Florida: America’s Wang

(Apologies to my mother, who lives in Florida.)

OK, it’s official, Rick Scott, Republican governor of Florida, is an idiot. There’s really no other way to describe his spectacularly moronic comments about anthropologists and education:

If I’m going to take money from a citizen to put into education then I’m going to take that money to create jobs. So I want that money to go to degrees where people can get jobs in this state. Is it a vital interest of the state to have more anthropologists? I don’t think so.

It’s a great degree if people want to get it. But we don’t need them here.

So take yer gol’ durned ejikashun and git the hell out o’ Flerida! We don’t need you stinkin’ pointy heads here! We kin skin a gator an’ chaw and spit jist fine, ya damn Yankee! And just whut degrees wuld ya be talkin’ ’bout anyhow, ya bald-headed skunk?

Look, I have a BA and an MA in anthropology, and so does Scott’s daughter, but the point isn’t that anthropologists should be looking over their shoulders for toothless torch-bearing yokels. He has basically said any education subtler than a sledge hammer ain’t necessary in the Sunshine State so you kin take yer book larnin’ and screw yerself.

He’s saying that people don’t need to learn how to think, how to ask questions, or challenge the status quo, whether in politics or theory. He’s saying we just need to teach people what they need to be workers and drones, taught to obey, not act on their own. When he says he wants to “create jobs,” what kind of jobs is he talking about? What does that mean in the context of “education?” I think we can assume that when Rick Scott says the word “education” he really means “training” or “indentured servitude.”

Defending anthropology per se doesn’t really help because it’s just a synecdoche for the world of thought. He, along with the rest of the Republican knuckle-draggers out there, hate educated, thoughtful people because they can see through the idiocy of their ideas. Educated people ask “gotcha” questions that any reasonable person would ask. They don’t believe you just because you said it, or said it twenty-two times. They don’t stop when you want them to. They can take apart the logical fallacies, the distortions of reality, and the outright lies. They can understand and challenge people like Rick Scott. They are a demagogue’s worst enemies. Too bad Florida’s school system can’t teach anyone well enough to do any of that.

To make matters worse, these people who claim to support science and math as ways to build a workforce don’t even like science and math. They disparage the science surrounding global warming and evolution; they dismiss the realities of the universe and cling to myths they interpret strictly according to their own twisted views (something a good anthropologist might want to study); and they think genuine scientists and mathematicians are dweebs and geeks.

So, good for you, Florida. Homer Simpson was right: you are America’s wang. If you want to do something about that, you need to dump your current Howdy Doody governor and elect someone with a brain. I won’t hold my breath, though; he’s in good company–just look at the current crop of tiny-brained wipers of other people’s bottoms running for the most powerful office in the world. Really???? We should be ashamed of ourselves.

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About Will Dix

I am currently writing a book about college admission. I'm interested in the intersection of the college process and American culture. I attended Amherst College in the 1970s, taught high school English and theater at The Hill School in the '80s, returned to Amherst in the '90s as an admission dean, and began the '00s as a college counselor at the University of Chicago Laboratory School. I then joined Chicago Scholars as Program Director. Currently, I blog about college admission for Forbes.com. I also help community organizations serving low income students understand the college admission process so more students can consider gaining access to higher education. I have a few private college counseling clients that I take by referral only. The views expressed in this blog are mine alone.
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4 Responses to Florida: America’s Wang

  1. Dan Kochis says:

    I’m not going to defend Rick Scott because I agree that his comment was inane. However, I do find your portrayal of republicans inaccurate. There are many conservatives who value education, who work in education, and who have valid logical arguments for their political viewpoint.

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  2. Will Dix says:

    Scott’s comments weren’t just inane, they were dangerous and hostile to democratic (small “d”) ideals. Wherever those decent conservatives may be, they are not speaking up against those who have hijacked the Republican Party and made it a haven for rich dopes and ignorant mobs who don’t know enough to recognize when they’re acting against their own interests. I’d be happy to hear from principled conservatives who propose intelligent ways to deal with the issues facing education and everything else; they’d be a pleasure to debate. The current crop of lying, hypocritical loudmouths isn’t them.

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  3. Noah Greenberg says:

    While I am hesitant to back up Rick Scott, I do find his point pretty valid. How much worse off could we be without anthropologists, sociologists, and historians? The only real job that can come out of these majors is a professorship, and a whole lot of researching stuff that doesn’t really help anybody at the end of the day. Sorry to all of the anthropologists out there, but really, are we better off because of what you do each day?

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    • Will Dix says:

      We could be a lot worse off, actually. You assume that people who study these fields have only one option, and that simply isn’t true. In fact that’s an extremely narrow view of what a college education should be. The question should really be, “What would we do without the points of views and ways of thinking fields like these encourage?” The answer is that we would be impoverished, fit only to work in the salt mines, which I believe people like Scott think about most other people. The idea that this is a “whole lot of researching stuff that doesn’t really help anybody at the end of the day” equates education with training; that is, the only education worth having is what is immediately useful and job-related. But this is a fallacy (although nothing new to American cultural or educational history–oops, I used that dang history stuff!), especially in a democracy where everyone is expected to participate intelligently in the life of the nation. Without the ways of thought as well as the knowledge that fields like these provide, we would have no way to gain perspective on our lives or the lives of others, no way to separate the truth from lies or “misstatements.” So when people denigrate supposedly non-practical courses, majors, and professions, they are positing a world where work is the only object of life and obedience is the only good. That’s not a world I want to live in.
      I have two degrees in anthropology (BA, MA) but have spent my career as a teacher, college admission officer, and college counselor. I now work with underserved kids on their way to college. I am thankful all the time for my education in the field (not to mention in history, classics, biology, music, and sociology) because it enables me to think broadly, try to understand people from different backgrounds, be conscious of the varieties of human life, and know when I don’t know things. I know how to write, I know how to think (although I don’t claim any great superior intellect, just some degree of thoughtfulness), and I know nonsense when I see it. My education gave me those things. It’s not just about anthropology, really.
      And besides, I think we are indeed better off for the work of anthropologists, historians, archaeologists, sociologists, philosophers, classicists, and on and on. Those in the supposedly “useless” fields that are falling victims to colleges’ “cost-benefit” analyses are our human bread and butter. If you want a graphic illustration of what I’m talking about, watch Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. It’s a world where workers trudge hopelessly to mindless jobs underground while the carefree elite live the easy life on the surface.
      As I said before, comments like Scott’s reveal an anti-democratic, even proto-totalitarian sensibility that makes me very, very nervous.

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