Passing Bull 33 Putting people in boxes


The following comes from a column of John Roskam in the AFR today.  Mr Roskam says that Trump and Sanders have a lot of populism in common.  Spot on.  But one suggested difference needles Mr Roskam.

According to some, Trump is the fault of America’s education system. That’s the position of a prominent American commentator whose opinion was reported in this newspaper a few days ago.

“I do also think that this is what happens when you have a democracy of people who are not well-educated. The Trump audience are white men who graduated from high schools that have taught them little and who have not been part of any more engaged, intelligent discourse,” said Anne-Marie Slaughter, a Democrat who held a senior position in the US State Department under Hillary Clinton, and who is now head of a progressive think-tank in Washington.

Slaughter attended Oxford University, Princeton University and Harvard. She taught at the latter two universities. Her views echo what’s uttered in the opinion pages of Salon and The New York Times, and in Ivy League common rooms up and down the east coast of America.

If the blame for Trump falls on America’s schools, then the finger must surely be pointed at the people responsible for that country’s school system. By and large, those people are not Republican.

If a “white man” has not learned enough to know not to vote for Trump, responsibility must rest with the Democratic Party-aligned teachers’ unions that run America’s public schools. At least the country’s largest union, the National Education Association, hasn’t endorsed Sanders – instead it is supporting Hillary Clinton.

Blaming democracy for Donald Trump is a slippery slope.  As is implying that voters who support Trump are stupid. 

A century ago, it was the conservative Right who opposed extending the franchise to blue-collar workers. Now it’s the progressive Left who are uncomfortable with the “not well-educated” having a vote – if that vote is cast for Donald Trump.

Anne-Marie Slaughter’s point about high schools and Trump could just as easily apply to universities and Sanders.

Any Princeton or Harvard graduate who believes the answer to America’s problems is socialism has clearly learned nothing about economics, history or politics.

A commentator makes the point that the supporters of Trump may not be too bright.  For some reason, that comment, which is hardly surprising, needs to be attacked.  Some people rather talk about people than arguing than about their ideas.  Mr Roskam may be one of them.  The commentator is slotted.  She is a Democrat.  She attended Oxford, Princeton, and Harvard.  And her views echo those you can read in The New York Times.

So bloody what?  As it happens, I have attended Cambridge, Harvard and Oxford on many occasions, if only on Summer Schools.  Ted Cruz, whom many, including me, fear more than Trump, went to Princeton and Harvard.  (In this country, Oxford has to answer for Pell and Abbott.)  What inference can you draw from the universities a person went to, the political party if any they support, and the newspaper they read or contribute to?  Just about bugger all – if for no other reason that political parties stand for nothing (which is a big factor in the revolts of Sanders and Trump), and universities can hardly be held to account for their failures.  But even if these labels or boxes surrendered some ‘type’, how would it affect an argument put up by one of those types?  Does 1+1=3 if the speaker is a Republican who went to Yale?

Mr Roskam does not say that schooling has nothing to do with Trump, but if it has, then responsibility does not lie with Republicans – his team, I infer – it is the Democrat –aligned teachers’ unions who are to blame!  Well, if you did not know before, Mr Roskam has dispensed all Masonic handshakes and is conversing with the faithful – and only them.  Then we go into cruise control bullshit and labelling.  The ‘progressive Left’ are now aping the ‘conservative Right’ of a century ago, and any socialist is a lunatic anti-Christ.

You can take your pick what conservative, Right, progressive, or Left might mean.  I have no idea.  But I know a socialist when I see one – someone who supports our Medicare or Mr Obama’s.  That I think includes Mr Trump – depending on the day of the week.

Could anyone surrounded by as many demons as Mr Roskam ever be at ease?  Or was he just saying that Ms Slaughter was too keen on putting people in boxes?

Poet of the Month: Judith Wright

Night After Bushfire

There is no more silence on the plains of the moon

and time is no more alien there, than here.

Sun thrust his warm hand down at the high noon,

but all that stirred was the faint dust of fear.

Charred death upon the rock leans his charred bone

and stares at death from sockets black with flame.

Man, if he come to brave that glance alone,

must leave behind his human home and name.

Carry like a threatened thing your soul away,

and do not look too long to left or right,

for he whose soul wears the strict chains of day

will lose it in this landscape of charcoal and moonlight.

2 thoughts on “Passing Bull 33 Putting people in boxes

  1. I don’t know enough about American politics and America’s education system to critique what Ms Slaughter says. I agree Geoffrey that it is wrong to say that all Trump’s followers are unintelligent.

    But the dynamic that I see at play in the US, which goes beyond intelligence and education, is this insular Uncle Sam arrogance. It’s the notion that the American nation is inherently, uniquely great and even holy, beyond any deep reproach. And therefore to take the country, and its political institutions and truisms, to task in any serious way, amounts to apostasy. To take a neat, if trivial, example – this is the country which calls its own baseball competition the World Series.

    We all can count amongst our friends, or acquaintances over the years, astute, aware people from the US. They always surprise me, because I can barely credit that they come from a country whose image is so bad ( Admittedly I speak here as someone who,unlike you Geoff, has not travelled in the US and seen it “in the flesh”). So I do not seek here to damn the US people wholesale. But I do get an impression of a nation which is on the whole, blinkered, blinded by its own razzle-dazzle and now outdated reputation. A nation which seems not to learn lessons or gain perspective on its own affairs, from the experiences of the rest of the world. And I suspect it is just this which explains anomalies such as Trump’s success.

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