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Evans: Wanting opportunities to higher education isn't snobbish

BY BENJAMIN EVANS | MARCH 02, 2012 6:30 AM

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As an elected official in a republic, President Obama deserves as much criticism as the country can dole out. He's been called a socialist, a czar, and the latest from Rick Santorum: a snob. 

Sometimes the claims hold water — but wanting everyone to have the opportunity to go to college?

Don't be stupid. 

Obama wanting all Americans to go to college, however idealized, and providing viable options to encourage them to do so, is not snobbish.

Last weekend, Santorum described Obama as just that. 

"Not all folks are gifted in the same way," Santorum said. "... President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob."

I suppose Santorum's nugget was trying to capture the same sentiment as Albert Einstein's "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid."

But it more or less missed the mark. 

"To some critics," the Washington Post's Sandhya Somashekhar and David Nakamura wrote, "this latest attack goes beyond his typical anti-elite rhetoric and flies in the face of what has long been drilled into American families: that a college education is the most certain path to a brighter future for students as well as the country."

David Axelrod, Obama's political adviser, further characterized Santorum's playground name-calling as "extreme" this week.

"You see a race to the right, a race to pander to the most extreme and strident voices on the Republican side, and you've seen it in a series of debates recently over some social issues," Axelrod said.

At an event on Monday, Obama further clarified his position on the American opportunity of higher education.

"I have to make a point here. When I speak about higher education, we're not just talking about a four-year degree," the president said. "We're talking about somebody going to a community college and getting trained for that manufacturing job."

And Obama is right. 

To call someone a snob because he believes all Americans, further all people, should be provided the opportunity to better themselves academically can be nothing but pandering. Furthermore, higher education can be the silver bullet to the plagues of society: crime, poverty, unemployment, drugs, hatred. Education, especially higher education, provides an experience for young adults to gain their footing in society and allows them to explore what they truly want to do and be.

What I can't stand are politicians, columnists, people in general who try to persuade others that the educated "elitists" believe they are better than everyone else. I can't stand people who set out to make vital members of society, the 1 percent, the blue-collar workers, believe they are less than the guy who got two degrees in college.

And it's not Obama who is doing that — it's people such as Santorum.

If a man is a good person, if he works hard at his job, if he mows his lawn, if every once in a while he smiles, or laughs, and if every once in a while he thinks about somebody else, then I don't care if he failed coloring in kindergarten. If he has compassion and tolerance, believes in the Constitution, then he is a fellow American, and I will fight for his opportunity to receive as much education as he wants.

The more education people get, be it a craft or postgraduate degrees, the better chance they have of getting jobs. And if people with only high-school diplomas don't need more education, that's great — but people should be provided the choice. 

And if that means I have to pay a little more taxes, then by all means tax me to death. But don't take the easy way out and assume I'm a snob.


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