Santorum takes “Know Nothing-ism” to new heights

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It’s easy to be critical of Rick Santorum from the other side of the fence, but some logical supporters are ready to abandon him as well for his ludicrous position on education.

Santorum took umbrage with President Obama’s urging of every current high school student to seek at least some form of higher education.  Here are the actual words from Obama’s first address to the joint houses of Congress on February 4, 2009:

It is our responsibility as lawmakers and educators to make this system work. But it is the responsibility of every citizen to participate in it. And so tonight, I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. This can be community college or a four-year school; vocational training or an apprenticeship. But whatever the training may be, every American will need to get more than a high school diploma. And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country – and this country needs and values the talents of every American. That is why we will provide the support necessary for you to complete college and meet a new goal: by 2020, America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.”

And here are Santorum’s words from a campaign stop in Michigan:

“President Obama once said he wants everyone in America to go to college.  What a snob!  There are good, decent men and women who go out and work hard everyday and put their skills to the test that weren’t taught by some liberal college professor that’s trying to indoctrinate them.”

When did it become an unacceptable principle in America that people should seek a higher education?  Santorum’s position is the height of anti-intellectual thinking – something that has turned off even conservatives who would logically back his positions.

One example is conservative Catholic blogger Mark Shea who wrote this week:

“Time was when Catholics (who, you know, *invented* the university) worked and saved and struggled so that their kids could get through college. Now you have guys like Santorum talking like dimestore Protestant preachers denouncing them fancy pants college boys with their degrees and championing the glories of Know Nothingism as a moral virtue.”

Shea warned that even if we believe that colleges are too liberal in their thinking, the value of a higher education is unquestionable because it teaches critical thinking skills.

“Grow up and learn how to think,” Shea wrote in his article.

Saving up so your children can have a college education is as American as apple pie and baseball, so how did higher education become a stalking horse for conservative principles?  From the applause Santorum received for his remarks, it appears that the anti-college rhetoric is red meat for his constituency.  The bad news for conservatives is that Santorum’s remarks are also red meat for liberals, intellectuals and college staffs and faculties.  His words surely would become part of the Democrats’ campaign literature should he become the Republican nominee.

By taking an anti-higher education position, Santorum – currently one of the top two GOP candidates — has reinforced the view among many independents and moderates that the Republican party has moved outside of mainstream thinking and into territory that few can defend.