Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Edjimacation


No one seems to know for sure why Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who is said to be considering a run for President, didn't finish college. He got almost all the way through his senior year and then just pootered out. I'm guessing some people are better than others at knowing when they're full up with education. Pour in any more, and you risk a spill.

Most presidential candidates do have college degrees, and many of them seem to be in economics, which is a particularly interesting line of study, in that it prepares you to have strong opinions about things that are the exact opposite of the opinions of others in your very same field, and do this all day long, and nobody ever has to prove a dang thing. And if they get involved in politics, why, they can even be in a position to test out some of their hypotheses--say, they can move a whole bunch of people's money over here, and funnel it to a tiny cohort of other people, and see what happens. And when what they think will happen doesn't happen, they don't have to question any of their beliefs. They just try them again louder. It's a ton easier than climate science that way.

Which is easy enough. Economics major James Inhofe, 80 years old [die now] and still rosy with rectitude, demonstrated all you need to know about it by throwing a snowball in Senate chambers and grinning like he'd personally worked out the Periodic Table.

I can't blame him. I too am often moved to go into the Senate chambers and throw things, except instead of mocking climate scientists with a snowball, I would be mocking idiots with a smooth, sharp stone, at close range. At any rate, unlike in D.C., we can't spare a snowball here. Generally right about now we're watching our local volcanoes fill up with snow, some of which they'll still be wearing when the next winter boots up. But today you could drop a yardstick into the stuff at high elevation and still see the end of the stick. They say we're losing our glaciers here fast but it's looking to me like they mean this year. There are ways of explaining this, but some people with an economics degree are liable to start with the market value of what we're pulling out of the ground as a starting point and force all their conclusions to dangle from that.

I so desperately want a Congress full of people who are smarter than I am. I'm plenty smart, and fairly well educated, but I have a porous memory, and there are hundreds of millions of citizens in this country, so it should be plenty doable. We have, as conservative columnist Rich Lowry laments, a surfeit of Harvard and Yale graduates among what he refers to as our congressional "elites," as though the best of the best would be a bad thing. I do accept that many of these graduates are smart and educated, and others have trickled out of these institutions on a well-worn channel carved by their fore-sperms. But I'm not prepared to say a real high-end education is worthless.

So much, I don't know what to do. I watch the pure horror that is religion run amok and am helpless to guess what our course should be. I suspect, based on history, that knee-jerk violent reaction will not get us where we need to be, and that those who believe so are animated partly by their own base desires, but I don't know. I want other people in charge and I don't want them to be idiots. We've tried that.

Rich Lowry thinks it's silly to fret about the level of education of our politicians, and he has a point. One of his points is that two-thirds of the population also doesn't have an advanced degree. And, as W. famously pointed out, mediocre students need representation too. But I find it kind of depressing that we elect so many people without what I'd consider a basic education. And that so many voters think smart, educated people are a personal affront to them.

We're not far from a campaign in which one candidate bleats about his working-class high school equivalency degree and the next brags about never having cracked a book. And a third thumps his chest because he knocked up a girl in eleventh grade and made most of his child support payments without government assistance, and they all get trounced by the guy who admits he still eats his boogers.

39 comments:

  1. I'm from Wisconsin, so I have been witness to the Walker administration up close for several years now. (I live in Janesville, home of Paul Ryan, and Walker's hometown is the next city over.) I think it is possible to be highly intelligent and not have a college education, but I want my elected officials, at least on a state and national level, to be both intelligent and educated. Even if I believed Walker was highly intelligent (?!!), I think the fact that he dropped out of college in the middle of his senior year (though he was closer to a year short of credits), and despite stating a desire to someday finish, indicates a lack of commitment, of follow-through, that is unacceptable in a national leader. We need to remember that these people are supposed to be running our country and representing us in the world. Being a politician isn't enough.

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    1. Paul Ryan too? What's in the water? I'm gathering you're not too sure Walker is highly intelligent. Isn't he also the one who "punted" on the question of whether he accepts the theory of Evolution?

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  2. Whoops, missed a few words in there. Something about not going back to college despite... Writing comments in the little window on my Kindle is always a challenge. I could have gone to the computer, but I didn't want to disturb the cat on my lap.

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    1. Must never disturb the cat on the lap. That's how I get Dave to get my second cup of coffee, make the fire, and answer the damn phone.

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    2. Hey, I thought that was *my* secret discovery! 'Cept here in DC, I just announce to James that "I have a dog on me right now". So far, we've worked up to a 2nd cup of coffee and bringing me an as-of-yet unread section of the newspaper.....

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    3. "I have a dog on me right now" really, really, really sounds like an idiom, but I don't want to think about what it might mean.

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  3. One would think that there are people in Congress more intelligent than you and I, but anecdotally this has been proved wrong time and again. I got my Masters and so can thumb my nose at those who did not...but that is neither intelligent nor helpful. I want smart people in Congress, not those who Know-it-All.

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    1. I'm pretty tickled with my own representatives in Congress. Just thought I'd throw that in in case it seemed like I was getting too grumpy.

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    1. You had it right the first time. "Proven" is usually used just as an adjective. A proven formula.

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  5. Well, the booger-eaters don't much like these over-educated guys because being over-educated tends to make people believe different things than the booger-eaters believe, and even makes them believe it with some confidence, which makes booger-eaters uncomfortable. Nobody likes some smartass who can barely hold back from laughing at you when you discuss what kind of dinosaur Jesus was riding across Texas while he wrote the Constitution.

    The problem is that acting while proudly free of knowledge sometimes has worse consequences than wasted money. W seems to have invaded Iraq without knowing anything about it or listening to anybody who did, and look how that turned out. One small step for a mediocre student, one giant leap for mediocre-student-kind.

    Seriously, though, there are plenty of people with degrees who are well-qualified to represent the idiots. The point of a degree is that the work you do to get it, no matter what field it's in, is supposed to teach you critical-thinking skills which you can then apply in any field you need to deal with later. But there are plenty of cases where it doesn't work. Just look at Inhofe.

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    1. I gather he went back and got his degree in Economics when he was forty. Forty years ago we had an economy. I wonder what you need to study to get a degree now. Do they still require credits in English and science and history and a language and philosophy and what-have-you, or is it all business-business-business (for instance)?

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  6. It's going to get worse, whether people go to college or not. I have an acquaintance who teaches an English Lit course in college to non-majors. She was trying to discuss Pride and Prejudice with them. In the course of a single sentence, they did not understand the meanings of the words mercenary, prudent, discretion, or avarice. I'm sure that there were many more words in other sentences that they did not understand. How is it that people can make it to college without knowing how to communicate and understand what is communicated to you? She mentioned another student who wrote a paper in textspeak. *Headdesks* If our children are our future, we are fucked.

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    1. Define "our children"....I know an awful lot of incredibly bright 30-somethings (the age of my children) and they are raising some incredibly bright little people. There have always been, and always will be idiots. The trouble is, a lot of them have always gravitated toward Congress (and I mean the verb "gravitated" to imply a downward journey). Really smart people don't want any part of that mess unless they're starry-eyed enough to dream of cleaning it up, and then they don't last long. I went to school with classrooms full of people with minimal vocabularies. We were told that television was rotting our brains. All teachers I have known, of whatever generation, have bemoaned the ignorance of their students, and tried to blame it on something external. Textspeak/social media/the internet are just the latest in a long series of scapegoats for the profusion of ignorance, hiding the uneasy truth that, by and large, we humans are prouder of what we don't know ("why should I learn THAT? What good will it ever do me?") than of what we do.

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    2. I guess I agree with all of the above. I do think there are a lot of people with college degrees who can't speak and can't follow an argument. But Dave and I have been lucky enough to meet and make friends with a lot of kids in the 25-35 year-old cohort and they floor me. They're SO much smarter than I am. I'd vote for them.

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  7. I agree with Linda Koons - the people who COULD do a good job of running a country do not often want to get into the mess that is politics. Democracy may well be the best system invented so far, but it has a long, long way to go. The people who qualify for the job and who can also raise the money and support to get them elected are few and far between - and of those few, not many are willing to go up against the wall of under- or un-qualified people currently in the system. And this is not just a problem in the U.S. It's in all democracies. (speaking as a Canadian)

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    1. It's got to be discouraging for any idealist to contemplate running for office when it requires so much money-raising.

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  8. Well, the more things change, the more they stay the same...As someone who has actually worked for the US Congress (albeit briefly), I"ll chime in that even back in 1977, we had Members Who Ate Boogers.....but for the sake of propriety, please don't ask for details on this or other, possibly related, stories.....

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    1. Please provide us with details on that and other, possibly related, stories.

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  9. Yes an education is important to me. I would also like to see rather more caring. Not just for how to get re-elected, and consequently limiting my support to the people who might help achieve that aim. And a longer view would be nice to see as well.

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    1. I find myself wondering if, since we don't seem to be able to pass laws regulating how much money you can accumulate for running for office, we could pass some regulating how much you're allowed to spend. Say, $100,000 tops for a Senatorial campaign.

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  10. I believe that we have a congress of far better quality than our electorate deserves. (Match *that* for gloom!) I'd really like to see another level of indirection in our voting process -- something like the electoral college was supposed to be. But the trend seems to be toward direct democracy. God help us.

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    1. Nope. Can't match that for gloom. Jeez, Dale! Yes, I'm a big fan of the republican form of government, which is one reason I'm not as thrilled with our state ballot initiative process as I'm *supposed* to be. I'd rather stick with electing someone who can carefully study the issues and perhaps legislate the way I'd like rather than leaving every little thing up to a popular vote. Because most of us don't know that much.

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  11. Were it not for the laughs I got from the last paragraph, I would be so pissed off that you want 80-year olds to die already. Or maybe that did not necessarily apply to all octogenarians?

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  12. Lookit the cute girl with the long hair!
    And watch House of Cards to get even more cynical.
    I think President Obama is a far better person than we deserve right now, and the BEs can't take that.
    Random thought generator...out.

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    1. I keep looking at that cute girl with the long hair and thinking: what happened to those EYEBROWS?

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  13. I got nuttin'.....
    I could unleash a tirade, but that would just place me in the Clown Car.

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    1. I myself only unleash them every so often, because I value my mental health.

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  14. So I'm guessing your current choice of candidates isn't quite what you're wishing for? Only guessing of course because I don't know enough to say for sure. I'm not edjamacated.

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    1. I do like my own representatives. I'm living in a bubble, here.

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    2. I think that's part of the problem! Most people think, "well, my guys are okay, I wish you other people would get with the program."

      I like Michigan's senators. But some of the folks we have in the House are raving space loons.

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  15. You're skillful, Murr. I went from tears to laughter.

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    1. Perfect! We want you coming back, after all.

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  16. I also want politicians to be smarter than me and also care about people more than me. Most of them seem like misanthropists. How many really want to do a good job for the people? Name two. I better stop now or I'll rant you to death.

    Do you ever feel like the coyote just before that puff of dust at the bottom of the canyon?

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    1. Apropos of nothing, we just saw a coyote loping down the street near our house. In the middle of the city. Didn't see a cat all day.

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  17. Some degrees confer education but many others just school you in ignorance disguised as education. Then, regardless of the quality of an institution some people prefer ignorance - it connects them to their homeys.
    the Ol'Buzzard

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  18. Once again, you've nailed it my friend. I remember being a kid and actually believing the grownups knew something. If people want politicians they can throw back a beer with, I vote for you. :)

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