Related: Education, In the Media, Living, Politics

Moratorium on Willful Ignorance


Why does the most well-educated nation in history put up with so much willful ignorance from our elected leaders and presidential wannabes?  How can they claim to care deeply about improving education when their rhetoric insults the very idea of learning and truth?

I’m not just talkin’ ’bout the fractured syntax that is a patronizing act by some politicians to appeal to “real” people, as opposed to those of us who know all about gerunds and subjunctive mood.  Politicians love to dismiss well-educated people as “the eastern elite” when it suits their purposes, even if some of those people were educated at Stanford or UCLA.  Dropping your final “g’s” may be just neighborly depending on your location, but denouncing science and revising history to suit political ends is a shameful affront to this nation’s educational goals and intellectual values.

The still-young presidential campaign has already suffered through one candidate adamantly maintaining that the slave-owning Founding Fathers were actually ardent abolitionists, while another candidate says that global climate change is an unproven theory perpetrated by scientists as a fraud to collect grant money.  Oh, and by the way, the scientists have also perpetrated this darn theory called “evolution” which has a lot of gaps in it.

Sigh.  My dismay here is not a political statement, but an academic cringe — how can schools, colleges and universities insist that students learn well and effectively when our public leaders make hash of learning?  When the whole idea of scientific fact is derided and dismissed as some wacko theory or self-serving invention?

What’s self-serving, if not wacko, is the ability of politicians to get massive air time for their ignorant statements which then creates a massive clean-up effort for teachers and schools

Academics, unite!  We must come together to call out the assault on learning that takes the podium in the guise of populism and demagoguery.  We must confront the willful ignorance of politicians every time they distort the facts, reinvent history, trash science.

Speaking in a learned, accurate, truthful way is neither Democrat nor Republican, liberal or conservative.  This is a nonpartisan issue.  Political leaders of all stripes abuse their power when they twist learning to suit their goals.  We must insist that politicians use their considerable public power to be great models of intelligence, higher learning and effective intellectual discourse.  Some of them clearly need to go back to school to learn these basic skills for executives in the 21st Century.

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Patricia A. McGuire, President, Trinity, 125 Michigan Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20017
Phone: 202.884.9050   Email: