I don’t know why I let these things bother me. There are so, so many things to be bothered by in the world, why choose today’s? Perhaps because higher education is the era the Nall/Derringer Co-Prosperity Sphere is in. Perhaps because my former employer did a lot of reporting around it, for very good reasons. And maybe because ignorant goobers get on my nerves, and it’s hard to find one more ignorant than this guy:
“Why does a kid go to a major university these days?” said Frank Antenori, 51, a former Green Beret who served in the Arizona state legislature. “A lot of Republicans would say they go there to get brainwashed and learn how to become activists and basically go out in the world and cause trouble.”
Antenori is part of an increasingly vocal campaign to transform higher education in America. Though U.S. universities are envied around the world, he and other conservatives want to reduce the flow of government cash to what they see as elitist, politically correct institutions that often fail to provide practical skills for the job market.
This is a long WashPost piece, part of their occasional series about the cultural divides in American life. Higher ed is emerging as one of them, and how’s that for depressing news? As the world’s economy moves into another era, as some form of post-secondary education becomes essential to gaining a foothold in the middle class, of course these folks start a war on it.
Or rather, not a war on all higher ed; note the sneer is directed at “a major university,” not, for instance, Grand Canyon University, a “for-profit Christian school in Phoenix” where Antenori earned an MBA. That’s the good kind of higher ed, whereas major universities exist only to teach nice American kids to hate their country and decide they’re really transgender and want to be called by a new set of pronouns.
Virtually every assertion about the value of a college education made by Antenori is false, but I think I know now what really needled me about this piece, and it’s that once again, the casual racism that is at the heart of American life is displayed but not called by its name:
Antenori views former president Barack Obama, a Harvard-educated lawyer who taught at the University of Chicago Law School, as the embodiment of the liberal establishment. Antenori said liberal elites with fancy degrees who have been running Washington for so long have forgotten those who think differently.
“If you don’t do everything that their definition of society is, you’re somehow a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal cave man,” Antenori said.
Antenori was drawn to Trump, he said, because he was the “reverse of Obama,” an “anti-politically correct guy” whose attitude toward the status quo is “change it, fix it, get rid of it, crush it, slash it.”
Even though Trump boasts of his Ivy League degree from the University of Pennsylvania, Antenori said he “had a different air about him.” Unlike Obama, Trump has not emphasized the importance of Americans going to college.
Hmm, what else makes those men different? Also, note this:
Antenori said many young people would be better off attending more affordable two-year community colleges that teach useful skills and turn out firefighters, electricians and others. Obama promoted that same idea, launching new efforts to boost community college and workplace training. But Antenori said he believes Obama pushed young people too hard toward four-year degrees.
It’s the Johnstown story all over again: I like Trump because he doesn’t do X, like Obama did. But Obama didn’t do that, and Trump does, and here are the facts that prove it. Oh. Well, I still like Trump better, because Obama? Such a snob. And so the New York City libertine, raised in wealth and buoyed throughout his life by inherited wealth, is accepted as the self-made man, while the middle-class boy from the broken home, who struggled and rose on the merits of his intellect, taking on significant student loans along the way, is an elitist, because he speaks in complete sentences. But these people, they don’t have a racist bone in their bodies, right?
These things are facts and will remain facts: A college education, as expensive as it is, is still the e-ticket to prosperity for anyone who gets one. College isn’t, never was, and shouldn’t ever be a trade school. (Antenori believes state support of higher ed should be limited to “degrees, such as those in engineering, medicine or law, that lead directly to jobs,” because of course he does, and I guess he knows no out-of-work lawyers.) It’s a place where a person should learn to think, to analyze, to problem-solve and, in a best-case scenario, to expand their horizons. This may include meeting transgender people who want to be called ze or they, and then doing so. This is not a bad thing. It prepares you for life.
And now I’m done with that guy. Although I’ll say one more thing: The people who claim college students are goofing off with puffball classes on diversity and veganism and gender studies have no idea what they’re talking about. I generally leave Kate out of this blog, but I’ll use her as a case in point. She’s studying sound engineering, in a fine-arts sequence, and at an elite university, which should make her one of these softies that toughies like Antenori are sneering at. And she works harder in school than I or her father ever did. She takes math and science classes, computer coding, taught herself 3-D printing design and a million other things I doubt Frank Antenori, Grand Canyon University alum (Go Antelopes!), could do with one of his beloved guns pointed at his head. And yes, that includes jazz improv, but the hell with you, Frank, she earned her scholarship fair and square. Yes, she has a friend who claims non-binary gender status. Who cares? It’s a big school. There’s room for everyone.
And one more thing: I’ll believe they’re serious in this jihad when they start sending their kids to the many conservative higher-ed options out there. (Other than Antenori, that is, whose own sons are in the Army and “helping at home” on the family ranch.) Hillsdale is open for business, as is Brigham Young, Baylor and many more, but the Trump-level scions of that world are still enrolled at Dartmouth, Princeton, et al. But they’re not elitists, because they have a different air about them.
I see a few of you were discussing affordable housing in the previous thread. I’m reminded of a story I did for Bridge a while back — the link is dead, alas — about how Aspen and Jackson Hole solve their housing-affordability problem, a solution right out of the progressive playbook: They subsidize it. Heavily. More so in Aspen, but in both cities, if you want to live in town and aren’t a Silicon Valley zillionaire, you get subsidized housing. The funding mechanism is a tax on real-estate transactions, and when I talked to people there, they said it’s overwhelmingly popular, because without it, the town wouldn’t have a single teacher, bartender or even many doctors who didn’t have to live 40 miles away.
What else? Not much. Thanks for all the birthday greetings, which were very kind. We stayed in. Alan made spaghetti and meatballs. I got a nice cashmere sweater. And now I am 60. How the hell did that happen?