The Enemy of the Educated

I almost as a rule ignore Ann Coulter because her game is to bait liberals and cash in on the attention. But sometimes she says something that is worth thinking about. For example, let’s pretend for a moment that she’s right about this:

Ann Coulter is not a fan of President Obama’s plan to provide tuition-free community college, or of federal college loans in general. Coulter told Florida radio host Joyce Kaufman on Monday that such programs are just a “scam” to “subsidize the most left-wing industry in America, that spends its days indoctrinating kids to hate Republicans.”

It goes without saying that teaching kids to “hate Republicans” isn’t an explicit part of any community college class’s syllabus. If this actually is occurring, it results from some combination of casual student-teacher interaction outside the classroom and through osmosis within it. In other words, teachers are transmitting values to their students that cause the students to look askance at members of the Republican Party.

What are those values?

I think people like Ann Coulter think the values are primarily about equality, whether legal or financial, and a historical interpretation that condemns the right on these issues. But the more insidious values that are transmitted to the community college student are about empiricism, evidence, standards of scholarship, and scientific theory. How do you learn about the world, and how do you do research? What qualifies as a good theory? What constitutes a well-sourced paper or article? How do you avoid logical fallacies? How do you go beyond your own personal life-experiences to understand where other people and cultures are coming from? What do all religions seem to have in common, and why does religious thinking fail in a rigorous academic environment?

Ultimately, community college faculties may be more conservative or liberal in their politics depending on region. But they’re pretty consistent in teaching critical thought and insisting on academic standards.

It’s mainly in these senses that community college students are being indoctrinated to “hate Republicans.” It’s not explicit, and in some areas may even be counter to the political leanings of the campus. But a party can’t be completely hostile to all the values of the academy without becoming an enemy of the educated.

[Cross-posted at Progress Pond]

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.