The rise of the stupid
One of the things that became most clearly visible upon the election of Donald Trump to the Presidency back in '16 is that the American system benefits the stupid. Our policymakers think prisons are kewl and the more the better, health care ought to be left in the hands of insurance extortionists, patriotism is best expressed through vacuous slogans, owning assault weapons is so totally worth all the school shootings, climate change is a conspiracy of the scientists to take away money from saintly oil companies, housing ought to be unaffordable, the homeless are a police problem, environmental pollution is solved by going indoors, poverty is the fault of the poor, the rich are virtuous, Pete Buttigieg's non-answers can be labeled "philosophy," and so on.
But to label all of this political taken-for-granted as "stupidity" appears to be more of a judgment call than it is any discernment of a pattern. Sure, it's the same judgment call Europeans make when they think of Americans as stupid, but still, it's a judgment call. Maybe it's just our policy situation and not our brains. America has this vast college and university system, right, so how stupid can we be? Maybe our problem is not that we're stupid, but rather that we leave policy up to the policymakers and that we think our vast intelligence is something to be used for medicine or law or engineering or making money.
Except maybe the system will disappear too, or at least it will shrink to some sort of significantly smaller size, congruent with a society in which high school is a waste of time, knowledge is picked up on the job, and the young have few prospects. (To be fair, we've had something of that society for quite some time now.) The Chronicle of Higher Education ran a section in its October 11 paper of this year titled "The Great Enrollment Crash," in which budget cuts shrink universities as costs to the students, already super-high, increase further and as more and more prospective college students recognize that they just can't afford to go to college given their meager job prospects upon graduation and given the enormous debts they'll be taking on once they graduate.
The Chronicle section begins with a piece from a UND professor titled "My University Is Dying" with the subtitle "and soon yours will be, too." The University of North Dakota is shrinking, and even if the process has been halted, as author Sheila Liming argues, there are fewer people left behind to bring back any sense of normalcy.
Bill Conley's piece, which is next, regales us with statistics, which are not going to be terribly useful to most of the readers. His point is that admissions people had to adapt to the 2008-2009 crash, and that they'll have to adapt again to the coming crash, only this time it will be worse.
The next part of this section, "A Crisis In Enrollment?", is a panel presentation by some admissions people, who are if anything gloomier than what was written before. Colleges have closed, more colleges will close, and the situation will get worse. One of them references the College History Garden, which is an easy place to go to find out who has closed.
Bernie Sanders' College For All proposal is a sympathetic attempt to deal with the financial plight of today's college students. Perhaps one of its beneficial side effects, should its be passed, would be to preserve the versatile role intelligence has had in the life of America, by preserving the colleges that will still be open when it has passed and by halting the decline of those that have managed to stay open even though they're smaller today than they were twenty years ago. If the political revolution is to be had, brains shouldn't have to pander after money.