A Disturbing Trend …

A couple of weeks ago, two headlines grabbed my attention:

A Majority of Republicans Think College Is Bad for America – The Week, 10 July 2017

Sharp Partisan Divisions in Views of National Institutions – Republicans Increasingly Say Colleges Have Negative Impact on U.S. – Pew Research Center, 10 July 2017

The headlines, I believe, say much about why our nation is in chaos today. 58% of Republicans now say that colleges “are having a negative effect on the way things are going in the country,” while just 36% think colleges positively affect the country, Pew reported. The other 6% presumably are scratching their heads asking “what’s college?” A short two years ago, 54% of Republicans thought that colleges had a positive effect, while 37% said they had a negative effect. Two short years … what changed?

I think we all know the answer to that question and it can be summed up in two words:  Donald Trump.  In mid-2015, Donald Trump threw his proverbial hat into the ring as a contender for the office of president, and since then nothing has been quite the same.  Donald Trump spent a year-and-a-half telling America how successful he was, even though he had more business failures than successes.  He spent a year-and-a-half telling America how rich he was, even though he is far less wealthy than he would have us believe, and at least a portion of his wealth was not acquired honestly.  And he told the country those things in rambling, bumbling half sentences, using words that do not exist in Merriam Webster, and he somehow made it seem okay to be uneducated.

Donald Trump convinced Republicans that making lots of money was more important than things like honesty and integrity, knowledge and compassion.  More important than protecting the environment, helping people, accepting and understanding other cultures, or even understanding how our government actually functions.  Donald Trump showed America that literacy is not essential to ‘getting ahead’.  Unfortunately for all of us, a majority of Republicans believed what Donald Trump said.

The value of a college education is multi-fold, and I have neither time nor space for a full analysis, so I will focus on one aspect.  A college education does, or at least should, teach the students to think for themselves – to sort fact from fiction, to assess the facts, and then to make decisions based on that assessment.

My blogger-friend Hugh Curtler1, a retired college professor, has written a number of articles lamenting that colleges these days are not doing a good job of this, and in large part, I agree with him, and his theory is supported by the U.S. decline in worldwide ranking.

education-ranking-2.pngHowever, I would also argue that rather than abandon the idea of a college education altogether, society and government need to work together toward fixing the problems by returning the primary focus to academics rather than sports, holding students accountable rather than giving praise for substandard or average work, and returning the institutions to places where many and varied ideas are presented and discussed openly.

Donald Trump is not an educated man.  Yes, he graduated from Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Science degree in economics.  However, an education is what you make of it, and one need only listen to him for about 30 seconds to realize that he is uneducated in even the most basic language skills.  But to take it a step further, he focused only on real estate and economics, eschewing what higher learning had to offer in such subjects as history, science, literature, cultural studies and basic civics.

The fact that so many Republicans are following his lead, viewing a college education as being detrimental to the state of the nation, is highly disturbing.  It also explains a lot.  It explains, at least in part, the reason so many are turning a blind eye to the facts, such as climate change.  Scientists have proven that human activities, often those that are involved in a pursuit of wealth, are damaging our environment, killing both animal and plant life essential to our very existence, but rather than listen, research and learn, rather than support policies that may save the planet, some choose to believe Trump when he says climate change is a hoax perpetuated by the Chinese.

Another Pew study in October 2016, found that only 16% of Americans (across all political parties) think that a college education prepares students very well for a well-paying job in today’s economy. Americans view workforce-relevant skills and knowledge as more important than personal and intellectual growth. That is disturbing to me.

Certainly I do not deny the need to earn a living.  One must have a home, food, clothing, transportation and the ability to do those things that make life enjoyable.  Those are requisite.  But beyond that, there is more to life than money.  If you look at some of the very wealthy … and there are plenty to look at on the front pages every day … they may have millions or even billions of dollars, own real estate and investments, but they are poor in the ways that matter.  They are without values, they care not about humanity, they do not understand nor care to understand cultures that exist beyond the walls of their mansions.  Money, status and power are their worlds.  To me, that is a very sad, shallow, narrow existence.

If a college education is allowed to fade into oblivion, what pool will future leaders be drawn from?  We have elected a president who is basically uneducated, who does not understand how the government he is supposed to lead even operates, and has never even read the Constitution, the foundation of our government.  The result has been chaos – chaos that could lead to the erosion of a governmental structure that ensures our citizens certain ‘inalienable’ rights.  And yet, the majority of Republicans do not see the value in a college education.

I ask you to consider something.  Donald Trump’s policies are contrary to what most thinkers and humanitarians believe.  Is it not, then, to the advantage of Trump and those like him to keep the populace uneducated, unable to think and reason for themselves? To be, instead, content to follow what Trump says, rather than having the ability to study and understand the issues and thus draw our own conclusions?

We need more, not fewer, thinkers in our nation.  We need people capable of working with other nations to solve environmental problems.  We need innovators in science to educate and find solutions for problems that threaten to destroy our very future.  We need educators to open the minds of our young so that they are able to see the world and its possibilities, rather than live in their own narrow confines. People like Donald Trump, Betsy DeVos, Scott Pruitt and Rex Tillerson have only one vision and see no value in anything that does not have dollar signs attached to it. If we allow our institutions of higher learning to become defunct, or to become cost-prohibitive simply because our government leaders tell us they have no value, then we are destined to lose our place as a developed nation.  More importantly, we are destined to lose our humanity and our humility.  Think about it.

1 Links to a few of Hugh’s posts:

Trump and American Education

Democracy and Education

The Business of Education

In Defense of Educaton


32 thoughts on “A Disturbing Trend …

  1. Ok folks, I’m going to go esoteric on this one. Sit back. Break out the coffee for an old(ish) hard-left and Catholic Brit speaketh, from beneath a pile of history books thus:
    As I have said before, The USA is a young nation; its traditions and dynamics are still forming as the many cultures settle and are influenced by each other. Thus to the outsider there is still a sense of the pioneering continuing with the mix. We do not know what tomorrow will bring you. You can sure be no one will be spot on with their predictions.
    Looking through the prism of the Word Press writing communities. In, addition to the art and skill of the writing; I have witnessed much determination and innovation to get the writers work out there, despite the snobbish establishment trying to decry Self-Publishing. So, we see effort and drive. These are fundamentals of Human Nature, and I would suggest at this stage of the United States of America there is still the pioneering drive to achieve by any means; this of course has its inherent dangers, but does not move at the behest of Corporations or Money.
    The debate over the quality, necessity and adaptability of an education is one as old as probably the first time someone gathered a group of folk around and said ‘Now this is how it is,’. The statistics are statistics and measure specifics, however the ones the media delight in giving us are narrow views of a wide world. They do not measure the power of The Human Spirit, its creativity, nor its myriad ways of displaying that creativity. They can to some extent indicate the genius which Humanity has for producing a circumstance which gives rise to a comfortable and productive life, but only as a telescope through a fog.
    And who are these wealthy people? What does their wealth mean unless they are actually contributing to the wellbeing of The Community? Without that spark, their wealth is a shallow dusty thing which although you might have been told influences your life, it does not intrude upon your spirit or your creativity. There is no ‘Illuminati’, Cartels are transitory creations destined to shred in mutual suspicion and recrimination under the forces of Greed. Who are these people who aspire to political office? Unless they are able to assist their fellow citizens they are little more than cyphers for their own delusions, ready to be swept by the societal forces which are far stronger than any one person. There is no ‘Power’, there is only temporary influence. They cannot change the weather, the rhythm of Life or the Laws of Nature; they are soon gone, footnotes.
    The future, my friends is always yours, and yours to be measured by. Work within the frames of Compassion, Tolerance and Respect, the rest is detail. A person might gain a degree, may rise to a high position in a bank, make good choices to help, and raise a family; fine! A person may not be able to afford college, they may have to work at a low-wage job; they may also have the spark of creativity, write, paint, be involved in community work; they may only be known to a few for their efforts, but they contributed; good! A person may turn their back on the chance of a place in college, seek out other paths, reach a goal, their own personal achievement of some worth; good! A person may never be able to have the chance of a good education but they still yearn for knowledge and advancement, and they strive, and like the persistent plant crack through the stone; good!
    Millions, upon millions of people working towards their own ambitions, their own summits, be they large or be they small; these enrich a nation into a vibrant living being. As a retired public servant, I am aware of the potential of ‘Being Told’ something is true or important; and I am also aware of its mirror image; you can listen if you want, you can embrace those words if you wish, but in the final analysis they are not the Final Say. That judgement is the responsibility of the individual; just choose constructively and productively, and together you will build the Society you yearn for.

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    • Wow, Roger!!! I thank you so much for your insightful AND encouraging comments! You have given me much food for thought, and I now realize that I may have been looking through only one side of the prism, so to speak. We who are so caught up in the trials and tribulations that define our current political climate … we may need to take a step back sometimes and look at the bigger picture. I appreciate your insight more than I can express … thank you, my friend, for reminding me of some things that I have been overlooking of late, such as the human spirit.

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        • Perhaps I need a week in the hills! My mood these days is … grumpy. Especially when a 20-pound cat flies across the room and lands on top of my keyboard, giving me only minor heart failure! I threatened her with an orphanage 😀 But alas, as long as I can still laugh, all is well. And it is the weekend, so things should slow down on the Trump-front for a day or two while he plays his weekly golf game!

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          • Cats eh?
            They do like to get attention don’t they? 😸
            Here’s a snippet for you; that person…Sacra-whatever, I can’t be bothered…anyway on the BBC Radio 4 flagship ‘Today’ programme referred to by the presenter as a ‘mouthpiece’ So that’s the view from across the Atlantic, not even worth an official title.

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            • Yes, cats … seven of them. Some days it is complete chaos, as they are all rescue cats and have a variety of disabilities and personality disorders. But … we love them … they are not pets, but family.

              Thanks for sharing that tidbit! I refer to Kellyanne Conway, Sean Spicer and some others as a mouthpiece. Scaramucci (his nickname is Mooch, by the way … appropriate, I think) is also one, but he is a nasty piece of work. He called a reporter and asked him to reveal his source of a story he had written. When the reporter rightly refused, Mooch went on a temper tangent and used language that even made me blush. In fact, I have NEVER heard so much profanity strung together in a short conversation in my life! I was going to write a post about that, but I decided the whole thing was too offensive. I suspect ol’ Mooch won’t last long … but then, I’ve been wrong about stuff a lot lately … 🙂

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  2. Dear Jill,
    Here’s reality. Just look at this 11/22/16 FiveThirtEight headlines, Education, Not Income, Predicted Who Would Vote For Trump. The entire article went on to prove that areas with an highly educated population were least likely to vote DDT and/ or republican. For example University towns may not show an income level beyond average but its residents voted heavily in favor of HRC.
    Like you Jill, everyone in my family not only believes in education but continuing education throughout our lives.
    Beware of anyone who doesn’t like to read like DDT.
    Hugs, Gronda

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree higher education should be improved. However, I also think the beginning levels of education need improvement. When you build a large structure on a weak base we all know what happens. Give children a sturdy education from pre-school through Grade 12. Those levels of education have long been the neglected area. I taught in a country school and had to supply many teaching materials with my own money. I was not alone. The city teachers could just fill out an order form for what they needed. Things have long needed to change. —- Suzanne

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    • You make an excellent point! If they have not the basic structure when they enter college, they are not likely to do as well. In fact, if they have not received a quality K-12 education, they may be unlikely to be motivated to go to college. That craving for knowledge is best when begun at an early age. Thanks for the reminder!

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  4. Hi Jill, I really enjoy reading your blog. If you will allow, my thoughts about the Republican views expressed, as they do are hyperbole used to support the dialectics of austerity. If you visit ALEC exposed by PR Watch, you will discover that the intention is to turn back the clock in order for them to have more privatization monies. That would be money for war toys, money for investing or relocating their plants offshore, money for balancing the deficit. The deficit at 20 trillion is a concern, but not as much a concern as the need to control the resources of the world. However you are right in that less college would also mean more students to join the military. The end game involves trimming down all the excess people, even in the US because so many people have debts that could be cancelled or insurance that could be cashed in on, if they die.


    • Blog can be part of a sophisticated flaming operation, surveillance included, for post-government DHS retired worker. Post-institutional, and therefore very sort of smug world view. Nevertheless, despite it’s prejudices, it’s very middle class white woman privileged perspective, and old white guy complementary responses, it’s okay to peek at.

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    • I am so glad you enjoy my blog! And I apologize for the delay in responding to your comment, but these are busy days when I work ’til the wee hours of the morning and still cannot get my head above water.

      I had not heard of ALEC Exposed until reading your comment yesterday. i did take a quick ‘look-see’, but there is so much info that for the time being I will have to take your word, though I do plan to take a closer look when time permits.

      Less young people going to college doesn’t, as I see it, necessarily translate into more going into the military. A few, perhaps, but mostly I think it translates into more kids going into low paying jobs with little or no future. I found your final comment to be chilling, and took some time to give what you said some thought. I have no doubt that some people in high places would not be above “trimming the excess people”, but overall I do not think that is the goal of any government. For one thing, the rich and the governing may not be the most humanitarian people in the world, but neither do I think they are completely devoid of a conscience. And for another, nations need people to perform the tasks that keep the nation functional. Some countries with declining populations are offering incentives for couples to have a child.

      At any rate … thank you for visiting and I hope you’ll drop into my blog again soon!


  5. Higher Education definitely needs improvement. There seems to be a perception that for many Americans, a bachelor’s degree is the new High School diploma. Both students and our institutions need to be held to a higher standard and held accountable for poor performance. I could blame the internet…I could blame twitter…I could even blame TV; but I would blame our leaders.

    It aggravates me to no end that there is a select group in the electorate (mostly conservative…and mostly not college educated) that view intelligence and the ability to communicate well and with eloquence as part of the Liberal Intellectual establishment. “I want my president to be more like my buddy Carl at the bar and take shots with.” Leaders should inspire. Trump lowers our standards with every tweet and poorly delivered speech. My parents would chastise me when my own writing or speaking fell short: “Stop saying ‘Thing,’ use a descriptor other than ‘very'”

    The Short of it is: I agree 100% and the trending aversion to education and being an intellectual in this country worries me to know end.

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    • Sadly, you are quite right. I even had a few (former) friends tell me that I was naught but an educated fool, and that my time was wasted on all my education. A couple of years ago when I was working toward my Ph.D. in International Relations, one friend asked why I was wasting my time at this stage in my life! Can education, learning, new knowledge ever be a waste of time??? I still learn new things each and every day … if I didn’t, then my l. ife would have no meaning.
      I think the blame for downtrend in education lies in many areas … social media, video games, parents who are too busy to stimulate their kids intellectually, television, and as Hugh points out, the idea that it is more important to give kids a sense of self-worth than to hold them accountable. The question, though, is how do we fix it?

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  6. I notice that the United Kingdom is only slightly ahead of the US on that ratings list for education achievement. And that is not surprising to me.

    Good education is the cornerstone on which we build a society. Take education away and you are left only with instinct, which in the human form turns primal very quickly. Discontent translates to violence and annihilation. DT is already on that road and he is dragging humanity with him, along with a very big club!
    Yabba Dabba Doo …. 😲

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  7. Education is one of the cornerstones of civilisation. The more people learn about a variety of subjects, the less they will be prey to prejudice and fear. Because fear very often is fear of the unknown. – And that is where Trumpty Dumpty and people like him come into the equation: It is much easier to rule people that are afraid, because you can play with their fear. So … more education = less Trumpty Dumpties. 🙂

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