In 2002, 27.2% of Americans had obtained a Bachelors degree. Only 7.6% have a Masters degree, and only 3% had earned a Ph.D. That means 73% of Americans have not graduated from college with a Bachelors degree. Of those 73%, I do not know how many are suspicious of who of us who have, but it seems like a fairly large number. And when it gets to the Masters level, the spread gets so much larger. 92% of Americans do not have a Masters degree, and 97% have not earned a Ph.D! Of course there is nothing wrong with not having a college degree, or Masters degree, or Ph.D. But I wonder what is up with the suspicion? You hear the media referred to as “elite,” and a significant number of Americans believe in some kind of conspiracy among the media elite to not represent the viewpoints of the average Joe. We know that nearly all journalists have college degrees, and many have degrees beyond the Bachelor level. And of course we know that there is a correlation between political views and education levels. The more education one receives, generally, the more one is likely to identify as liberal. But is that because education leads us in the right direction, or the wrong one?
How much education is too much? Is the threat that education might make me liberal a good reason not to get a good education? Of course not. Am I a liberal? Not at all. Must an educated person be a liberal? Of course not. Am I a conservative? Not at all. What education has done for me is helped me listen better, and relieved me of the idea that the world is black and white — that you are always wrong and I am always right, or vice versa. Education has helped me see that more nuance is needed in politics, and in my life, and that both conservative and liberal points of view are simply points of view.
I think it is important to remember that in America nearly everyone is far more educated than much of the rest of the world. So are you better off or worse off, overall, because of whatever level of education you have received? If you stopped going to school after 6th grade, do you think you’d have been better off to stop after 3rd grade? If you stopped after high school, should you have stopped after grade school? On their deathbeds, do people ever say, “You know — I sure wish I hadn’t earned that ridiculous Ph.D. What a waste of time that was”? How much education is too much?
Whatever level of education you have received, do you know who thinks it’s too much? The Taliban. Repressive governments always seek to keep people from being educated. If we want to control people, we must keep them from knowing things. Hitler exterminated college professors and clerics and burned books. Limiting access to knowledge is the most important step to take in creating an oppressive society. It’s fine that school isn’t for everybody. That is a choice everyone gets to make in America and I respect it. I’m thankful for people who choose differently than I have chosen because they end up being able to do amazing things that I cannot do and that clearly need to be done. But why do some people seem to think there’s something virtuous about having chosen to limit their education, and something malevolent about those of us who choose to keep learning?
It is almost like some people think the best way to give a big F-U to the so-called elitists of our country is to stay out of the university. But I think the best way to give a big F-U to the man (if that is your goal) is to go to university and learn to write persuasive arguments against the man. Or go to university and become a journalist and ask the hard questions you think no one else is asking. And don’t cop out and work at Fox. Do what John Stossel did and go to work for the very media elite you oppose. Now that’s cool!
Of course the fact that I personally plan to die in a classroom when I’m 97 years old (as a student, not a teacher), does not mean that anyone else needs to feel like they have to go to school the rest of their lives. I am simply asking, “How much education is too much?” and hoping the answer is not, “When it leads someone to disagree with me.”
So what is the answer? How much intelligence is too much? I don’t know the answer to this. Clearly I have not received enough schooling yet.