Education gap: How much does this have to do with today’s messed up politics?

I read this article today in the Washington Post about a family man in Oregon who rather suddenly became so disillusioned with America that he formed a “patriot” militia group, just in case the government, their own government, moves against them.

There are so many questions I’d like to ask the guy featured in this article. He seems like a family man, passionate, and concerned. But he also seems extremely misguided in how government works or is supposed to work. While I can understand his worry, he’s been heavily influenced by propaganda from conspiratorial fear-mongers and people I consider criminals for stealing from the government.

I wish I could ask him dozens of questions about how he thinks things should work in order to be fair for everyone in the entire country. But, I suspect our differing assumptions (and maybe different values entirely) wouldn’t allow us to find much common ground.

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In this piece, I can understand why he is scared of the future in that he feels he must arm his entire family. But I do not agree with most of his conclusions and certainly not his actions. (Arming a 4-year old in this situation is irresponsible and unjustifiable.) These are the kind of people who support a know-nothing blow-hard showman like Trump. Their opinions reflect an over-simplified view of America, or perhaps they really are only concerned for their own self-interest. If so, that’s sad and the opposite of “patriotic” in my opinion. Also sad is that ignorance (and the deliberate action to remain that way) is going to tear the country apart.

Is this a fault of the education system? Do we not emphasize civic duty and participation? Is it to be blamed on the extremists on the Internet commenting on how awful things will be and making apocalyptic claims on YouTube?

What do these people want the government to do? How would we manage with no taxes? How does the budget get balanced? Is it worth environment ruin just to keep a segment of business going? We are a HUGE, diverse society here in the U.S. I’m at a total loss as to how these people think the world works and what to do to make it better. I’m afraid I wouldn’t like the answers they provide. But I’d still be willing to ask.

In another article, I found this quote:

Trump has consistently scored best with voters lacking college degrees, and that is again the case in the Post-ABC poll. He wins voters without a college degree by double digits; Clinton wins those with college degrees by a similar margin. Among whites, Trump does even better. He breaks even among white voters with college degrees and trounces her among those without degrees.

Ouch. Does this correlation to higher education reflect that those with college experience have seen more of the world? Does college force you to confront diversity, other opinions, take you out of your seclusion? Or does education foster a willingness to consider a more complicated scenario and understand that there’s no easy fix?

It all rolls back to education. Education means not only learning stuff from books but experiencing new things, asking questions, and considering all views. We’ve never been more educated as a species than now. But it’s not enough. How can we make people value critical thinking and reasonable efforts to get to the best conclusion? I can’t accept that having a rather ignorant, gun-toting rich white guy as a leader is going to be good for ANYONE but other ignorant gun-toting white guys. These guys in Oregon will have to explain it to me cause it’s making no goddamn sense.

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7 thoughts on “Education gap: How much does this have to do with today’s messed up politics?

  1. Reason and rational argument doesn’t work with people with people who hold irrational beliefs, who’s minds are closed because they believe, in their fear, hatred, and bigotry, that they and only they, (and those who believe the same things they believe), know the truth. Anyone who comes to them with an alternative point of view, to them, is a Leftist, a Liberal, an a Ivory Tower Intellectual, an Atheist, a Homosexual, etc, out to destroy the America that exists only in their own sick minds. They perpetuate themselves by indoctrinating their children with same beliefs they hold. If you have a solution Sharon, please let me know. I’ve been look for one for most of my life to no avail.

  2. I don’t think they have “sick” minds, maybe just a bit infected with misinformation. But I don’t live in their world where their unique troubles are more pressing. I really don’t understand it. And I don’t think they understand everyone else. Or even try to. What is the solution? I have no fucking idea. And we are in trouble.

  3. What is the solution? I have no fucking idea. And we are in trouble.

    Indeed. Amen to that. Ran across an interesting and cogent observation along that line over at Slate Star Codex on the About page:

    Topics here tend to center vaguely around this meta-philosophical idea of how people evaluate arguments for their beliefs, and especially whether this process is spectacularly broken in a way that may or may not doom us all.

    And I remember that Michael Shermer’s The Believing Brain (highly recommended) had a similar perspective:

    As we saw in the previous chapter, politics is filled with self-justifying rationalizations. Democrats see the world through liberal-tinted glasses, while Republicans filter it through conservative shaded glasses. When you listen to both “conservative talk radio” and “progressive talk radio” you will hear current events interpreted in ways that are 180 degrees out of phase. So incongruent are the interpretations of even the simplest goings-on in the daily news that you wonder if they can possibly be talking about the same event. …. [pg #263]

    I think that part of the problem is that “we” simply don’t understand all that well how and why we think the way we do. The “conclusions” that our brains present to us, that they throw up on the beaches of our consciousness – so to speak, kind of have the character of revelations, and that we kind of accept as gospel without ever really trying to understand the mental processes in play, and the assumptions that they’re predicated on. I think that neuroscience is helping with that understanding but that’s a tough slog – if you’re interested then I’d recommend William Calvin’s The Cerebral Code.

    But I tend also to think that one of the best analogies I’ve run across is to the childhood game or puzzle that consisted of connecting the dots to reveal particular animals or scenes: we all tend to connect those same dots according to our own idiosyncratic perceptions and assumptions without ever really giving much thought to whether or not they hold water or actually correspond to “reality”. And wind up being at loggerheads with each other because the connections that “we” make don’t match the ones “they” make. We may have come a long ways, but I kind of think we have some distance yet to go, and that success is not at all certain. Reminds me of a passage from Jacob Bronowski’s The Ascent of Man:

    It sounds very pessimistic to talk about western civilization with a sense of retreat. I have been so optimistic about the ascent of man; am I going to give up at this moment? Of course not. The ascent of man will go on. But do not assume that it will go on carried by western civilization as we know it. We are being weighed in the balance at the moment. If we give up, the next step will be taken – but not by us. We have not been given any guarantee that Assyria and Egypt and Rome were not given. We are waiting to be somebody’s past too, and not necessarily that of our future. [pg 268]

  4. The mindset that citizens need to be concerned (and thus, armed) against the possibility that the government might “move against them” is of course conspiratorial ballistic nonsense (a term I invented for crazy ideas that sort of get launched or shot into the air and are subject to whatever whims of the conspiracy atmosphere happen to be in play from moment to moment.

    I believe initial idea goes back to the founding years of the U.S. when citizens actually did have some legitimate fears and concerns. Specifically, back in the 1780s, the colonial army, having defeated the British at Yorktown, was no longer needed but Congress was reluctant to disband it as long as the enemy was still in our midst. Furthermore, the newly ratified Constitution established a government with almost no authority to tax or raise revenue. Consequently, several thousand veterans of the Revolution could do little but wait until they would be civilianized, in the meantime, receiving no back pay and knowing they’d have no leverage with the government once they laid down their arms. A deeply rooted hostility to the military emerged with fears of a standing army with nothing to do but grouse and worry about their long-neglected farms and businesses. Things came to a head with the so-called Newburgh Conspiracy whereby it was proposed that the army remove itself to a western territory and establish a separate nation.

    Remember that in those days an army bent on taking over would have had little more than muskets, canons, bayonets, sabres, pikes and perhaps tomahawks — weaponry readily available to the local citizenry and any militia they might care to raise. And, as the British discovered, a locally armed militia with knowledge of the terrain and a will to protect their farms could defeat a well-established, uniformed traditional army.

    And of course, that’s where the nonsense of modern-day concept of arming against the military comes to the fore. The idea of a group of well-armed local homeowners (even with AK-47s) being able to defend against tanks, bazookas, unlimited ammunition, bombers, fighter jets, missiles, flamethrowers, attack helicopters, nuclear subs, drones, grenade launchers, night vision goggles, etc operated by highly trained armed forces including Navy Seals and Rangers makes for a pointless exercise in video warfare.

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