Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Is Ms. Wall Really a Snob?

I helped out at Amphi Middle School last week.  An assistant principal wanted me to record a piece of the school's application to become a No Excuses University, a school consortium based on the tenet that every child has the right to be prepared to attend college.  I talked about GRIN's involvement in Colleges in Classrooms and the public /private partnership which brought pilates to the AMS dance room twice a week and the connection we made with the math department at Cornell, my alma mater.  The administration believes, as Damien Lopez, NEU's founder, puts it, that it is the responsibility of adults in the school to develop exceptional systems that make that dream a reality.

I am honored to shoulder some of that responsibility.  It never occurred to me not to be.... that is, until I heard Rick Santorum tell me that my efforts, my basic beliefs, my core values are mere snobbery.
I just don't get it at all, and maybe that's the point.  Maybe I'm not supposed to get it because he's not talking to me.  Sure, the audience is filled with 60-something white Americans who can afford to have their clothes dry cleaned; I could be said to fall into that demographic.  But I have never heard anyone, in my whole entire life, denigrate the value of education. .... up until this morning, that is.

Then, again, I'm not sure Mr. Santorum has heard of it either.  The Wayback Machine took me to ricksantorum.com from October 5, 2006 where we find that he is equally committed to ensuring the (sic) every Pennsylvanian has access to higher education. Rick Santorum has supported legislative solutions that provide loans, grants, and tax incentives to make higher education more accessible and affordable.

I'm confused.  Rick Santorum keeps telling me (we have a primary this week, remember) that Mitt Romney is all over every side of every issue.  Can it be (gasp) that he is, too?

But let us continue to parse this clip from an address to a Tea Party affiliate in Michigan.  Liberal college professors?  Is Spiro Agnew waiting in the wings?  True, Candidate Santorum's speech writers don't have the skills of Peggy Noonan or William Safire (conservatives I can read with pleasure), but liberal college professors?  Oral Roberts and Brigham Young have eponymous universities and I hardly think that they are bastions of liberal orthodoxy.

This is my favorite part, along about 42 seconds into the clip.  " I understand why he wants you to go to college. He wants to remake you in his image."  The camera can't decide whether to focus on his smirk or the booing faces in the crowd. I'm going to ignore the overt obvious frightening racist overtones others might ascribe; I don't know the man and I'm reluctant to call him out without significant proof. 

I am more interested in his point.  Remaking that room full of AARP members into Ivy League educated professors of law?  How many of the children or grandchildren of those mindlessly clapping voters would refuse the opportunity to attend Columbia and Harvard and teach at the University of Chicago's Law School (a law school which boasts Antonin Scalia as a former faculty member, by the way)?  Not many, I'd guess.

But Rick Santorum wants to "create jobs so that people can recreate their children into their images, not his." For the first time that I can recollect, a presidential candidate is not offering my children's children a better future.  He's offering a step backwards, to jobs which require no education, and he's assuming that his audience is okay with that. 

Can it be possible that that is true?  Are we really going back to a time where the value of education is ignored?  Is Kathleen Parker correct?  Is Rick Santorum a good man living in the wrong century?

I don't know what to make of it all, this attack on higher education.  I do know that a future which includes college is an idea being embraced by the faculty and students and parents at Amphi Middle School in Tucson, Arizona.  These working class, immigrant, overwhelmed parents want nothing more than for their children to be presented with a sense of the possibilites which await them. 

I don't think it's a line job in an assembly plant which fuels their enthusiasm, Mr. Santorum.  I think it's college.  And I don't think that Ms. Wall is a snob, either.  I think she wants what's best for her students.... whether they grow up to be liberals or Tea Party conservatives.


  1. Amen to that! This man's ideas are so regressive that it frightens me.

  2. I was just amazed when I heard him say this. Education is everyone's ticket to a better life. I will be quite honest and say I loved school and I still do. The excitement of learning has never faded.

    Here's my theory... I truly believe the white, male part of the Republican party do not want people educated because if they were, they would know what a bunch of BSing liars they all are. If people are stupid and uneducated, they will not question them.

    I will ALWAYS fight for education and teachers are our greatest asset. We need to treat them like gold and make sure they are compensated and rewarded for molding our children into the adults they will become.

    Thanks for this post. It truly angers me when politicians attack education like it's elitism. Everyone deserves to have the best education they can possibly get.

    Megan xxx

  3. I guess I missed the memo that America changed its motto from the land of opportunity to the land of the uninspired. I thought this was a place you came if you wanted to make something better of yourself, where each generation builds on the foundation laid by its predecessors, not one where you pass down mediocrity from father to son.

  4. Santorum is like a buffoonish "Saturday Night Live" character, except that he is real and so many fools are voting for him. And that is scary. If being in favor of more education rather than less is snobby, count me in. Of course, I am one of those snobby academics Santorum is talking about.


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