By Phil Brown
While the differences between the two political parties in America may seem—from a certain perspective—to be trivial, there is one particular issue that seems to illustrate the fundamental differences between the two. This issue is particularly noticeable as the two parties gear up for the 2016 presidential race.
Consider one of the higher-profile candidates on the side of the Republican party—Scott Walker. The infamous union-buster, renowned biker and self-styled everyman, while trailing frontrunners Donald Trump and Jeb Bush, is nonetheless a much talked about, prominent candidate for the Republican presidential nomination. And as such, Walker is a perfect example of the attitude the GOP seems to hold towards higher education.
While recent punditry has tried to play it off as a non-issue or liberal elitism rearing it’s ugly head, the fact is Scott Walker never graduated from an institution of higher education. Though he attended Marquette University in the mid-80s, he left the college without graduating.
Walker shouldn’t be demonized or painted as sub-par as a human for his failure to graduate—that would indeed be elitism. There are many roles to be played in our society, and 3/4ths of a Marquette education is doubtless perfectly adequate for most of them. But it is a portrait of the unique anti-intellectualism, and indeed, anti-educational sentiments of the Republican party that Walker is a front-runner for the presidential nomination without having achieved the recognition of a baccalaureate, to say nothing of an advanced degree.
The pretension to pursue the office of greatest power in America without a post-secondary education is the same pretension that turned the phrase “I’m not a scientist” to mean “I’m smarter than a scientist”. Jeb Bush, who’s currently slightly ahead of Walker in the polls, and who masquerades as an intellectual with a degree in Latin American Studies, was quoted in the Washington Times as complaining that “I think global warming may be real…what I get a little tired of on the left is this idea that somehow science has decided all this so you can’t have a view.”
The Republican ideal is to turn science into a personal “view” or opinion, that expertise means nothing compared to personal conviction. This allows them to pursue any policy—or set of policies—they want based on their own personal feelings about the world around them, instead of being beholden to science or facts or reason. This renders the sole purpose of education in the Republican’s worldview to be that of churning out workers for America.
Walker has made several attacks on the educational system in Wisconsin, most notably efforts to cut funding and weaken tenure in the Wisconsin University system, and, according to the New York Times, recommended the system shift its mission from a “search for truth” to “meet the state’s work force needs,” reflecting his own priorities when he left Marquette to pursue a career, and his party’s attitude towards education as a whole.
It seems that the Republican party is unconcerned with “searching for truth”, and are more than willing to use education as simply a method of galvanizing a workforce, and “truth”, with science, relegated to bit parts as personal beliefs and convictions take center stage.