When logic fails, talk slower

Various sources have recently decided to contest the value of a college education. For example, consider the following excerpt from Philly.com (The Inquirer). The title – Want to fix America’s Political Divide? Fix the colleges. As always, I suggest you read the entire article. More examples of differences associated with education are included.

The more I’ve covered about American politics in the 21st Century, the more I see that its No. 1 driving force is anger and resentment. And nothing seems to fuel that divide more than the topic of education and how we perceive it — especially at the college level. The evidence is hiding in plain sight. Nothing drove the changes in the American electorate that, for better or worse, gave us President Trump more than level of educational attainment: Trump and his politics of rage surged among white men lacking a college degree, and conversely — while it’s been largely ignored by the pundits — Hillary Clinton killed it in communities with high levels of college education like Philadelphia’s Main Line, where she even outperformed her Democratic predecessor Barack Obama.

As the title proposes, the article proposes there is some fault in higher education that has created the present acrimony present between Republicans and Democrats. This divide is assumed to be a bad thing (the outcome is bad). The logic then argues that since college educated voted so strongly democratic and those without this level of education. education must contribute to this divide. Therefore, there must be something wrong with education.

The question should be. What possible interpretations are there for these connected statements and is the one advanced by the writer the most feasible. For example, what about the conclusion that the present level of animosity is bad. Is it also possible that the present level of animosity represents an appropriate reaction to the election of a candidate who generates strong differences of opinion on important issues? Should one not be outraged with a decision that is perceived to promote future actions that are unethical and unequitable. The assumption that higher ed must be at fault because voting patterns could be predicted from the level of education of voters assumes there is something wrong with the choices made. I am guessing the argument is not that educated people should have made a different choice (how would this be justified), but that they have now reacted so strongly. If the present outcome predicts inequities and unethical treatment, why is a negative reaction not appropriate even if others are willing to accept or understand that this will happen?

I truthfully cannot remember an election that has generated the level of anger that this election has. If you disagree, then that disagreement might be the starting point for a different discussion. If you do agree, the inconsistency represented by the 2016 case from earlier elections would somehow have to be explained by some hidden consistency. Why are more educated individuals reacting in a different way to Trump than to the Bushes, etc.? What makes this election different and how would that be somehow related to education?

Not all college profs are liberals, but I suppose the majority are. Higher education does tend to promote certain values and positions. A society that gives all a fair chance (equity) would be an example. I would guess that most college profs would also endorse the position that all citizens deserve a reasonable level of health care. Most would also propose the value of a meritocracy such that individuals have a reasonable chance at life success based on skill and hard work and see a reasonable society assuring that the conditions necessary for this to be the case to be provided (related to such issues as health care, support for education, taking actions based on income disparities that are not the fault of the individual, etc.). Educators tend to promote equal treatment without regard to race, sex, religion, characteristics of parents, etc. and see a responsibility of government as assuring that these conditions are met. While educators disagree on many things, there is certainly an expectation that the values I list here are satisfied. How these values are addressed might vary, but support for these values is likely to come through in instruction.

I would hope most professors avoid the discussion of candidates or parties, but I would encourage their discussion of issues and values. So, I would expect those teaching science to argue that humans are influencing climate change is the dominant position among scientists collecting data on this issue. If this is what the research shows, this is what you teach. I would expect those teaching courses in social sciences and humanities to address issues of the causes and consequences of inequities in society and what might be done to remedy these problems. If this is what the research shows, this is what you teach. If the consequences of learning about these things causes one to be labeled a liberal and to vote in a predictable way, I think that being a liberal must be the thing to be and voting as such individuals vote is the thing to do. If an election is unique in being shaped by such differences, I don’t see the reaction to the election as a problem resulting from being educated. I would blame it on a lack of knowledge and values that I must reject.

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