The college secularization plot

Damn!  Rick Santorum is onto me.  Not only has he discovered the goal of college professors to take all our students and turn them into liberals, he also realized that we’re out to beat their religious faith out of them.

But, Santorum is a smart guy, he’s taken it to the next level.  He’s figured out that President Obama, in wanting more kids to go to college is not interested in having a more educated workforce in an increasingly globally competitive world (pshaw, who needs that!), but rather, Obama just wants to send more kids to college to be indoctrinated into liberalism and socialism!

First, the religion business:

“It’s no wonder President Obama wants every kid to go to college. The indoctrination that occurs in American universities is one of the keys to the left holding and maintaining power in America,” Santorum said at a rally last month in Florida. “As you know, 62 percent of children who enter college with a faith conviction leave without it.”

That number Santorum threw out — that 62 percent of kids who go to college with religious beliefs leave without them — would seem to prove his point. The number comes from a 2007study published in the journal Social Forces looking at the relationship between education and religious faith.

But as it turns out, later in that same study, the authors came to the complete opposite conclusion: They found that 76 percent of kids who don’t go to college end up attending church less often, a higher percentage than those who do go to college. “Higher education,” as they put it, “is not the enemy of religiosity.”

Another study published in The Review of Religious Research last year, found that kids who went to college were slightly more likely to pray and read the Bible more often.

Hmmm.  Just a little bit misleading.  Perhaps Santorum needs a policy to prevent young adults from aging from 18 to 22.  That might solve the problem.   Love Kevin Drum’s take:

Now, this is a new one to me. It’s commonplace for movement conservatives to believe that universities are dens of depravity and radical left indoctrination. So far, so normal. But as far as I know, most of them don’t believe that efforts to get more kids into college are motivatedby a desire to destroy their faith. That’s a step beyond even normal wingnut land.

This stuff leaves me kind of speechless. I already know what hardcore conservatives think of academia and university life in general. Nothing new there. And let’s face it: the political mood at most universities is pretty liberal. So fine. But what kind of person actively believes that the president of the United States favors more access to higher education as a plot to secularize the country? This is 10-page-single-spaced-crank-letter-to-the-editor territory.

Nice.  Reader DJ sent me this TPM piece that highlights some of Santorum’s other absurd statements on this higher education matter and how the idiots (yes, I use that term quite purposefully) in the Michigan Tea Party are all on board:

But for the tea party crowd gathered here as part of an Americans For Prosperity rally, Santorum’s words about higher education were right on point.

“President Obama wants everybody in America to go to college,” Santorum said. “What a snob!”

Seriously?!  You’d think this was a scene from a Mike Judge satire making fun of a fictional Republican candidate.

“There are good, decent men and women who work hard every day and put their skills to the test that aren’t taught by some liberal college professor… That’s why he wants you to go to college. He wants to remake you in his image,” Santorum said. “I want to create jobs so people can remake their children into their image, not his.”

Of course not everybody is cut out for college (no need to remind me when I’m in the midst of grading papers), but to act like trying to get more Americans into college and to make it more affordable and accessible to people of all backgrounds is somehow a bad thing is sheer lunacy.  Welcome to Tea Party America.

Photo of the day

Really awesome set by Alan Taylor of before and after Japan earthquake/tsunami photos.  For each photo in the gallery, you can simply click on it and watch it change.  I cannot do that here, but here’s by favorite before and after in two images:


Republicans and the “smart idiot” effect

Great summary of the key findings of his new book in Salon by Chis Mooney.  I’ll summarize the summary, but really, this is one of those things where you should read the whole thing.  Really.  Mooney summarizes a lot of excellent political science and psychology research that shows that, alas, Republicans are particularly susceptible to the “smart idiot” effect, i.e., the more educated they are, the more prone they are to actually believe the simply false things that Fox and Rush tell them:

Buried in the Pew report was a little chart showing the relationship between one’s political party affiliation, one’s acceptance that humans are causing global warming, and one’s level of education. And here’s the mind-blowing surprise: For Republicans, having a college degree didn’t appear to make one any more open to what scientists have to say. On the contrary, better-educated Republicans were more skeptical of modern climate science than their less educated brethren. Only 19 percent of college-educated Republicans agreed that the planet is warming due to human actions, versus 31 percent of non-college-educated Republicans.

For Democrats and Independents, the opposite was the case.

Yep.  Among the more distressing social science findings out there that is the most damning indictments of the modern Republican party.    And, of course, it’s not restricted to global warming:

But it’s not just global warming where the “smart idiot” effect occurs. It also emerges on nonscientific but factually contested issues, like the claim that President Obama is a Muslim. Belief in this falsehood actually increased moreamong better-educated Republicans from 2009 to 2010 than it did among less-educated Republicans, according to research by George Washington University political scientist John Sides.

The same effect has also been captured in relation to the myth that the healthcare reform bill empowered government “death panels.” According toresearch by Dartmouth political scientist Brendan Nyhan, Republicans who thought they knew more about the Obama healthcare plan were “paradoxically more likely to endorse the misperception than those who did not.” Well-informed Democrats were the opposite—quite certain there were no “death panels” in the bill.

Even worse, there’s just no winning people like this with actual facts:

What accounts for the “smart idiot” effect?

For one thing, well-informed or well-educated conservatives probably consume more conservative news and opinion, such as by watching Fox News. Thus, they are more likely to know what they’re supposed to think about the issues—what people like them think—and to be familiar with the arguments or reasons for holding these views. If challenged, they can then recall and reiterate these arguments. They’ve made them a part of their identities, a part of their brains, and in doing so, they’ve drawn a strong emotional connection between certain “facts” or claims, and their deeply held political values. And they’re ready to argue.

Okay, and what you’ve been waiting for the whole time– surely liberals are guilty of the “smart idiot” effect as well, simply on different issues.  Right?  Nope.

But there are also reason to think that, with liberals, there is something else going on. Liberals, to quote George Lakoff, subscribe to a view that might be dubbed “Old Enlightenment reason.” They really do seem to like facts; it seems to be part of who they are. And fascinatingly, in Kahan’s study liberals did not act like smart idiots when the question posed was about the safety of nuclear power.

Of course, nuclear power is only one issue, but it does seem like the ideal test case and closest corollary of Republicans and global warming.

Take home from all this?  I’m not sure.  For me, it’s be very depressed at the smart idiot effect.  Of course, I’m on my own personal quest to catch some of these Republicans as they are becoming “smart” (i.e., college educated) and stopping them from becoming “idiots.”  Of course, I suspect part of the “smart idiot” effect is simply to write off any expert information you disagree with as “just a liberal college professor.”  Like I said, it’s depressing.  I’m all good with some people having very different political values than me.  What I’m not okay with is them living in their own fact-challenged world.

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