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April 15, 2009
Wealth and Education .
. . and Good and Evil
November 2007, columnist Dennis Prager replied to Sen. Chris Dodd’s
assertion that “education is the answer to every problem we confront as
a people,” by pointing out that it was the intellectuals who supported
mass murderers such as Mao, Lenin, Stalin and Hitler.
fact, three of the four commanders who led the Nazi mobile killing units
called the “einsatzgruppen,” held PhDs, while the fourth held a double
PhD. Quite often, it is from the most educated people that comes support
for Communism and Fascism, which happen to be the most prolific enablers
of slaughtering millions in history.
Just yesterday, my North Star Writers Group colleague Jamie Weinstein
demonstrated that poverty probably does not breed terrorism.
Contrarily, terrorists tend to be wealthier than their more peaceful
neighbors. Evidently, similar to the relationship between education and
evil dictators, the relationship between poverty and terrorism is more
often the opposite of the commonly held belief.
And of course, statistics illustrate that there is a direct relationship
between education and income, which links the aforementioned
relationships. So what do we do with this?
you or your children went to college, assuming you aren’t a Nazi or a
jihadist, you ought to feel quite pleased with yourselves for
contributing to the more peaceful side of this issue. I know I do. And
like most people, I prefer savings to debt, which, like most, was the
main reason I went to college.
But still, one might be mildly uncomfortable with the idea that
education and financial prosperity are not necessarily the keys to peace
and happiness. It could breed the question: What the hell kind of
education are we getting? If Chris Dodd was wrong, and education happens
not to be the answer to life’s problems, we might ask the question: Why
People often rest in the faith that, given all the information, people
will make the right decision. At the root of this is the belief that
people are inherently good. Often, looking back on bad decisions we
made, we assure ourselves or are assured by our therapists that we made
the best decision we could with the information we had at the time.
This idea temporarily assuages our shame or guilt, both of which are
terrible burdens and, I might add, incredibly ill-advised. But the
problem with the belief that people are inherently good is that it
ignores our inherent desire to have things that our neighbors don’t,
whether it’s Play-Doh or a boat. It ignores the fact that people hate
admitting that they were wrong, whether it’s about cheating on a
spelling test or accepting a promotion that cuts into family time. It
ignores things like pride, selfishness and jealousy. The problem with
the belief that education is the difference between a bad decision and a
good decision is that it causes us to ignore good and evil, or at least
to believe the bridge between the two is another degree.
is logical for a person to resist the idea that he is born with great
evil in his heart. In fact, I’d consider it logical for this person to
resist this idea so forcefully that he would go to great lengths of
“reason” and “philosophy” to replace the extremes of good and evil with
the categories “informed decisions” and “uninformed decisions.”
is no secret that academia is a hotbed of secularism. Having received a
degree in English Literature, which is easily transformed from a degree
in good writing into a degree in good philosophy, I experienced the
struggle to blur the lines between good and evil firsthand (at a
Christian university, no less). All this leads me to the conclusion that
it is commonplace for many universities to major in one particular topic
and to minor in the faith that the difference between right and wrong is
more information. It sure beats guilt.
there were a shred of truth to my belief that most people vigorously
fight the ideas that good and evil not only exist, but we are all born
with a healthier dose of the latter, it would sure help to explain the
seemingly odd relationships between education, wealth and mass murder.
And if I might draw a useful conclusion from all this, it is that we
would be better off spending time learning trades and crafts than
explaining away our past and present mistakes.
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