Educate out the Idiocy By: Joshua Chamberlain Posted: April 18, 2012
In a recent class, I had students discuss how experience and an increased knowledge of one’s own strengths and weaknesses can change one’s decision-making process. As an example, I asked my students how many of them, at one point in their young lives, had wanted to be President of the United States. About ¾ of them raised their hands. I then asked them how many still wanted to be president. Not a single hand was raised.
A few days later, I saw a potential reason for why these students, who are some of the most promising the country has to offer, are no longer interested in being “the most powerful (wo)man in the world.” Ironically, these comments came from a man without a college education, but whose political views are deemed newsworthy: Ted Nugent.
While the question of whether Nugent’s comments are actually newsworthy is legitimate and has been debated, the important part is that they are covered and do affect the way people view the offices he critiqued. Nugent is widely viewed as being, to put it lightly, eccentric. While he certainly has a number of loyal followers who believe him to be a brave voice of reason, his comments never seem to add much depth to the political discussion. Instead, he speaks to generate anger (and, as a result, fans and money).
Nugent’s recent comments about President Obama and members of the Supreme Court, however, while perhaps over-the-top, can hardly be described as surprising or shocking. That is probably the saddest part of the whole issue: that uneducated rabble-rousers like Nugent, while at times making slight ripples in the media ocean, have largely just become part of the background noise that accompanies the current political realm. Nugent’s overt hatred of all things different than him has become par for the course.
While I understand Nugent’s approach, demented as it might be, I am left wondering if he, and those like him, truly believe the things they say. Do people really believe that Supreme Court justices could be “evil anti-American people”? Does anyone really buy it when they are told by popular ‘70s guitarist that we have “a president and an attorney general who doesn’t even like the constitution”? Does any elected official really “hate freedom”?
In most places, comments like these are nothing more than punch lines. In the current American political climate, they are standard discourse.
What I find funny is that the same people promoting the idea that an affiliation to a different political party makes a person evil are the same people clamoring for education reform. Nugent, himself, has written on the topic. The irony is that the personalized, private education that many want focuses on eliminating the rabble-rousers. It makes the inflexible hatred of people like Nugent obsolete.
A good education in the humanities teaches people to look critically at all sides of a discussion, rather than refusing to accept the possible legitimacy of the other side. When my class reads a text, for example, we do not just look at what happens. We look critically at why it matters and write responses about what the takeaways are for us as people. Students are required to take informed stances on the issues presented in the texts while still being able to intelligently explain the other side of an argument.
In short, we work hard to make sure we never sound as simple as Ted Nugent or many of the unintelligent loudmouths peppering the political realm. This leads me to wonder if these people have stopped to think about the potential results of their proposed education reform, as it would ultimately lead to their demise.
Then again, maybe I’m not giving them enough credit. Maybe they recognize their own short-sightedness and understand intuitively that things have to change if the country is, in fact, going to improve and move forward. Maybe, just maybe, these people have finally seen the irony in their own ways and have decided to stop slamming highly educated politicians as being “elitist,” since that education is what they say they want for all Americans. Maybe they will stop acting in a way that turns my students off.
After all, why would anyone with the options my students have in life choose to go into politics? In reality, the reasons for not going into politics are the same as those for not going into teaching: they can make significantly more money elsewhere with less criticism from fools who think they know better. I can’t blame them for taking other opportunities, though I am saddened by the thought of who is left to run the country if the best and brightest turn elsewhere.
So, maybe the mouthbreathing “Obama hates freedom” folks recognize their own folly and truly want to eliminate their own breed through improved education. It would certainly add legitimacy to their claims of caring about the country.
Then again, these people are reactionary idiots. Let’s not give them that much credit.