12/5/13 And The Experts All Agree . . .

Without education we are in a horrible and deadly danger
of taking educated people seriously.
G.K. Chesterton

Once you start with Chesterton, there is no good stopping point. The above quote will likely infuriate my many excellently educated friends. Chesterton said what he said. I will likely add to it. We will go from there and deduce what will be deduced, hoping for a net gain, not a deduction.

If we are not educated, or if we do not educate ourselves, then the learned people, those with certificates, diplomas, and degrees framed tidily on their walls will be enlisted by government, and themselves, to do our thinking for us. We have seen this before and are seeing it again, particularly in the President’s comments, and those of HHS higher ups, that you don’t know a good insurance policy from a bad one, that you shouldn’t be allowed to keep your bad one, though they have since decided that it will be good for them if they allow you to do so. Pity you that the evil insurers and state insurance commissioners will not do so. If we are uneducated enough, we would think that the insurance companies are the goat, which is what we are being coaxed into thinking.

If we lack the education to read and understand English, which is the native language for most of us, then others will be telling us the meaning of what we just heard, or what we just read. Later on they will be saying that they didn’t actually say what we heard them say, and will admit to leading us on, declaring that it is for our own good, thus by extension declaring that it was a just morality that allowed them to do so. Not understanding, the uneducated will think the confusion is caused by their own shortcomings. Those who understand will be less kind to their misleaders.

It is not just the recent events with the ACA that have caused this. Elites always think they are smarter than the masses. Hmmmm! Perhaps they might read James Suroweki’s The Wisdom of Crowds, and learn the interesting concept that the crowd usually gets it right, at least most of the time. Of course, Suroweki was referring to crowds, not mobs. I suppose in the history of the world, mobs never got anything right. While I might agree to move with the crowd, I will not be part of a mob.

Experts are always on TV, telling us what they think, telling us what we should think, rebuking us for not understanding what it is they would have us understand, denigrating and belittling us when we do not and cannot submit to what they condescend to tell us. I get so tired of Paul Krugman and Robert Reich always explaining why I am wrong. I am not the only fiscal and political conservative to disagree with them, since there are plenty of others . . . it just seems that these days, “conservative tenured professor” is an oxomoron. If they exist, and I’m sure they do, I wish they’d speak up. The left/liberal/divergent philosophies espoused by our university professors these days is all too common, and comes from people who can suck up hundreds of thousands of dollars in research grant money but don’t know which end of a screwdriver to use. Perhaps we could use more engineering students and fewer ethnic studies, women’s studies, and southern culture students. I don’t know any engineers that don’t have a job, and the world only has so many openings for people with degrees in southern culture studies.

“What is your degree in?” asked the human resources manager to the prospective employee seated across from her in the interview room.

“Women’s studies,” said the job applicant.

“We are looking for engineers, not social studies majors,” said the HR manager.

“We studied social engineering in school, in fact, I am working on a master’s thesis entitled, ‘Engineering Social Change’,” the job applicant said.

“Do you know anything about engineering electrical power systems, ground fault calculations, and relay coordination?”

“I’m afraid not,” said the applicant. After some awkward small talk, the interview was over.

The applicant got back home, discouraged that one more interview had gone bad, and sat down with the papers that had been furnished her by the University where she took her degree. She looked at the starting salaries of many of those who had graduated from the University. She wondered why others got jobs making lots of money when she had not even gotten beyond an initial interview. She had failed to read the fine print in the university’s materials which pointed out that the salaries listed were not typical. That engineering, chemistry, physics, finance, accounting, computer science, and medical science graduates could be expected to earn those types of starting salaries, while those majoring in humanities, fine arts, education, sociology, and other liberal arts would likely make substantially less if they happened to find a job in their respective fields. She had not yet seen this, since she did not understand the significance of an asterisk beside a claim.

She sighed and turned to the day’s mail. In the stack of things that the post office could not deliver profitably was a notice from a collection agency about her past due student loans. She owed a total of sixty-thousand dollars which had been declared in default since she not been able to make the first payment since she had graduated. She had failed to read the loan contracts she had willingly signed, and now the only interest charges higher than the ones she was paying were those quick payday loan places, the type that would not loan her any money because she did not have a job. Being young, she had perceived the loans as a means to get the degree she wanted without having had any thought of how she would pay them back.

Life was now giving her an education she would not soon forget. It was expensive, but the lessons she was learning now would likely get her on the right track as she considered further investments in herself. At this time, the only way she could get her student loans back in compliance was to borrow more and return to school to complete her masters in Women’s Studies. If she did that, she might be able to get a job as an adjunct in some university liberal arts department, somewhere, and earn the less than minimum wage salaries they paid there for the few hours a week they would let her work. Of course, the hours were much longer than she was actually going to be paid were she lucky enough to get a teaching assistant job, but the young had to pay their dues and put in those long hours doing flunky work for the full professors if they ever wanted to get ahead in the world of academia. If she borrowed more, she would likely be able to get that university job she hoped for that paid about $14,400 per year with no benefits.

I wish her a lot of success. Everyone cannot be a college professor of any description, adjunct, associate, full, or tenured. Research assistants are not usually required in humanities fields, so those staff jobs were out, and not particularly desirable even thought they paid more than adjunct faculty positions. If she were lucky enough to get one of the adjunct jobs, she would still default on her student loans, be unable to afford a place to live, even be unable to afford to buy a parking decal for her bicycle, but she would have insurance and SNAP benefits. Her insurance would not come from any university, since they were the first public entities to discover that limiting an employee’s hours would relieve them of having to furnish expensive health care coverage. Instead, she would receive the subsidized insurance from the exchanges and would likely qualify for Medicaid, which would give her free insurance, even though she would be employed.

She would actually have made more working at KFC, but that thought was horrifying to her. She would not lower herself to work at such a place, even if she was likely to make more money. In the meantime, she had been delighted to take a part-time job with the census bureau. This job paid $9.00 per hour and was limited to just 10 hours per week. If she were lucky, she thought, she could get on full time with the census bureau, or perhaps some other government job since her degree in women’s studies meant that more government jobs were open to her, though few in the private sector were.

“Who needs the private sector, anyway?” she asked out loud to herself. “Government service is where the real action is.” It was also in government service that she might be best able to use her women’s studies skills, increasing awareness of women’s issues. Awareness is always beneficial. Awareness would have served her well had she used it when obligating herself on various and sundry contracts with those who expected her to do what was contained in them. She was delighted that she would help make others aware while simultaneously ignoring any personal need for an increased awareness in her own life. She had learned this ostrich approach while in the university; her professors had taught her well.

Meanwhile, Ernesto loaded up his recently purchased but used lawnmower, his weedeater, his yard rake, and his wheelbarrow in his ancient Ford pickup truck. He had just finished his fifth yard for the day and was headed to his sixth and final yard which he would finish about an hour past dark. He saved the yard that had the best streetlights around it for just this reason. He earned $40.00 per yard, and his total take for the day would be $240.00. He would do this six days a week throughout the grass growing season for a total of $1,440.00 in cash, each and every week. In the winter, he would clean gutters, rake leaves and sell firewood and earn even more.

He was thankful he had escaped his native Guatemala and made it through the treacherous environs of Mexico, because Mexico was not very kind to Guatemalans in the country illegally, and had made it safely to the USA where he had been able to provide a good living for his family. He had tried to work in California, but licensing requirements for “landscapers” had prevented him from working there. No one in the medium sized Texas city he was in now cared anything about requiring a landscaping license for someone who wanted to merely cut grass and rake leaves, so he was doing quite well. Soon, he would buy and furnish a second pickup truck, and double his business. He was following the American entrepreneurial model and was determined that he would succeed. He knew that hard work would help him more than anyone else was liable to. He did not expect anything from the government, in fact, governments had always been a thorn in his side, never a means for success.

He wanted his children to have a better education than he had received, which was none. He was able to write his name and recognize it when he saw. Though he was illiterate, he could count, and he was remarkably good at calculating his profit margins, his expenses, and his money, which he spent sparingly, thinking that it was better to have it and not spend it in case some emergency came up. He hoped his kids would be able to attend college one day. He was saving up money for them to do so even though they were still in grade school. He knew about student financial aid, but he did not expect to be able benefit from it, nor would he be likely to fill out any papers were he to qualify.

His neighbors, all native Guatemalans, thought he was a prudent, forward thinking man. They came to him to borrow money when they needed it. He always charged them ten percent simple interest for whatever period they needed the money, simply because it was easy for him to figure. He made his loans prudently, and collected them with harsh promptness when he thought it necessary, for it was his money they had borrowed, and his money that would be repaid; neither party to the loan ever considered the money as belonging to anyone other than Ernesto. He charged the ten percent for others to have the use of his money. It never occurred to him, or the borrowers, that he was a usurer.

Had he gone to college, Ernesto would have studied business, or perhaps horticulture, as he had learned that people would pay to have beautiful gardens tended, or to turn their yards into beautiful gardens, and they would pay handsomely.

One evening, a young census worker came up to Ernesto’s home. She introduced herself and produced her government credentials. As soon as he heard the word government, and realized that the census worker was asking him questions, Ernesto became very afraid, not of the girl, but the fact that she represented the government. Nothing about this could be good, Ernesto thought to himself. Though he understood more English than he let on, for every question she asked, Ernesto just answered, “No comprende,” or with a shrug of his shoulders said, “No se!”

The census worker filled out the census forms as best she could, making estimations of income from the value of the things she saw in the home, and educational levels based on the answers Ernesto gave. She surmised incorrectly that Ernesto had completed through the 8th grade, since Ernesto had never been to school at all. She missed his income by a mile, though, estimating that it was far less than hers. She tried to explain to Ernesto that there were many government programs that could help him and his family, but Ernesto just said, “No comprende,” smiling, and anxious that she should leave. Ernesto’s children and wife peered at her through the curtain that served as the door to the bedroom. They were all terrified at this government intrusion, for in Guatemala, a visit from a government official usually meant that someone would soon disappear. All they had learned to expect from the government was trouble.

As the census worked left to go and get back on her bicycle, she saw the lawnmower in the back of the rusty pickup truck. She shook her head at the idea that he was so poor that all he could do for a living was to cut someone else’s grass. She was glad that she would never have to demean herself by doing work like that.

Ernesto watched her as she rode off. He hoped she would not be back. He had understood her when she talked about government programs that would help him and his family, but as he thought about this, his spine drew erect, his shoulders went back, and he resolved that it would be a sad day indeed when Ernesto would be unable to take care of his own family and need government charity.

He could think of nothing the government had that he wanted, other than to leave him alone to work to earn his living.

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