Friday, February 20, 2015

Revenge of the Orthogonians, Part I

The Next Generation

Public education now finds itself under a withering attack from the Right at all levels, with Scott Walker emerging as the "poster boy" of this latest round of anti-intellectualism.  Not surprising, since while enrolled at Marquette University, he seemed mostly interested in student government.  Classes were apparently a bit of a bore.

Friends hailed the way he would go out of his way to help them, including one woman who said Walker drove her to the hospital on four occasions to deal with minor injuries.  However, his political rivals in the student council compared him to Niedermeyer from Animal House.  He barely got past French, found political science boring, and dropped out of college after suffering a humiliating defeat for student body president.  

He apparently intended to return to college and finish his degree, but his political ambitions soon got the better of him, as he quickly ascended the ranks in the Wisconsin state legislature.  Like Richard Nixon, it seems the "abuse" he suffered in college for being a square was the motivation he needed to launch his political career.

Naturally, Democrats are attacking Walker's lack of a college diploma, but they would be well advised to drop it, as Harry Truman also didn't have a college degree and he secured a second term as President, which many thought he had no chance of winning.  Everyone loves the underdog, and now Walker finds himself cast in that role, finding an ample number of persons to defend him, including Donald Trump, who used the incident to attack Obama.

Walker himself fired off a "zinger" at Obama, claiming the President has done a "lousy job" despite degrees from Columbia and Harvard.  Shades of his run for Marquette student body president again, in which he repeatedly smeared his opponents, including slogans sprayed on snow banks in water and food color.

Sadly, Scott Walker can get away with his attack against academia, which includes another round of budget cuts aimed at the University of Wisconsin, to justify all the tax cuts he has given the state since assuming the top job in 2009.  Public schools in general have come under attack, with many conservatives questioning their role in American public life.   Oklahoma legislatures are actually mulling over a bill that would ban AP History in the state, after the ridiculous bruhaha they generated last year over the advanced placement curriculum that was being "imposed" by national officials.  Apparently, history like science is all relative.

We've already seen the battle over evolution being taught in public schools.  Walker was asked point blank at a London trade event if he believed in evolution, and his answer was, "I think God created the Earth.  I think science and faith aren't incompatible."  No doubt, making sure not to anger the Tea Party, which has made him its latest religious conservative darling.

Walker may not have finished college, but he is not dumb.  You get the sense he studied Nixon, who created the Orthogonian Club at Whittier College in California to battle the "Franklins," who were the big men on campus.  Nixon was probably the most adept at cashing in on the "politics of resentment," using his bitter experiences to propel him to national office.  Friends say Walker is a nice guy, but opponents have found out otherwise in his highly publicized battles against unions.  

Back in the 80s, we had the "Revenge of the Nerds," college drop-outs who jump started the technological revolution in Silicon Valley, giving us the home computer where anyone can pick up an on-line degree these days with a few simple courses over the Internet.  Bill Gates was treated to an honorary law degree in 2007, for his massive philanthropic work with the financial success of Microsoft.

I don't think Marquette will bestow the same honor on Scott Walker, who has gone out of his way to make public education into the "bad guy" in state politics, slashing budgets by cutting into state education pension funds, as well as other state services.  As far as Scott Walker and many other conservatives are concerned, "we don't need no (public) education."

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