Santorum's pro-ignorance populism could doom America

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Does Republican Rick Santorum want the American people to be as ill-informed and buffoonish as he acts? To make sure we are, he's willing to sacrifice our education and future job prospects. All this is apparent from his condemnation of President Obama as an "elitist" on the grounds that the chief executive is trying to ensure that all Americans are able to get a basic community college education.

Santorum's own words: "President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob." One can only imagine the former Republican senator, had he been around a couple centuries ago: "Elitists with your fancy talk of public education! Not everyone needs to go to school for that uppity readin'!"

Santorum went on to suggest that President Obama seeks to control people's minds! "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."

Not everyone needs to go to college, says the ex-senator. True enough, if you mean that we as a nation do not need to be producing millions of PhDs in "Esoteric Cinema Through a Shakespearian Perspective." But can any thinking person really say honestly that it is not in the national interest for everyone to be given the opportunity for a basic education through the level of community college?

Let's do what Santorum doesn't want the American people to do, and take a look at what a standard community college has to offer. Kirkwood Community College is located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and has satellite centers in Iowa City and surrounding counties. Given that much of Iowa is rural agricultural territory, the college has gone to great lengths to bring education to people even on the remotest farms by setting up fiber optic telecenters in very small towns.

Ever heard of Monticello, Iowa? Kirkwood has, and has decided that the people there actually deserve an education. For those even further away, or who have inflexible work schedules, the school helped pioneer distance education as far back as the 1990s. I know this because I received my Associates Degree from Kirkwood.

One would be hard pressed to come up with a justification for saying that KCC's administrators were "elitist socialists" for trying to bring the opportunities and joys of higher education to people who would otherwise not have been able to attain it. But what is Kirkwood actually teaching them? A mishmash of America-hate and Marxism-Leninism, as Santorum seems to think? Let's take a look.

Perhaps the most subversive program the school offers is its Liberal Arts degree program. The requirements for this include several classes in the English language, both written and spoken. While it's conceivable that someone could use their newfound oratory skills to agitate for the 99%, it is more likely that they will first employ the skills in the workplace.

Then there are courses in math, hard sciences, history, humanities, and social sciences. And just to assure Senator Rick, I didn't learn Leninism in the social sciences classes! I did, however, learn about Latin American culture, which would even be helpful to students who go on to business school if they hope to work with Latin American companies.

But aside from arts and sciences, what else does the typical community college offer? Looking through the catalog shows that these schools are modern-day, highly sophisticated trade schools. Students attend and pick up skills to use in the workplace. The school in question offers certificates: apparel merchandising, automobile repair, biotechnology, carpentry, construction management, culinary arts, dental assistance, entry-level firefighting, HVAC installation, pharmacy, plumbing, agriculture business (it is Iowa, after all), nursing, restaurant management, and much more.

Here in Florida, Miami Dade College considers the acquisition of this level of education so important that it gives two years of it for free to local high school graduates.

These schools drive the creation of the new American workforce. In previous decades, lack of a degree might have been fine. Neither of this writer's parents even graduated from high school, and both built successful careers for themselves. While some might be able to do the same today with the same educational background, it is far less likely. As manufacturing has moved overseas, and the industry that has stayed is far more dependent on highly skilled labor, American workers need more advanced training. The newer industries that can move America forward in the 21st century will require even more technically skilled labor.

Without community colleges and their career training programs, the American workforce will never be able to compete. As the president pointed out in his state of the union address, there are a lot of job openings in technical areas, but there are not enough workers trained to do them.

The ex-senator can froth all he wants, but no amount of populist platitudes can change the fact that there is nothing valiant in glorifying ignorance. If this tendency gains hold, say, through the election of a GOP anti-intellectual as president, we won't have to worry about "elitism" at all: We would be too busy foraging for food in the remnants of a collapsed American economy.

Photo: Lower Columbia Community College welding technology students constructing a constructing hog pens for a county fair. Lower Columbia Community College // CC 2.0

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  • I guess Santorum wants to keep people dumb and voting Republican.

    For the life of me I can't see why any one who is capapble of an independent thought can vote for the Republican fundamentalists.

    Posted by Ronald Humphrey, 03/02/2012 6:07am (3 years ago)

  • UNITED STATES NEED MORE JUSTICE.

    UNITED STATES NEED RADICAL CHANGE.

    NO MORE SEGREGATIONS IN THE UNITED STATES.

    ALEXIS MAESTRE SABORIT.

    Posted by ALEXIS MAESTRE SABORIT, 03/01/2012 2:04pm (3 years ago)

  • I pretty much agree with this article: Santorum is a buffoon. Perhaps though I would like to add something that gets lost in debates concerning education: anyone working a full-time job in this country should make a living wage. Workers at places such as McDonald's and Wal-Mart are generating plenty of wealth, they just do not get to see any of it. One should not have to graduate from any school to get by. School is not for everybody, although we are going to have to do better to educate those who can go to school.

    Posted by Jeremy, 03/01/2012 11:08am (3 years ago)

  • But then there's Mitt Romney, who is already apparently hedging hgis bets for this election: http://cuttingreports.wordpress.com/2012/03/01/romneys-secret-restaurant-chain/

    Posted by Danny, 02/29/2012 11:05pm (3 years ago)

  • We could used some "skilled" labor in this country, we don't build anything but debt anymore. Student loan debt is over a trillion on our deficit alone and where are most of these grads doing something other than what we went to college for. Not everyone needs to go, there are other ways to make a good living, lots. Has the cost of education gone down or at least stayed the same? Why not it is people helping teach people, how much does it really have to be? Ahh, don't worry just sign this contract and school start Monday @ 8

    Posted by Pierre, 02/28/2012 10:31pm (3 years ago)

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