I knew education was under attack, but I didn't realize how long it's been suffering. This morning a friend forwarded me a political cartoon from a 1934 issue of the Chicago Tribune. Among other things, it shows a horse-drawn wagon in which some men in overalls are shoveling out bags of money. The lower left corner shows a little man writing: "Plan of Action for U.S. Spend! Spend! Spend! Under the guise of recovery -- bust the government -- blame the capitalists for the failure -- junk the Constitution and declare a dictatorship." The whole thing rang familiar.
But the bothersome part of the cartoon is the men in caps and gowns, one of whom, wearing a sign marking him as Tugwell, Head of the Brain Trust, is whipping the weary and battered horse. A sign on the side of the wagon reads: "Young Pinkies from Columbia and Harvard." You know, even if big, Ivy-League colleges and universities do teach anti-American, communist ideology, no one has to buy it. Education isn't brainwashing. On the contrary, education at its best teaches one to think and reason. Education can, if allowed, broaden one's mind.
A lot of people fear that, the mind-broadening. They fear, I suppose, they'll lose all their values. Those wonderful, churchgoing, flag-waving values that keep so many of us rooted in certainty. As far back as Dickens's time, he warned against ignorance. The two children under the robes of the Spirit of Christmas Present were Ignorance and Want. Of the two, Ignorance was the most to be feared.
What has driven us to fear the opposite, to fear Learning? I have three college degrees, and I still go to church, pray, honor the flag, etc. I think education has helped me to be better at those things. I feel like I have a better grasp of Who I'm praying to, what I'm following. When we blindly follow any ideology, we are too easily led astray by unscrupulous shepherds. It's what you do your education that determines whether you're an asset or a liability to yourself, your family, community, and nation. People without an education can misuse their talents as easily as those with. Not all Harvard grads are evil, liberal, pinko -- whatever bad term you want to apply. And not all so-called good country people are saints.
Randy Travis put out a song several years ago lauding the virtues of people who buy their coffee beans already ground and don't pay their bills on the Internet. The song made me laugh. Was he turning his nose up at my parents and grandparents, who parched and ground their own coffee in the good old days? That's the way coffee was sold once upon a time. Getting it ground was the luxury. And if folks pay their bills online, well, they're paying their bills, right? Anything wrong with that?
I'm with Dickens. Watch out for the educated scoundrel, by all means, but fear Ignorance more. Almost all the world's ills arise from it. Let's not put down education. For the lack of it nations have fallen, for the lack of it our prisons are full. It isn't a panacea, but it's one of the best weapons we've got.