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The real reason Republicans don’t want Americans to be educated

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Education always has been central to the idea of America. Or first President, George Washington, said, “The best means of forming a manly, virtuous, and happy people will be found in the right education of youth.” Republicans, no less than Democrats, have stressed the virtues of education. “We’ll never be able to compete in the 21st century,” warned George W. Bush, “unless we have an education system that doesn’t quit on children.” The President Republicans love the most, Ronald Reagan, who could turn a phrase, noted, “Education is not the means of showing people how to get what they want. Education is an exercise by means of which enough men, it is hoped, will learn to want what is worth having.”

Every schoolchild knows the story of how Abe Lincoln walked many miles to school. Herbert Hoover overcame his natural tendency for under-achievement by studying hard and getting admitted to Stanford. Richard Nixon, born poor, finished second in his high school class, and became President of the U.S. The central message of American exceptionalism, it seems, has always pivoted on a solid foundation of education: the more, the better.

Until now. The Republican Party has made the deliberate decision to appeal to the most uneducated segment of America. A recent article in the Atlantic, quoting statistics from Nate Silver, at 538.com, stated: “The 50 most educated counties in the nation surged to [Hillary] Clinton. In 2012, Obama had won them by a mere 17 percentage points; Clinton took them by 26 points. The 50 least educated counties moved in the opposite direction; whereas Obama had lost them by 19 points, Clinton lost them by 31. Majority-minority counties split the same way: The more educated moved toward Clinton, and the less educated toward Trump.”

We all should be appalled by this. The less educated that people are, the more likely they were to vote for Donald Trump. The more education they are, the more likely they were to vote for Hillary Clinton.

Now, I’m not saying that uneducated people are stupid or dumb. But they are, by definition, ignorant. And, as Dr. King observed, “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance…”. An ignorant person is at greatest risk of making the world a worse place: as the philosopher George Santayana observed, Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” We do not want to repeat the mistakes of the past: the slavery of Blacks, the near-slavery of women, violent repression of gay people, child labor, sweatshops, polluted rivers and air, back-alley abortions, rule by plutocrats, anti-Catholic sentiment, unnecessary wars.

Donald Trump tells his rural, white Protestant voters that the “facts” presented by Democrats are “fake” and “lies.” Let me quote another great writer, Aldous Huxley: “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” As another American President, John Adams, said, “Facts are stubborn things.” It is a fact that Obama was born in Hawaii. It is a fact that Trump’s inauguration crowd was rather small. Republicans may wish these facts, and countless others concerning Trump, to go away, but they will not.

Among the facts that will not go away are all the things Donald Trump did to get elected, especially his collaboration with Russia and later attempts to obstruct Mueller’s investigation. These are indeed “stubborn things,” the kind that prosecutors fasten on, and juries listen to. I do not know if a sitting President can be indicted (as Giuliani claims). We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. But I do know that things are not looking good for Trump, in the sense of his liability in this case. We’re not talking about minor crimes, like jaywalking; we’re talking about major, massive criminal activity to influence our 2016 election on behalf of a hostile power, and subsequent attempts to thwart justice by trying to obstruct Mueller.

Educated people—those whose cognitive skills enable them to see through manipulations of facts—are willing to wait until Mueller has completed his investigation. They—we—want to read his report, listen to his arguments, and then decide where to go next. Uneducated people—in the most ignorant counties that voted for Trump—don’t want to hear new facts. Perhaps they don’t know how to interpret them. They’ve already discounted old facts; sadly, they’ve discounted the importance of facts themselves. They’ve chosen which side they’re on, and facts be damned. It’s a helluva situation we find ourselves in. The Republican Presidents I cited—Hoover, George W. Bush, Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan—would be horrified by this current administration, but the funny, sick thing is that, were Reagan still living and saying the kinds of things that Rex Tillerson said yesterday (warning that some leaders are seeking to conceal the truth), they would be denounced on Fox “News” as RINOS—Republican in Name Only. This is how political parties die, or commit suicide.

Have a wonderful weekend!

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