The Right’s Anti-Education Reflex

It’s troubling that far-right members of the Texas State Board of Education insist on dumbing down education in science, social studies and other public school classes. But it’s hardly surprising. The knee-jerk anti-education reflex that characterizes the far right these days surely exasperates even mainstream conservatives. Eagle Forum’s website today offers another example of that anti-education reflex: a facts-free diatribe by Phyllis Schlafly against efforts to promote college education for young Americans.

Schlafly sneeringly insists such efforts are misguided. She argues, essentially, that many American high school graduates are too dumb and unprepared and will fail to learn much during their “five-year party” in college:

“Many of these kids wind up in low-skill, low-pay jobs such as cashiers, waiters, theater ushers, and postal workers, which can easily be performed by high school graduates.”

In truth, however, a wealth of data shows that educational attainment levels are tied to employment and wages.

For example, the unemployment rate in 2009 among Americans with just a high school diploma (9.7 percent) was more than twice as high as the jobless rate among Americans with at least a bachelor’s degree (4.6 percent). In fact, even Americans who attended college but earned no degree had a lower unemployment rate (8 percent) than those who had only a high school diploma. (People who didn’t even graduate from high school had even bleaker employment prospects.)

In addition, the median income for workers with only a high school diploma was more than third below the median income for workers with at least a bachelor’s degree in 2006. Even workers who had attended some college but earned no degree tended to have higher incomes than workers whose formal education stopped at high school graduation.

In any case, Schlafly goes on to argue that instead of building a better workforce and making the country more prosperous, helping more kids attend college will just lead to what she sees as liberal indoctrination of more students. Such an absurd argument is a perfect example of the irrational nonsense birthed by the far right’s blind anti-education ideology these days.

You will recall, by the way, that the Texas state board last year insisted on adding Schlafly’s name to a list of influential political conservatives social studies students should learn about. Requiring public school students to learn about someone who opposes making it easier for them to get a college education is rather ironic, to say the least.

12 thoughts on “The Right’s Anti-Education Reflex

  1. So if I understand Schlafly correctly (and, believe me, it gives me a headache just to contemplate the vile witch) going to college is bad because you’ll end up indoctrinated by left-wing professors, and all partied out to boot.

    And the alternative is what? I guess since left-wing indoctrinated party-school graduates are only going to get cashier and post office jobs they might as well start early like right out of high school. So, really, on Schlaughable’s planet we don’t need universities at all! Think of the money we’d save and the pleasure of seeing all those out-of-work left-wing professors begging on the street!

  2. If these kids are dropping out of college and ending up in low paying jobs, more than likely it is because higher education is expensive and not because they have been partying it up.

    For some people getting an education is the only way to get out living in proverty, even if you have to pay loans for the next 10 years at least that persons children (if they choose to have any) has a chance at pursing and living an easier and more enjoyable life.

    What Philly wants is an uneducated work force that’ll work for little pay so her friends in the private sector can take advantage of them and profit off of them.

    I’m not buying it.

  3. It seems clear to me that the right wingnuts want a third-world US where there are the super-rich and super-poor and no middle class. In reality, if they think they are the ones to end up as super rich, I think that they will be disappointed. What a great way to really destroy America. We don’t need terrorists to do the job.

  4. Phyllis is actually correct about part of what she said. My cousin, the professor at a community college, tells me about it all of the time. We’re pretty close. They have numerous students who arrive for one purpose and one purpose only. They want an AA degree to help them get a job or a specialty certificate (e.g., dispensing optician certificate) that will get them a specific job. Now here is the thing you have to understand, and this is utterly critical. If you miss this, you will miss the whole thing.

    They DO NOT want the education that goes with the AA degree or the certificate. They DO NOT want to work towards the degree or certificate. Remember Maynard G. Krebs on the old Dobie Gillis Show? “What? Me? Work?” They DO NOT want anything to do with that wide middle part of life that happens between acceptance to the community college (often on probation) and the awarding of the credential. They just want the sheepskin or certificate—that alone and nothing else. How do I know this? My cousin does a lot of counseling one-on-one with her students—tons of them—and they are not shy. This is SPECIFICALLY what the students tell her in these counseling sessions—and in no uncertain terms. This is not just one or two students per every 100 on campus. This is wholesale bushels of students!!!! Most of them are dumber than dirt and see their condition in life as as “I’m okay. You’re okay.” Just give me the free movie ticket, and I’ll be on my way to the successful life I deserve simply as a result of being born.

    And why not? At one time you could be a dispensing optician just with a high school diploma. The optometrist you worked for could teach you how to do it OJT. Then somebody decided that it was too easy to be a dispensing optician, so they decided to make it harder—to pinch the glut as it were. Make them take two semesters of advanced algebra or calculus, American history, and who knows what else. Never mind that you need none of that to be a dispensing optician!!!! These kids know that. They know they have been screwed by the system, and this attitude is just their way of screwing it back. I say simplify it all again. Forget two-year degrees and certificates for these people and go apprentice OJT like in the old days. Make like Ben Franklin in his brother’s print shop because college really is wasted on these people—just like Phyllis said.

    That thing Phyllis said about colleges, professors, and liberal indoctrination. That is one of the stupidest things I have ever heard. Maybe she should have avoided law school and tried out for dispensing optician.

  5. WE all must remember to remain contented at the societal, economic, and educational level in which the Good Lord places us. Proles must learn to love being proles. We Alphas certainly love being Alphas.

  6. Biokid you are correct that ignorance and lack of education play into the hands of Schlafly and the religious right. Education is the enemy of religious fundamentalism. An educated populace is much less likely to buy into what the literalists are selling, while an uneducated population is a recruiting grounds for religious fundamentalists. In a country such as Iran, however, where 70% of the population is under the age of 30 and highly educated, fundamentalism becomes an increasingly harder sell. And that will ultimately result in the Ayatollahs running Iran getting kicked to the curb.

  7. Charles’ analysis may be correct but it only begs the question why are kids like that? It couldn’t have anything to do with the way they were raised now, could it? They sound to me like the children of losers. I didn’t think all parents are losers but, from what Charles says, maybe they are.

    Be that as it may, I agree with the others that Phyllis is showing her true conservative colors: that society should consist of two classes: serfs and masters. Making education less affordable to “the masses,” and discouraging anyone who wants an education will bring about her brave new conservative two-tier world.

    I have to add this: I resent this notion that education is communist or socialist or atheist. I’ve seen this attitude from the wacko conservatives TFN writes about, and I’ve seen it from people who post comments here. People who make such a nonsensical statement are people who share Phyllis Schlafly’s world view. If it weren’t for my “commie” education, I’d probably still be a clerk typist, barely able to afford a studio apartment and struggling all my life to make ends meet. I certainly could not afford the pc on which I am typing this message. But thanks to my “commie” education, I have a white-collar job where I earn not just enough to support myself, my home, my car but also a number of hobbies and projects. But people like Phyllis hate that. They believe that only THEY are worthy of a middle class lifestyle. They want all the goodies and blessings of an education all to themselves. They should consider what is happening in Egypt right now. Someday the unemployed, outsourced, downsized, and downtrodden of America might wake up and get similar ideas about the uber-class conservative Wall-Street bankers and corporate feudal lords whose assets have reached the stratosphere while the middle class is on the express down ramp.

  8. I agree James Breck. My primary concern is that the 70 percent in Iran should wake up. They really have only two options:

    1) Overthrow the mullahs (best option).

    2) Perish in the nuclear firestorm that is coming as certainly as tomorrow’s sunrise.

    I suspect not many Iranians show up here. Just in case they do, those are the two choices. And don’t you just love Iranians in the United States? Some are friends of mine. There is the standard exchange upon meeting any new Iranian in the United States. This has happened to me so-o-o-o-o-o-o many times:

    Joe: I would like to introduce you to my friend Ruholla Bedzadeh (The “zadeh” in the name is always a dead giveaway).

    Charles: Nice to meet you (extends hand). Zadeh? Say, you must be from Iran?

    Ruholla: No, I am from Persia.

    Charles: C’ mon now. Let’s cut the crap. You are from Iran and we both know that.

    Ruholla: Well…yes…okay.

    This would be my second piece of advice for Iranians in the United States. Quit it. Just stop it. No more silly stuff:

    Descendant from the land of Darius

    We know you are Iranian. Don’t embarrass yourself and us. Stop it!!!!

  9. bill first of all you will never be an alpha, God is the alpha and no one is above or equal.

    Certainly everyone should try to be happy living in the present and live contently in the position they are currently in in their life. However, just as in nature where God’s creations evolve toward becoming something better and more perfect, so does the human spirit evolve and advance.

    So to put it shortly, I disagree with your entire concept.

    By your words are we supposed to be content at the level of education our children are born with? Are we not supposed to educate our children that touching fire burns your skin? Are we not supposed to teach our children to look both ways before crossing the street? Education is a part of survival and there are different types of education.

    So for someone to say that we are supposed to be content with our level of education, sounds like a very uneducated thing to say. It goes against the human spirit and it goes against one of the basic requirements of survival.

  10. I am not familiar with Bills previous postings and I’ve read too many comments similar to this one where the person was not joking. It’s hard to tell these days.

  11. I’ve loathed Phyllis Schafly because she was largely responsible for the death of the ERA (due to her anti-feminism), but her diatribe against higher education is grotesque. As a substitute teacher and a college English major, I am outraged.