Columns 2017

Ignorance is not bliss

When did it start? When did the idea that being smart, educated and/or sophisticated become a bad thing? When did voters decide that no experience, no expertise and no skills were what made someone qualified to run our government?

I’m pretty sure that if these same voters went to the emergency room with arterial bleeding, they would want someone who actually went to school to learn how to stop it for their doctor. If they needed open-heart surgery they wouldn’t just tap the janitor on the shoulder as they went into the operatory and ask him to perform the surgery because they didn’t want some educated elite operating on them. No, I’m guessing they’d want the most educated elite they could find to do it.

So when did we start propounding the idea that government could best be run by the least qualified?

The recent marches protesting just about every executive order signed by the person currently occupying the White House would seem to indicate that a lot of people get it. You can’t have someone totally unqualified running government without having government become almost totally dysfunctional. Of course, by doing so voters assist conservatives in their belief that government if inherently evil, doesn’t work and needs to be pulled back to the brink of extinction. If you start with that belief and then add a mix of people uneducated in the way government functions, you have your classic self-fulfilling prophecy.

We have someone in the White House who announces with total surprise that fixing health care is complicated. We have someone in the White House who now admits there’s a lot more to governing than he’d thought. We have a person in the White House signing executive orders he publicly admits he barely has read. His biggest thrill so far is finding a red button that, when pushed, automatically calls for a butler to bring him a coke. Some of us live in fear that he will confuse the red buttons in his life and accidentally call down a nuclear strike on Omaha.

We did not make it to the moon because of the work of uneducated people. We are not protected from diseases that wiped out whole populations in the past because of the research done by someone totally ignorant of science. We don’t fly in jets because some guy in his basement developed a jet engine. Space exploration, computer science, safe water, disease prevention – all brought to you by people who studied and worked hard to become experts in their fields. So why do we give government a pass as though providing for the health, safety and welfare of an entire nation is somehow not something that needs any level of expertise?

Getting an education in America is already prohibitively expensive. Here in Alaska, our legislators (they’re the people still sitting in Juneau blowing pass every deadline set for legislative sessions while producing nothing but a lot of hot air) are doing all they can to cripple our educational system. Nationally we aren’t doing much better as we make it harder and harder for students to pay back education loans. It reminds me of the Salem witch-hunts with education having been somehow relegated to the realm of witchery.

Our earth is warming, our resources are running low, climate change is creating chaos as island nations watch themselves being swallowed by rising oceans, new diseases are spreading like the bubonic plague of the Middle Ages and our response is to cut the funding that will produce the next generation of scientists needed to mitigate the worse of these effects. And all the while, certain segments of our population march proudly for ignorance, declaring that the more unqualified you are for a job, the more you should have that job – well, so long as it’s in government. If it were the doctor looking down at them in the operatory, they’d prefer to have someone of extraordinary education and experience.

What has happened to us? When did we go from striving for a better future through education and research to a nation that idolizes ignorance? Is the American century truly over? Have we turned from the shinning beacon of hope to the dull finish of ignorance in such a short time? If so, it does not bode well for our future and our children’s future. Education and experience are not the enemy. Celebrating ignorance is.