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Why Rick Santorum is a Bad Choice for Michigan

Posted by Elizabeth Ullrich on

Elizabeth Ullrich

Elizabeth Ullrich

Michigan has struggled with unemployment more than most other states over the last 25 years. Most of our struggle stems from the loss of our manufacturing base.

Through no fault of our own, manufacturing has left the state for "greener" pastures in foreign lands that provide lower overhead costs for production, without sacrificing the quality of the work. It is the efficiency logic of capitalism that broke Michigan when capitalism went global and found more "efficient" places for their production lines.

What globalization has taught us is that the United States is most efficient at producing ideas and services, rather than manufacturing products. As a result, the sustainable jobs will be found in the career fields that require higher levels of education.

Based on research, we know that those with a college degree earn more than twice that of others who fail to complete high school, and 50 percent more than those with only a high school degree.

That should tell Michigan (a state that has faced a 25+ year recession) that the way to attract sustainable industries to our state is to raise the education level of average Michiganders. Any politician who seeks the vote of a Michigander should be encouraging more innovative ways to provide better opportunity for our students to attend college. Enter Rick Santorum.

Over the weekend, Rick Santorum decided to drum up support for his campaign among Michiganders by slamming the need to go to college. "President Obama once said he wants everybody to go to college. What a snob," says Santorum.

"There are good decent men and women who go out and work hard every day and put their skills to test that aren't taught by some liberal college professor trying to indoctrinate them. Oh, I understand why [Obama] wants [you] to go to college, he wants to remake you in his image."

Rick Santorum lives in a delusional world of smoke and mirrors, where he doesn't seek research and data to craft responsible public policy, but rather seeks the affirmation of his own voice. He is accusing Obama of doing the very thing that he himself is doing: crafting others in his own image, however flawed that may be.

College is a place where students are challenged to seek facts, analyze data, challenge assumptions, and debate ideas. Not a place where the professors are expected to affirm a student's belief structure.

Are there liberal professors? Sure. Are there conservative professors? More than one would assume. Does that have any bearing on the value formation of the students? None whatsoever. Does the varied ideological background of our professors lead to a better college experience? Absolutely.

Our job as college professors, liberal or conservative, is to challenge the beliefs that our students have as they walk in the door. Force them to test their values and beliefs in the marketplace of ideas.

This is the real reason why Santorum is so quick to disparage college education. Santorum wants to be stroked, not challenged. He seeks affirmation, not truth. He makes a false assumption when he believes that a professor that challenges his personal belief structure is biased.

Professors train students how to think, not what to think. Santorum's problem is that he doesn't seem to care about the "how," just the "what." This type of thinking is not good for attracting sustainable jobs to Michigan. This type of thinking is not good for our "idea driven" economy that focuses more on innovation and challenge, rather than repetition and affirmation.

We must learn how to adapt… how to change our way of thinking to better participate in our economy of ideas. College is a great way to do this. Santorum should be praising the work of our educators, not dismissing them because they may not affirm his inability to think outside the confines of his small mind.

Opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Andy Rapp, Q-TV, Delta College, or PBS.

About

Currently Speaking host Andy Rapp

Veteran journalist Andy Rapp has been hosting Currently Speaking since 1999.

Each week, he's joined live in the studio by journalists, academics, and experts. Along with viewers at home, they tackle the local, national, and global issues that matter most.