Neither of my parents went to college, so their dream was to one day be able to send their kids off to a fancy university and perhaps a better life.
That was back in the ‘70s and ‘80s when most people thought education was a good thing. I remember those public service announcements on TV that would offer random educational factoids and close with the tagline, “The more you know…”
But somehow there has been a paradigm shift in the point of view that book learnin’ is a virtue. America, it seems, has finally reached an apex of anti-intellectualism, which would be humorous if it wasn’t so frightening. One might think that the first concrete evidence of this trend could be found in the results of last November’s national elections when we elected a reality show celebrity to the office of president; someone who values the reporting of The National Enquirer over The New York Times. But that was just the putrescent icing on the anti-education cake—and I’m not even talking about Education Secretary Besty DeVos.
I am talking about the recent national survey by the Pew Research Center that revealed that most registered Republicans believe that a college education is a negative thing. A majority of Republicans (58 percent) now say that colleges and universities have a negative effect on the country, up from 45 percent last year.
When I heard this, you could have knocked me over with a tassel from a mortarboard. Who knew that the concept of obtaining more knowledge—of growing smarter—would become a political issue?
But back in February 2016, when Mr. Trump won the Nevada caucuses, he said in his victory speech: “We won the evangelicals. We won with young. We won with old. We won with highly educated. We won with poorly educated. I love the poorly educated.”
So, I don’t know, maybe the GOP has a vested interest in keeping people poorly educated. After all, most won’t accept climate change science (Trump said during his campaign it was a ruse perpetrated by the Chinese government) despite the fact that just about every scientist on the planet has said it’s real and they have all the data needed to prove it. Actually, this denial by GOP leaders has nothing to do with the science. It’s the result of the Faustian deals they’ve struck with a fossil fuel industry that wishes to remain unrestricted. And now the message that climate science is bogus has trickled down to their rank and file.
Sadly, there are people I know and respect who have college degrees and walk upright without dragging their knuckles who have told me they believe that climate change is a deception. I just don’t know what to say to these folks. I think many of them know deep down in the dark recesses of their partisan souls that it’s not a hoax, but their indoctrination into their party’s dogma is so complete, so utterly persuasive, that it would take an endeavor of operatic proportions to get them to see the proverbial light and admit it out loud.
Look, I know our education system is far from perfect. Like our country’s aging infrastructure, it could use some much-needed renovating. If college isn’t an option, for whatever reason, there are trade schools, certification programs, entrepreneurial programs, sales training institutes and all kinds of other ways to drop some extra knowledge into the ol’ brain basket and become a better, more productive, human person without going to college. Because if you don’t at least try to get smarter you could wind up one of the growing number of people who believe that Earth is flat and that gravity is a hoax. That’s actually a real thing and the internet, like a dirty doorknob at a day care during flu season, is helping to spread the crazy.
The Denver Post recently ran an article about these Flat Earthers (they are organized and they hold meetings!) and, again, it would be really funny if it wasn’t so scary. OK… it’s still a little funny.
These guys have dozens of YouTube channels where they espouse their whack-a-doodle theories, which they claim are based on actual research and science books. The problem is, the books and research they are talking about were conducted and written by other whack-a-doodles who have all the scientific acumen of a Kardashian.
Differences of opinion divide the Flat Earth community on matters of scientific interpretation, cosmology, strategy and even the most fundamental questions of geology, such as: what shape is our planet?
Some believe that the world is circumscribed by giant ice barriers, like the walls of a bowl; some think it’s a giant circular disc covered by a dome. So, what lies on the other side? Those interviewed for the Denver Post piece have no idea, but they have lots of data and numbers and stick figures (likely written in crayon). However, it seems none of them have ever traveled to the edge of this flat earth and peeked over the side, or touched the glass dome where it reaches the ground. And when asked how they’ll explain the full solar eclipse that will take place next month, they can only shrug and tell us that more research is forthcoming.
This whole flat earth thing threw me because most conspiracy theories are fueled by a motivation for the deceit but this didn’t seem to have one. For example, those who claim the Sandy Hook school massacre was fake, say it was done to increase anti-gun sentiment and repeal the 2nd Amendment. So, I wondered, what do these Flat Earthers think the reason is we’ve been indoctrinated with this silly global model for almost 600 years?
“It’s not about money. They want complete mind control,” one Flat Earther told the Denver Post, without identifying who “they” is. “They want to create two classes: the ultra-rich and servants. At that point, they would’ve taken over the world and enslaved the population, and controlled everything.”
I fear that master conspiracy theorist Alex Jones of Info Wars (and Donald Trump enthusiast) is not going to like this at all. The flat-earth conspiracy conflicts with his conspiracy that NASA is kidnapping kids to form a slave colony on Mars.
The more you know!
Bob Dumas is the editor of Mahopac News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.