Education, Politics

On FiveThirtyEight: “Education, Not Income, Predicted Who Would Vote For Trump”

Tuesday, 22nd November 2016

From Nov. 22, 2016

FiveThirtyEight: “Education, Not Income, Predicted Who Would Vote For Trump”

The statisticians do the correlations here. At the end, there are some guesses as to causation.

“Education levels may be a proxy for cultural hegemony. Academia, the news media and the arts and entertainment sectors are increasingly dominated by people with a liberal, multicultural worldview, and jobs in these sectors also almost always require college degrees. Trump’s campaign may have represented a backlash against these cultural elites.
Educational attainment may be a better indicator of long-term economic well-being than household incomes. Unionized jobs in the auto industry often pay reasonably well even if they don’t require college degrees, for instance, but they’re also potentially at risk of being shipped overseas or automated.
Education levels probably have some relationship with racial resentment, although the causality isn’t clear. The act of having attended college itself may be important, insofar as colleges and universities are often more diverse places than students’ hometowns. There’s more research to be done on how exposure to racial minorities affected white voters. For instance, did white voters who live in counties with large Hispanic populations shift toward Clinton or toward Trump?
Education levels have strong relationships with media-consumption habits, which may have been instrumental in deciding people’s votes, especially given the overall decline in trust in the news media.
Trump’s approach to the campaign — relying on emotional appeals while glossing over policy details — may have resonated more among people with lower education levels as compared with Clinton’s wonkier and more cerebral approach.”

So, let’s dispense with one erroneous equivalence right off the bat – that educated = smart and uneducated = dumb. Doesn’t follow. What can we learn from these data? Are any of these possible accounts likely? All of them?

I would have liked to have had the data broken down more than this. Is there a difference between, say, professional degrees and others? Maybe, don’t know.

What is clear to me, as an educator, is that one thing that makes my task especially difficult is that in many cases people only understand the value of what we do if they have been part of it. Some would see that as indoctrination. For me, it is that a person can’t hold on to simplistic or superficial explanations of the world and simple solutions to things, once you’ve examined the world in some detail, and thought about a range of points of view and experiences.

Take one of the big ones in this election – immigration. What did Trump appeal to in immigration? A simplistic solution to a real problem – changing economic conditions, especially outside urban areas. He also appealed to the supposed crime wave caused by immigrants, which is wrong in two ways – there is no crime wave (there is in general a reduction in crime), and immigrants aren’t more likely to be the cause of it.

But the economic argument seems more plausible, on the surface. Get rid of immigrants taking jobs, now those jobs are there for people with documented status, including citizens. Is that how economics works, though? I doubt you’d find many economists who would make such a simplistic equation. Jobless rates are driven by far more than immigrants taking jobs from others. There are world economic conditions that dictate markets for all sorts of things. There are complex relationships among labor pools of all sorts (will people who are here really take up minimum wage jobs in fields, the ones that undocumented people do?). There are issues about other related social programs (yes, including the Affordable Care Act). There are a lot of moving parts. But it is far easier and more emotionally satisfying to just say, immigrants gone, world is better, job done.

I’m not interested in any education that is indoctrination. I am interested in education that enables people to ask better and harder and more insightful questions.

Hillary might not have moved peoples’ hearts and souls. That’s not who she was. But the majority of people, the ones who voted for her (we’re up to about 2M more for her than for Trump at this point, and more to come), responded to the fact that she understands how hard the world is, for everyone, and that solutions have to work, for everyone, not just for white Americans.

The thing about easy solutions is that they crash and burn fast. I expect the new administration to move fast after Jan. 20 to consolidate their power, and put in place many of the things they promised during the campaign. These promises, almost without exception, were superficial solutions to hard problems. They were emotionally satisfying, but divisive. We will see where things go. The history of US politics since WWII is that Democratic-led governments have had to clean up the fiscal problems introduced by Republican-led governments. Let’s see if the pattern holds. But more than that, let’s see what happens to education. Indications at this point are that the move will be to undermine the critical tools we have for thinking about complex problems, and encourage superficial, technocratic tools. We’ll see if that happens as well.

#abetterstory #brokeityouboughtit

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