We saw in the latest CNN Republican candidate debate the results of what seems to be a prolonged campaign to discount almost all scientific facts, as well as intelligent discussion of the most important issues of the day.
Especially scary was Donald Trump saying if we build up our military enough, we won’t have to negotiate with anybody. Or Marco Rubio, a seemingly moderate Republican, endorsing a 1,900 mile fence along our entire border with Mexico (or double fence, says Dr. Ben Carson) over mountains and rivers, or Carli Fiorina saying that Planned Parenthood was aborting live babies to harvest their organs.
Global warming is one of the most important issues today, since there is almost unanimous agreement among scientists that it is manmade and rising alarmingly. Hence the record heat waves, cold spells and catastrophic storms the world has been experiencing recently. Yet thanks to the funding of multibillionaires like the Koch Brothers, none of the Republican Presidential candidates said they believe global warming is manmade, or even real.
What is the reason Republicans have become the party of anti-intellectuals—some even want to abolish the Department of Education, and otherwise defund public education? Journalist Chris Hedges said in a PBS interview President Clinton in coopting moderate Republican positions, such as deregulation of the financial industry, putting 100,000 more cops on the street, and ‘reforming’ welfare, had driven the Republican Party to “insanity”.
But the anti-intellectual, anti-science bias goes much further and deeper. It is in fact an almost totally American phenomenon that Republicans have taken advantage of, in an attempt to dumb down the electorate to levels that would even deny evolution. Why would anyone not want to support public education, when it educates more than 80 percent of our students? The result is that higher education is also falling behind.
According to the National Research Council, only 28 percent of high school science teachers consistently follow the National Research Council guidelines on teaching evolution, and 13 percent of those teachers explicitly advocate creationism or "intelligent design," said Psychology Today in a very damning 2014 article entitled, Anti-Intellectualism and the Dumbing Down of America:
“After leading the world for decades in 25-34 year olds with university degrees, the U.S. is now in 12th place,” said
Psychology Today. “The World Economic Forum ranked the U.S. at 52nd among 139 nations in the quality of its university math and science instruction in 2010. Nearly 50 percent of all graduate students in the sciences in the U.S. are foreigners, most of whom are returning to their home countries”
Republican candidates were echoing the Republican platform that advocated the deportation of all illegal aliens, would abolish or cripple whole government agencies (including the Environmental Protection Agency), shut down the federal government over Planned Parenthood funding, and maintain that a fertilized egg is a viable human being that can’t be aborted.
Pundits give other reasons for such a dumbing down of a segment of the electorate—such as social media and television replacing literacy, or education that no longer teaches math and science or even history. Maybe that has enabled the Donald Trumps of the world to shout louder. The danger is that it may drown out any intelligent discourse about the most important issues of our day. It’s driving at least one of our political parties into insanely ridiculous positions, at the moment.
Harlan Green © 2015
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