One characteristic that distinguishes human beings from single-celled organisms is the ability to think critically. Critical thinking is the process of thinking that questions assumptions that lack factual information, and it is a way of deciding whether a claim is true or false, or sometimes true or partly true. Ideally, a country’s population that thinks critically sifts through mountains of propaganda and misinformation politicians emit during campaigns to decide, based on facts, which candidate will best serve the country and its populace. One indisputable way to build a population that thinks critically is through comprehensive education that gives the public the necessary tools to assess the veracity of campaign rhetoric, buzz-words, and catch-phrases that permeate candidates’ statements.
Republicans’ worst nightmare is an educated population because armed with facts and data, most intelligent Americans would avoid any GOP candidate like plague. In the past few weeks, Republican presidential hopefuls have provided ample evidence they are appealing to voters who lack critical thinking skills, and how terrified they are of an educated populace.
Last week at a Koch brothers’ Americans For Prosperity rally, Rick Santorum thrilled teabaggers by assailing President Obama’s plan to make college more accessible to all Americans. He said, “President Obama wants everybody in America to go to college, what a snob.” He explained why he thinks the President is snobbish in hoping all Americans can be competitive with countries that have a higher ratio of college-educated citizens. According to Santorum, “good and decent men and women who work hard every day 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.” The prescient point of Santorum’s statement is not President Obama’s plan to create a nation of intelligent people, but the oft-repeated meme that “liberal college professors” are dangerous communists, and that universities are basically socialism factories. Audience members agreed with Santorum and a common theme was “they try and disguise it with, you know, ‘equal opportunity,’ it’s communism the professors are all teaching the kids. Where does the social engineering stop?” Social engineering is conservative-speak for critical thinking Americans who will not fall for Republican fact-less rhetoric like Newt Gingrich used while campaigning in Georgia.
Gingrich told a group of supporters that “the forces of the secular left believe passionately and deeply in their world view, because their version of the truth is to have a totally neutral government that has no meaning.” Gingrich was referring to what he claimed was a “50-year assault by those trying to alienate people of faith,” and although there is no truth to his assertion, it plays well to ignorant Americans who have been fed a steady diet of anti-secular rhetoric and lack critical thinking skills to discriminate between truth and fiction. Republicans have been casting aspersion on the left since Ronald Reagan maligned liberals as Socialists on the 1961 vinyl recording demeaning what he called “socialized medicine.” The so-called socialized medicine Reagan opposed at the behest of the American Medical Association was Medicare that was created four years later and has been the only source of healthcare for millions of retired Americans since its inception. Republicans have not changed their liberal bashing strategy in fifty years, and they are only successful because they appeal to citizens who are ignorant of what Socialism means.
The problem inherent with ignorance is that without knowledge and information, people make choices based on fear and anger at a perceived threat. Santorum’s claim that a college education changes good conservatives into nasty liberals sounds frightening to Americans clinging to their perception of what liberal college professors teach their students, and perpetuates ignorance in the malleable segment of the population ripe for fear-mongering and nationalistic fervor. All three Republican candidates counted on ignorance and single-minded nationalism when they criticized President Obama for apologizing to Afghanistan over Quran burnings that resulted in four American soldier’s deaths. If their supporters stopped and considered their outrage if Muslims burned a stack of bibles, they may not have derided the President, but after hearing for three years that Obama is a Muslim Socialist dictator who hates America, they have little doubt the Republicans were right.
The real reason Republicans oppose Americans having access to a college education is knowledge and not social engineering, communist indoctrination, or liberal ideology. They are mortified at the prospect of a populace that understands what Socialism means because their criticism of the President’s alleged liberal socialist agenda would be exposed as lies. They are also afraid of voters who understand science is not the work of the devil and that the Founding Fathers did not intend America to be governed by theocracy. Americans who are able to think beyond Fox News’ propaganda and Republican lies may not be hardcore Liberal Democrats, but they certainly will not take the conservative’s word as gospel truth.
Republicans thrive when the population is ignorant because it is easy to convince them through fear-mongering and misinformation that Liberal ideology is Satanic, and that the left is destroying America. Santorum, Romney, and Gingrich’s biggest fear is a populace that figures out that all the great things like women and African American’s right to vote, Civil Rights, Social Security, Medicare, and environmental protections that conservatives opposed came from Liberals. Conservatives, by contrast, nearly destroyed the economy, waged unnecessary and unfunded wars, and give the wealthiest Americans, corporations, and the oil industry entitlements for no apparent reason with unwavering support from ignorant Americans.
Republicans want an uneducated population that lives in constant fear that all that stands between a liberal socialist plot to destroy America and freedom is the Republican Party. Americans who think for themselves, whether college educated or not, understand that President Obama’s plan to make college accessible to all Americans is because, unlike Republicans, he wants a better life for the American people and that irks Republicans. One thing is clear; if the President’s college accessibility plan creates more intelligent and compassionate Americans like him, this country would be far better off than it is today.