Miller: We need the smartest folks in the room this November
Get a group of average people together and, it seems, the consensus that education, knowledge and learning are all good things. Such was the case at a meeting of the Summit County Rotary I attended earlier this week, where Summit School District officials gave a presentation about whats going on with our local schools. Much of what we heard made sense, sounded good and made us feel that our kids are in good hands.Change the channel to the national stage, though, and its hard not to think focusing on education or knowing too much is simply dangerous. Since intellectual sounds too good, the word levied against anyone with thoughts more expansive than sound bites is elite. Especially in election years, were told by certain candidates that elitism is bad in this case, we understand elites to be the learned, moneyed class who scoff at the average guys and gals in their John Deere hats who do things like shoot moose in between trips to Wal-Mart and the local chapel. Its enough to make one wonder: What do these alleged salt-of-the-earth types have against those who get a heap-a book learnin and make some money from it?The answer, Im tempted to say, is nothing. From the poorest dirt farmer to the wealthiest (or at least until recently) investment banker, its not at all easy to find a parent who doesnt want to see his or her kids grow up, acquire knowledge and make a good living at it. And while the ideal may be the college path, most parents are also smart enough to see when a kids cut out for something else, and if that track makes them happy, thats OK too. But the elliptical logic coming from the right thats held sway in the last two presidential elections seems to hold that overly smart people shouldnt run the complicated mechanisms of government because they wouldnt be good company at a barbecue.Anti-intellectualism has its roots in the schoolyard. Most of us can remember in high school certain athletes who were idolized and math-letes scorned. Time and experience show us that those whose sole stock in trade was moving a ball around would eventually be employees of the geeks with the calculators. Logic also suggests that these geeks are the ones we want doing things like engineering bridges, smashing atoms and the like. Those happy few who managed to be both athletic and hyper-intellectual would become captains of industry, and the rest of us would sort out in order below them.So, it as a nation highly alarmed by what looks like a near-collapse of our market economy that we ponder who will help lead us out of this mess. A piece on NPR Thursday morning tried to explain how and why insurance giant AIG failed, and it had something to do with insuring bonds to the tune of trillions of dollars, the collapse of such business and the need for the government to ride in on a white horse in the hopes of forestalling more such failures. For me, such information, while interesting, is tantamount to telling me about a chemical imbalance on the surface of Jupiter that could destroy the Earth: I dont really get it, hope someone can fix it and pray that someone is a hell of a lot smarter than me. With that in mind in addition to the myriad other complex problems facing our nation and world I would hope that this election season scoffing at intellectual elites would fall by the wayside in favor of promoting the wonkiest, brainiest people available. I dont care if they drink Chardonnay or PBR, shoot rifles or billiards or like plain or peanut M&Ms. Just spare us the faux controversies over lipstick, flag pins or what someones pastor said and deliver a guy who can wade into this mess and make some sense of it.Our dwindling 401(k) plans depend on it.Alex Miller is the editor of the Summit Daily News. He can be reached at 668-4618, or email@example.com.
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