Thursday, May 10, 2018

Education and Partisanship

Interesting graphic from Thomas Edsall in the Times:

More education = more polarization. What is one to make of that?


David said...

I would say education tends to train students to examine positions, figure them out, argue about them, refine them, and, above all, then take stands on them as stands on principle. Likewise our education system tends to valorize stands taken on principle, the purer and more internally consistent the better, while positions taken on interest (and which are therefore negotiable) are lesser.

David said...

To put my suggestion another way, it may be that the more one thinks about an issue, the less it becomes susceptible to compromise.

Consider something like OSHA. An obvious compromise would be to give this agency jurisdiction over some industries and not others; or to have it simply decide half of its cases in favor of labor safety, and half in favor of management efficiency and cost-cutting; or to decide every case so that workers get a little more safety, but not too much. But the more one thinks about it, compromises like these betray both the principles of worker protection and business freedom. And the more one thinks about it, the more a person opposed to OSHA is liable to develop a doctrinaire libertarianism, while the more a person in favor it will develop a doctrine of limitless government economic regulation. And how, for example, can a serious libertarian compromise on allowing the existence of OSHA at all?

Yet education encourages us to do things like develop identities based on our beliefs, like "I'm a libertarian" or "I'm a socialist." It encourages us to think of positions like "some regulation, but not too much" as second-rate.

John said...

Right. Which is why the highly educated gravitate toward extreme positions. I have spent much of my life arguing with libertarians; if I had lived in the 1920s I would have spent that time arguing with communists.

John said...

This makes me wonder: is there some kind of education, or level of education, that would get people past ideology? That would teach them how to spot the seams in ideological arguments, that would expose them to the real complexity of the world? Or is it just that you take the education you have and use it to explain the world in the terms your deep, inner psyche understands? So I am not skeptical of ideology because I have some higher knowledge of the world, but because I was born a skeptic?