I love the poorly educated

Donald Trump claimed to love the poorly educated but he lied. I really do love them. Some of them. Just like I love some of everybody else.

There appears to be a widespread assumption in modern America that it is a bad thing to be poorly educated.  That poorly educated people should just become like everybody else and get well educated.  Poorly educated is, in this construct, typically poorly defined, but I don’t think it is usually meant kindly.

There are many of us out here who did not go to college.  There are as many reasons why as there are individual people.

Some of us spent much of our lives getting a formal, technical education that couldn’t be had in college, because we were happier traveling around installing or fixing stuff than we could be doing anything else for a living, and because somebody has to, because stuff breaks and wears out.  So “poorly educated” when used to refer to us is both false and insulting.  We know different things than they teach in college, but it took as many years, as many hours, and as much study.  We have taken a pretty serious beating in the evolution of the world economy since, say, 1970.  Not as bad as some people, though.

Others of us didn’t have the sort of intelligence it takes to go to college.  Nor could we become a tech / craftsman / repairman.  Speaking of (and I hate to, I apologize, in a way) Political Correctness – we all seem to operate under this pretense that all Americans of working age have exactly equal intelligence.  It is seriously not politically correct to speak otherwise.  We must not acknowledge the existence of not-so-smart people.  Every term that means “person of lesser intelligence” sooner or later becomes an insult.  Idiot, moron, retarded… I hate to be this way, but some people are not as smart as other people.  It is seriously not their fault.

And even worse, there is not a bright, sharp line: it is not, retarded people on one side, people qualified to go to college on the other.  It simply does not work that way. There is an unbroken slope from the most smart person alive to the least smart. All of us are on that slope somewhere.

Are you a dog person?  If you are, you know that no two dogs are the same.  Not even litter mates.  Same for people.  An economy which can only employ “the educated” is a failed economy.

Even Bernie Sanders, bless his heart, has fallen for this fiction.  Speaking about coal miners who will surely be put out of work if we do anything real about global warming, he went straight to the “we’ll educate them” line.  Come on, Bernie.  These are people tough enough to spend their lives under the ground cutting rocks with their bodies.  Oh, yeah, they’ve got tools, but to operate those tools they need strength, stamina, and just a sort of undefinable toughness that isn’t in everybody.  They are good people.  They are very much the people who built America.  And they are not. going. to. college.  They can’t.  That’s not who they are, that’s not what they are.   Coal miners are not people who forgot to go to college, or at least not many of them.

It is almost impossible to talk about relative intelligence without insulting somebody, which is a pity.  Start out with this thought: we are all human.  We are all human, and we all have (as we now know) our own specific genome.  You can tell any two people apart by their DNA.  And everything that we are is coded in that DNA.  It is not bad, it is not unfortunate, it is not a fault, to be born with DNA that limits your ability to think in some way.  How could it be?  Every human being’s ability to think is limited.  Not even Stephen Hawking can think infinitely.  We are all limited.  And no two of us reach our limit at exactly the same place.  Nor do any two of us have the same abilities.  I can do things you can’t do, I can have thoughts you can’t have.  But I can’t have the thoughts you can have, because only you can have them.  No matter who you are, it is virtually certain that you can do something that I can’t do.

The common fiction that everything will be fine just as soon as all “those people” get “educated” is brutal and shameful.  It is cruel and dishonest.  It was thought up by educated people, and it is stupid beyond words.

It is only possible to keep hiding behind this fiction because everybody is ashamed to say, “Yeah, but what about the stupid people?”  Stupid is an insult.  A pejorative term.  There is quite simply no polite way to refer to the existence of people who aren’t smart in a way that will enable them to soak up book learning.  Maybe they can’t soak up much learning at all.  Maybe they are just barely able to learn to pick up a bag over here, and put it down over there, all day long, over and over.  In my lifetime, in my memory, we had paying, productive work for that person to do.  Literally.  I have known some of them.  Lots of them.   They are, by and large, good people.  They have every bit as much right to a decent life as any other person.  Casually discarding them cannot be justified in any way.   Treating them with contempt because they are “uneducated” is bigotry just as sure as is saying somebody is worthless because of the color of his or her skin.  It’s all in the DNA, y’all.  We’re all people.

We are people. The ones around here are American people. Each of us, at all levels of capability, has an equally legitimate claim for a decent life and for a government that represents his or her needs equally to the needs of anyone else.

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2 thoughts on “I love the poorly educated”

  1. Hi Jeff. Saw your tweets this morning, had the time to read your essay. It triggered a lot; I am not a happy person in this new millennium, these were not the changes I’d hoped to see by now. I have known some brilliant people, almost all of them self-destructive: intelligence is a double edged sword. In any case, thank you for the essay.

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