It's a good thing I'm not a politician. First time my opponent accused me of being out of touch with real Americans, of having ideas that are out of the mainstream, I'd sink my campaign by answering, "Damn straight!"
The mainstream in America is a raucous flood of yahoos and boobs who believe that the world was created in seven days a few thousand years after the invention of agriculture; that there are such things as ghosts and witches; that the domestic life of Britney is not only interesting but their own most pressing business; that football and NASCAR matter; that a Quarter Pounder is what a hamburger ought to taste like; that hunting is something you're meant to do drunk, ditto snowmobiling, boating, and driving all-terrain vehicles across other people's property and through national parks; that a nice mall is more important to a town than a decent park or a good school; that what comes out of Nashville these days is music; and that what's on Fox or the CB this week is the best in television; not to mention things like black people are scary, Jews are funny, Muslims are evil, and all Spanish-speaking immigrants are scary, funny, lazy, and threatening to the continued survival of the Republic.
So I can't run for office, not if my opponent is a typical Right Winger armed with the usual talking points and anti-Liberal demogoguery. I happen to think it's good for folks in the Mainstream to be told what a collection of yahoos and boobs they are and the faster they get themselves out of the Mainstream the better for themselves and their children.
This isn't good politics.
For some reason people just aren't inclined to vote for the candidate who insults them.
I mean the one who insults them flat out, honestly. The ones who insult their intelligence by lying to them and flattering their prejudices pile up the votes.
Anyway, there is a systematic challenge to the mainstream here; there are institutions that exist solely to fish as many young people out of the flood as possible. Education and schools.
We send our children off to get educated in order to strip them of our prejudices, give them the facts and experience to think for themselves and teach them how to do it, to help them become their own persons, in charge of their own lives and capable of making their own way. I called the mainstream a flood because that's what it is. It's a rush of prejudice, unsupported opinion, and hidebound reaction that carries people along whatever course the crowd's traveling and if that's over a waterfall, well, then, tumbling over waterfalls is just fine because that's the way it's always been and God must have intended it that way, so praise the Lord as you smash on the rocks below!
Education is liberalizing, on the whole, but one of the ways it achieves this is by being conservative. It passes along the cultural, political, and social traditions of the nation. The trouble is that most of the mainstream that calls itself conservative is hostile to those traditions.
Not because they, the yahoos and the boobs, are Conservative, but because they are human and to be human is to be inherently reactionary, because to even be conservative, nevermind liberal, requires thought and hard work and courage and pragmatisism, but mostly thought. People don't like to do that.
So it ought to be laughable to criticize any educational reform, any idea, any teacher, or institution for being out of the mainstream.
And it ought to rolling on the floor funny to attack colleges for having "a culture that cherishes independence and freedom." and calling that culture "seriously out of touch with much of America."
But that's what Eugene Hickock, a fellow at the Right Wing think tank, the Heritage Foundation, did in an op-ed piece in the New York Times last week.
Hickock was a deputy secretary of education during President Bush's first term and, given the Bush League's general principles regarding staffing government---for any job that requires an architect, hire a demolition expert---we can be pretty sure that his title and how he thought about his job had an oxymoronic relationship.
It may look to reasonable people, folks out of touch with America, that Hickcock is criticizing colleges for their chief virtue, if not in fact their reason for being, and that's exactly what he's doing.
The Right hates academia because it is out of their control and while their kids are in college they are out of their control too and in all likelihood aren't going to return to their control either.
Most people in the mainstream think of grade schools as cheap and safe babysitting, judge the worth of a high school by the strength of its football and basketball teams and the marching band, and see colleges as places where other people send their kids to play football and basketball on television, and this is the kind of "educational system" the Right is happy to provide them (although the Right's leaders don't want it for their own kids, of course).
The Right likes the mainstream flowing freely. They like people to be yahoos and boobs because yahoo and boobs are easy to manipulate, fool, control, bully, and boss. You can't be a good authoritarian, at home, in your church, or while running the government, without a large population of yahoos and boobs to push around and make like it.
It's not just college education that the Right fears and despises.
Hickock proposes a No Child Left Behind initiative for universities. The Right loves to tout the No Child Left Behind Act as proof of its commitment to education, but besides the fact that Right Wing politicians won't put their money where their mouths are and fund their own favored initiative as fully as it needs to be, the real reason they like the No Child Left Behind Act is that it takes educating children out of the hands of teachers and puts it in the hands of the writers of standardized tests who are, the Right hopes and is working to ensure, appointed by Right Wing politicians in touch with America, politicians who will promise the yahoos and boobs that their children will get an education that won't make the yahoos and boobs feel like yahoos and boobs.
That it has the added benefit of helping their children grow up to be yahoos and boobs themselves is gravy.