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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Of Implied Fear And The Minimizing Of Education

One of the great talking-points of the last few years is that education - you know, that character trait that was continually instilled within us from a very early ago - is seen as walking hand-in-hand with "elitism". Somehow, those that took the advice of our parents, our grandparents, and our community leaders, and followed our educational paths to their greatest end are now labeled as ineffectual windbags that have had our perceptions so altered that we no longer recognize "real Americans".

That style of labeling tends to make one wonder who precisely is and who isn't the alleged "elitist". Who is to claim that one portion of the country is the "real" America or that one person is more of a "real" American? The answer to that is found within the blatantly kowtowing piece by Tunku Varadarajan of The Daily Beast.

In it, he attempt to convince his readership that the Tea-Baggers are rightly feared by both the Left and Right. Intermixed with a healthy dose of name-dropping those that are continually labeled as water-carrying liberals within the media, Tunku does his level best to claim that those evil people that worked hard to get a higher education are actually hoping that there would be a class-system within America:

Not everyone in the movement is a Wellesley graduate, and I bring my cousin into the story only as a forensic counterpoint to David’s fixation with the “educated class.” America doesn’t really have a class system, but that fact makes it tough for people like David, who sometimes seem to wish it did. The traditional solution has been to attend an Ivy League school if possible—or just cop an “intellectual” attitude if not—and then look down on the rest of America. When America was less of a meritocracy (and that was not so long ago), this solution was less damaging. Now that the country is run mostly by graduates of Ivy League schools, however, that they look down on the electorate is becoming not only vastly irritating to the electorate but also rather dangerous. Elitism, now, might have adverse political consequences—and a backlash.

To me, at least, Tunku contradicted himself within that one paragraph. While claiming that there isn't a class system with one breath at the beginning, he later appeared to claim that there was one that continually looked down on the American electorate.

But is this true?

The answer to this is not exactly as clear as one would hope it to be. But rest assured that class warfare is quite real, and the perpetrators are usually protected by the voices that claim to have our best interests at heart.

For example, conservative media outlets - both in traditional media and new media forms - continually point the finger of disdain at Democrats ( more precisely their liberal/progressive subsets ) as those that are waging war on the middle and lower classes. They claim that small-businesses are continually targeted and that the grounding principles of this nation - free-market enterprise and capitalism - are always a hairs breath away from complete obliteration.

I would ask this of these reactionary masses that are most definitely growing in number since the start of last year - what liberties, what freedoms, what choices have been lost to the middle and lower classes that you ( the conservatives ) haven't already taken from them?

This where education comes in.

The Tea-Baggers see education as a subjective practice. They want to be told that their perceptions are true, that their perspective is validated. They want opinions about how America was founded, of how the Founding Fathers were these ultra-religious zealots that they are currently being maligned as. They want to have their children taught that conservative ideals ( or at least the current style of conservativism ) are what made this country great. To them, education that contains the truth is somehow un-American, that is destroys the very moral fabric on which we were built.

By default, the modern conservative builds their ideology on fear, paranoia, and warning against the educational process. Tea-Baggers aren't feared in the least. It's the notion that at some point, someone is liable to take them at their word to such an extent that someone is going to be hurt. And while this is largely ignored by the establishment conservatives, claiming that the likelihood that some fringe element will do harm to others is completely irrelevant - as we all saw by the Tea-Baggers and their media counterparts wholly dismissing the DHS report on right-wing terrorism originating from the Bush administration - the rhetoric is continually amplified to the point where no one is sure what will come next.

True and honest education will always be a stumbling block for the modern conservative. Not only that, but as technology has allowed us to verify information within minutes of its distribution, conservatives will continually claim some shadowy "liberal bias" permeates all corners of the known information structure of the US, unless a portion of that structure is literally controlled and managed by well-recognized conservative figures.

The problem with the Tea-Baggers, and those that attempt to cast them as heroes of modern socio-political discourse, is that education is trumps fear. There is no room for a true educational process in modern conservative ideology. One can't be easily controlled if you are educated. And if you are educated, if you seek the truth rather than reflexively react to your surrounding, you must be labeled as "elitist", as the enemy. This is the mindset of the modern conservative and the Tea-Baggers they have born.

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