Schools out: David Brooks laments Tea Party anti-intellectualism

New York Times conservative columnist David Brooks notes a trend in politics over the last year: The voting public is moving not just to the right but in all areas it is moving away from the ideas humans gain from book learning. The passionate tea party movement, Brooks says, has grown in direct relation to dipping public opinion of the educated class. In other words, the movement attracts less for espousing any particular left or right program than for espousing an anti-intellectualism. What have we done? Has the decline of the school system created the tea party?



Every single idea associated with the educated class has grown more unpopular over the past year.

The educated class believes in global warming, so public skepticism about global warming is on the rise. The educated class supports abortion rights, so public opinion is shifting against them. The educated class supports gun control, so opposition to gun control is mounting.

The story is the same in foreign affairs. The educated class is internationalist, so isolationist sentiment is now at an all-time high, according to a Pew Research Center survey. The educated class believes in multilateral action, so the number of Americans who believe we should “go our own way” has risen sharply.

In 2008, when now-tea party icon and then-vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin was punked by a Canadian radio DJ who was ridiculously pretending to be French President Nicolas Sarkozy, half the country’s voters were mortified by Palin’s provincial ignorance. She went on with the DJ for six minutes, utterly un-clued into his half-baked references, to the fact that he was playing on her lack of sophistication in a clownish French accent.

The other half of American voters, however, celebrated the cluelessness. “She’s a real person.” “She’s just like me.” “How should she know what the prankster was talking about?”

President Obama as a young man had traveled abroad, part of the long history in the west of rounding out an education, the point being to gain perspective and put your homegrown biases to the test. He had lived in Muslim countries. How great, thought his supporters, especially given that we are battling Muslim terrorists and would benefit by raising impressions of the U.S. in predominately Muslim parts of the world.

The other half looked on his travels and life abroad with suspicion. Tea Party discussions of the President continue to feature suspicions that he is secretly Muslim, as if being Muslim in itself is anti-American or unpatriotic.

As much as ever, the biggest political battleground is the schools!

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