Around the time of the American revolution, there were three competing theories of medical care. The first was conventional medicine, led, for the most part, by Dr. Benjamin Rush of the University of Pennsylvania.
In his favor, Dr. Rush was a signer of the Declaration of Independence but as a teacher he was a strong advocate of bloodletting and calomel therapy. Calomel is mercury chloride; very toxic. In Revolutionary times, MDs were a serious public health hazard, but it took an Ivy League education to become that dangerous.
It took a long time before conventional medicine caught up. The first use of an atomic bomb was in 1945, the first use of penicillin in a human was a year later. Theres been a lot of progress since then, and unlike the past, modern medicine is incredibly complex and the study of medicine requires good students and a first-rate education. Clarence Darrow was a law school drop-out but at the time it didnt matter. There are loads of examples of greats and notables who never had or never completed a formal education Bill Gates and Steve Jobs being perhaps the best known of the moderns.
Still, none of this justifies the current round of anti-intellectualism and anti-elitism thats coming from the Republican presidential contenders. Rick Santorum has falsely accused President Obama of trying to send everyone to college to get indoctrinated in liberalism. Mitt Romney has simplified everything by saying that if you cant afford college, dont ask for assistance, go to a cheaper college.
Mr. Santorum seems to have accumulated three degrees without being indoctrinated, at least not with liberalism. Mr. Romney in turn doesnt understand that the affordable schools are those that had direct state support in order to make them affordable, and most began by teaching unquestionably useful occupations like agriculture, engineering and teaching. As other fields became more complex and required more knowledge, colleges began teaching them as well. Time was, all that was required to be a dentist was a pair of pliers and a strong arm.
The most popular college major is business and both Mr. Santorum and Mr. Romney hold MBA degrees. This is the only popular degree aimed at making the recipient part of the 1%.
Every other popular college major is aimed at a middle-class occupation, including some fairly low-paying work, such as teaching and library science. College doesnt represent elitism just a choice of occupation that calls for more formal training than some others and a load of student debt to go with it.
The lifetime income of a college graduate is much higher than that of someone whose education stopped after high school, but is commonly no higher than someone in the skilled trades.
The future, as a matter of personal income and national advancement, calls for more education, but the Republican leaders want us to cut back on colleges and stop learning.
Why not it worked for them.
Sam Uretsky lives on Long Island, NY. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
From The Progressive Populist, April 15, 2012
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