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Why is Bush in office instead of a prison cell? We have only our culture to blame.

I work in a facility that produces high-quality products that involve a lot of high-tech and low-tech in order to get made. As might be expected, this means that persons with doctorates and bachelors spend a lot of time working with people who never went past high school. This provides an interesting opportunity for "educated" persons such as myself to spend time with "normal" people and their points of view.

Despite what many might have you believe, "educated" and "normal" people get along just fine, and I've seen very little resentment between the groups, except in the matter of pay ("educated" persons do, of course, earn more and do less physical labor). Still what surprises me is the intense disparity in knowledge and understanding of political basics between the two groups. "Educated" persons are almost universally well informed in terms of current political developments and realities, while "normal" people are not.

Considering that the "educated" people are not privvy to special information or grand secrets or anything, this presents an interesting case. If both groups are simply referring to information they find freely and easily accessible, why is their knowledge so different? Obviously the answer is cultural. "Educated" people value political knowledge while "normal" people do not.

But why? Thoughout America's history, very often it has been the "normal" people, lacking in degrees and academic distinction but nonetheless very intelligent and committed in regards to thing such as labor or justice, who have brought about change. Martin Luther King may have had a doctorate, but many of his friends and followers did not have the opportunity to recieve such higher education. Most of the great union leaders and grassroots activists of the 19th and 20th centuries did not have a degree, in fact many were barely literate. Why has this group, which has such a strong interest in using the government to protect them from bad bosses, unfair pay and unsafe working conditions, reached the point where they may not even know who the Vice President is, much less his dirty past?

There are, of course, many causes, but in the end they all coalesce to one big problem: American culture does not place much value on education, and so only those who have it know it's value. This was not always the case, but in an era when school budgets are hacked and slashed and standardized tests are the only means of measuring success, education has been greatly devalued. Additionally, "useful" knowledge (such as political realities) now has to compete with an overwhelming onslaught of entertaining but does not move one up in life. No one ever became president because he had an encyclopedic knowledge of sports scores, and no one ever got a bill passed due to they knew who the father of a teen pop-idol's baby was.

This slam on education appears to have started in the late 60s and early 70s, when TV and radio became more and more prevalent. While there were certainly large numbers of politically ignorant and socially unmotivated persons before TV became omnipresent, the rise of entertainment in American society coincides with a disinterest in education among persons who do not have it. Lower class persons who may have seen education as a means to improve their social standing now see entertainment as much more important, since it distracts them from their low position in life and difficult living conditions.

The only solution here is to begin the process of pulling the wool out of everyone's ears and ripping the rose-colored glasses off their faces. The American poor, which is almost exclusively poorly educated, should be exposed to the power a good education can give them. While it is very difficult for them to compete with large entities through physical or economic means, well-educated (or at least well-informed) members of the lower classes of American society are invaluable for checking the power of the rich and ultra-rich classes. The same classes which not only deny a class structure in America exists, but who have run roughsod over the wealth, property, and lives of anyone below them in the class structure.

So we must do what we can to educate those who have less education. We should make clear the importance of turning off the TV or radio or videogame and spending just a few minutes each day learning about the political and social realities we live in. Only then will Democracy work, because only then will we be the informed populace the Framers had in mind when they wrote the Constitution.

Originally posted to American Free Party on Mon Jul 21, 2008 at 09:30 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Vote Obama! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Amber6541

    it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses

    by Addison on Mon Jul 21, 2008 at 09:31:07 AM PDT

  •  I hate to say it, but (5+ / 0-)

    one reason that I'm more informed than my lesser-educated friends is that I can (and do) take time out at work to read and research and learn while my laboring friends don't have that luxury. When I get home from work (and take care of family stuff) I still have energy left to go on line and read, research, interact, learn; when my friends get home from work (and take care of family stuff) they're physically exhausted and just want to relax.

    "When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross." Sinclair Lewis

    by MsWings on Mon Jul 21, 2008 at 09:36:41 AM PDT

    •  good point, I'm at work right now! n/t (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MsWings, bfitzinAR
    •  Maybe so (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      PsychoSavannah

      but I'm a blue-collar laborer and I still find the energy to stay informed.  It's hard to see that as an excuse (though I will admit I don't have kids and can see how that would make a big difference).

      Your political compass Economic Left/Right: -6.50 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.67

      by bythesea on Mon Jul 21, 2008 at 10:28:13 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  How much energy does it take (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      PsychoSavannah

        to click a mouse? When I get home from work--a physically demanding job--I have no problem spending time online.

        I think, rather than exhaustion, the problem is motivation. Plenty of the people I work with simply are not interested enough in politics to care, and they don't realize how decisions made in Washington can directly affect their personal situations. In addition, most didn't pay attention when they were in Civics class, so they don't know the first thing about how government actually works. That, and lack of general knowledge about political science, can make it tough to make sense of politics.

      What's the difference between Vietnam and Iraq? Bush knew how to get out of Vietnam.

      by happy camper on Mon Jul 21, 2008 at 10:39:44 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Education. Experiental Education. (0+ / 0-)

    That's the key.  

    As individual as you are, one is still at risk of being judged by the company they keep.

    by publicv on Mon Jul 21, 2008 at 09:38:20 AM PDT

  •  Cool. Give it a try. (0+ / 0-)

    Why not start with all the "normal" persons at your company. On a regular basis you should make clear the importance of turning off the TV or radio or videogame and spending just a few minutes each day learning about the political and social realities we live in.

    Think of how popular you will be!!

    "Dear Jack: Don't buy a single vote more than necessary. I'll be damned if I'm going to pay for a landslide."

    by 1918 on Mon Jul 21, 2008 at 09:43:27 AM PDT

  •  hmmm (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PsychoSavannah

    "just a few minutes each day learning about the political and social realities we live in."

    Isn't that what Fox News if for?

  •  We have to make people curious.... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sanglug, alethea

    I used to insist my students watch 1/2 hour of TV news or bring in articles from newspapers or magazines to discuss. I'd give current events quizzes as follow-up...and they loved it. They became well-informed citizens and saw how being uninformed can lead to the election of candidates that may not be best for our country, state or town.
    I think that is the main difference between those you call "educated" and those you call "normal". I know a lot of people who didn't have the opportunity to attend or finish college - that are very involved in politics, economics, environmental and educational issues. And I also know some very well educated people who channel all their energy into their narrow band of interests (ex. electrical engineer who could care less about the above issues).
    Curiosity about the world around us and the interconnectedness of events - is key.

    "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." - JFK

    by moose67 on Mon Jul 21, 2008 at 09:54:30 AM PDT

  •  You can lead a horse to water (0+ / 0-)

    but you can't make them drink.

    Can we do a better job at educating people - sure, there is alway room for improvement.

    We offer a huge opportunity to every U.S. citizen (an in many cases non-citizens) that an education is provided through at minimum, the twelve grade.

    The system is there.

    What one can't explain is why some take advantage of it and other do not.  Look at dropout rates - it's sad that so many people chose not to finish school through the 12th grade.

    IMHO - there should be no social services to those who have not completed a 12th grade education.  Sorry but how can we help someone who cannot or will not help themself?  This is not to say that there are not second chances - GED's but again, the baseline education level in the U.S. has to be through the 12th grade.  

    It's a goal that must be emphasized and should be embraced by both political parties.

  •  You're Riding for a Fall With These People (0+ / 0-)

    My introduction to this concept came in a summer 60's church trip to help construction in a deep Kentucky holler, where the residents took us suburban college-bound kids as something close to space aliens.

    Also as a player of ethnic music I've spent much of my social life around bluecollar immigrant and American born folks.

    Considering that the "educated" people are not privvy to special information or grand secrets or anything,

    That's really not quite true in a practical sense.

    First, educated people have years of education in thinking skeptically, and for the most part, they get paid to think skeptically all day long.

    If you think that both training and practice aren't important, stroll down to the symphony and sit in the next time they're doing a pops program.

    Between available time, education and practice, ordinary people learn and make decisions partly rationally, partly by keying off authority figures, party from peers.

    The Republicans have spent many billions staffing the mainstream easily-visible culture with fraudulent information sources and authority figures, and in media entertainment, fraudulent simulated peers.

    We need to understand how much of "culture" as a commercial product and how much of it has squeezed organic human culture out of daily life.

    Educated people are a rarity, we are the ones who need to understand how to create messages and communicate with the majority.

    should be exposed to the power a good education can give them.

    You'd better take a long, careful look at whether that's true for as many people as it was when you were educated.

    We've dismantled and deported thousands of rungs on the ladder out of the lower classes, many of which were attained by varying degrees of education.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Mon Jul 21, 2008 at 10:02:42 AM PDT

  •  I blame television. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PsychoSavannah

    Seriously! Fifty years ago, any mid-sized city had at least two competing full-service newspapers, both with fully staffed local news desks reporting on relevant local political issues. There were also plenty of narrower spectrum papers. Even if you picked up your paper for the baseball scores, you still got a dose of actual news with your coffee.

    Nowadays we have a dying newspaper industry read by a dwindling number of us old codgers. Most people form their opinions from the vile substance vomited forth by the television, where network news pukes up two or three minutes of pre-digested factoids bracketed with ten minutes of corporate spin, before returning to Britney, Lindsay, and the usual 'missing white woman' stories. Local news is even worse; all crime all the time. It's basically designed to promote cynicism, fear and passivity.

    Which is precisely why Obama is so exciting; his message of change and the radical new wave of Howard Dean's people-powered politics he has built upon short-circuit the usual brain-dead message.

  •  This strikes me as profoundly condescending... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    PsychoSavannah, luckylizard

    Lower class persons who may have seen education as a means to improve their social standing now see entertainment as much more important, since it distracts them from their low position in life and difficult living conditions.

    Isn't it possible that many of your so-called "normal" people might receive more education (and get college degrees, masters, doctorates) if they could freaking afford it?

    Exceptions to every rule, but those who are economically poorer are not generally less-educated solely because of the shiny colors coming from the big lightbox in their living room.

    "A point of view can be a dangerous luxury when substituted for insight and understanding."- Marshall McLuhan.

    by J R Hand on Mon Jul 21, 2008 at 10:29:11 AM PDT

  •  There are costs to getting (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    happy camper, luckylizard

    "educated" too.  Most of us here are on the internet....the two people who said they were at work are lucky enough to even have a job, nevermind one where you're allowed to goof off and read dKOS without your employer firing you.  Computers cost money, internet access costs money, visiting the library is time-consuming.

    When it only takes a "few minutes a day", you end up with the bullshit "news" programs we have.

    Too many choices, too much to do with people working more hours than ever, too much information to absorb in the time after work.

    That's the reality many people find themselves in.  No wonder they are not as informed as they SHOULD be.  

    •  Rather than becoming (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      PsychoSavannah, luckylizard

        more educated, our country seems  to be going in the opposite direction. The mainstream news media have become shills to the corporatist positions supported by the multinational companies that own them. Talk radio screech monkeys like Hannity and Limbaugh tell their audiences that all their problems are due to liberals and brown people, and to just vote Republican.  

        Keeping the average guy in the dark was an integral part of the conservative takeover of government.  It's easier to get people to vote against their own interests when they don't realize they're doing it.

      What's the difference between Vietnam and Iraq? Bush knew how to get out of Vietnam.

      by happy camper on Mon Jul 21, 2008 at 12:22:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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