also for the pursuit of knowledge. For many years we have led the world in educational achievement and have been the destination of the best and brightest of the world’s students. Over the last two decades our achievement scores have continued to drop and now we rank 18th among 36 nations. Now is not the time with a global economy for America to promote ignorance as a virtue. We need to promote education now more than ever for our young people. What message are we sending our young people with these simpletons vying for power and flaunting their lack of knowledge?
I mentioned the dark history of our nation denying education to blacks during slavery because of the belief that education made folks more difficult to control. My guess is that this is the underlying strategy of the rich and infamous who are funding these candidates and their agendas. There are those who want to dumb down our population to make us easier to control and what better way to do it than by implying that knowledge is somehow evil. Of course there is also their blatant desire to shutdown the Department of Education. We must resist this trend to devalue and demonize knowledge and education because it is putting our democracy at risk. What makes democracy work is an engaged and knowledgeable electorate and the more detached and uninformed the electorate the easier it will be to deconstruct social security, Medicare, and all of the other programs that have provided a safety net for our most vulnerable citizens. The same folks who are touting this knowledge is bad line are the same folks who are making sure their kids are attending all of the right schools. So are we to assume that knowledge is only bad for us?
With the lost of our manufacturing base we no longer have a path from high school to middle-class as we once did. What this has done is made education not only a luxury but a prerequisite for any decent job in our highly technical society. I am a firm believer that we have to reestablish our manufacturing base if we are to continue a viable middle-class. Let’s be honest not all of our kids are going to be engineers and neither should they have to be. Manufacturing in the 21st century will require some technical skills which will require knowledge and education. One of the benefits to the rich and infamous by dummying down the nation is that it reduces the competition for their kids for scholarships and employment.
Don’t get me wrong I don’t believe that education and secular knowledge should be the only characteristics to base a decision on who is qualified to serve this nation. But to ridicule intellectual curiosity as some kind of satanic plot to brainwash our children is dangerous. Our political system must be open to all and all have the right to seek public office but with that right comes a responsibility to be as knowledgeable as you can be about the material and issues that you are asked to preside over. Unfortunately, what many politicians learn the hard way is that governing is a lot more difficult than campaigning. Not knowing anything may have appeal with some voters on the trail but as we have seen with the last administration it does not make for good governance.
“Genius may have its limitations, but stupidity is not thus handicapped.” – Elbert Hubbard
The Disputed Truth