An article on Buzzflash by Dr. Teresa Whitehurst titled Be Careful Not to Get Too Much Education relates a conversation she overheard between two college students on the dangers of becoming too educated:
“The only trouble with Lipscomb [a conservative Christian college nearby] is that old man Lipscomb made a rule that the college couldn’t have a football team, so that’s a bummer. But it’s a great school, and you’re gonna love it.
“Now you do have to be careful about one thing,” he said more quietly, coming closer and speaking in hushed tones., “My professor told me that you have to be careful not to get too much education, because you could lose your foundation, your core values.”
The neophyte nodded solemnly, his eyebrows raised with worry.
“If you get a bachelor’s degree,” the seasoned student reassured, “you’ll probably be okay. But my professor said that when you get a master’s, and definitely if you go beyond that, you can lose your values. He said that college students have to be watchful because if you get too much education, you could turn—LIBERAL. He’s seen it happen to a lot of good Christians.”
The young men paused for a moment, shaking their heads at the dangers that lie ahead.
The article goes on to discuss the growing pressure from conservatives to “balance” college courses with politically correct and religiously correct rightwing views—factual or not—that has ratcheted up a notch since the elections. Of course it’s not just the colleges that are coming under fire as public school boards around the country are considering conservative proposals to teach Intelligent Design alongside of Evolution, or at least plaster science text books with stickers saying Evolution is “just a theory.” Which is kinda like saying that the Grand Canyon is just a hole in the ground.
The thing that caught my attention about this article, though, is that it dovetails nicely into a question I’ve long harbored myself: How can anyone with a halfway decent education not eventually develop a liberal viewpoint? Surveys over the years seem to bear out the idea that the more educated you are the more likely you are to be a liberal. Obviously this isn’t true in every situation—I’m a liberal and I don’t even have a bachelor’s degree and there are plenty of highly educated conservatives out there such as my old friend Daryl who comments here occasionally—but there does seem to be a generalized correlation between education level and tendency to hold liberal views and both sides recognize this fact. You can often hear it in the rhetoric used by both sides. Liberals often attack conservatives for being stupid while conservatives will attack liberals as “elitist academics.” Amusingly enough, some conservatives will happily portray themselves as not being all that educated even when they are because they think it makes them seem more like “normal folk”—Bush’s comment to a Yale graduating class about how “even a C student can become President” comes to mind—and sometimes that approach seems to work pretty well for them.
I’ve always assumed that the reasons behind conservatives generally not being as highly educated were largely ones of ambition, ability, or priorities, but it never occurred to me that it might be a conscious decision born out of fear of becoming a liberal. In retrospect I suppose it shouldn’t be too surprising as the most conservative folks also tend to be the most religious. Christianity is the dominate religion here and one of the messages repeated throughout the Bible is that knowledge is a “bad thing,” questioning will only get you in trouble, and faith should take precedence over thinking too much. This is exemplified best in the Adam and Eve myth where the gaining of knowledge—in that case of good and evil—results in the fall from grace and expulsion from paradise. The message is clear: Knowing too much is dangerous!
I guess the fears expressed by the college students isn’t an unreasonable one if the surveys are correct. Perhaps knowing too much will make you into a latte-sipping, Volvo driving, sushi eating, liberal. This realization puts a lot of past conversations I’ve had with conservatives into an entirely new light and explains a lot of stuff about them I just couldn’t fathom before. Given the sinking feeling this generates I can understand why some of them prefer ignorance.