In which we go grizzly on protecting our children’s rights to learn new things, exceed their elders’ expectations for success, and even get to go to college if they want to…
If you haven’t seen the youtube video documenting Rick Santorum’s proposition that Barack Obama wishes to make us into his image, then we recommend you do so at your earliest convenience. Here we will outline the quote-by-quote argument structure and show the hidden assumptions, or ethememes.
(The author is aware that because she is an educator she should not talk politics in a public forum. Therefore, the following is an exercise in philosophy, and how bad argumentation can be instructive to us all. And, even if it were a political statement of sorts, the author feels that owning one’s convictions and being able to reasonably argue for them is a great example for her students to follow. )
The Argument: its word-for-word propositions and implied conclusion:
1. “Obama wants everyone in America to go to college.”
2. “What a snob.” (Reworded: Obama is a snob.”)
3. “You are good, decent men and women…who put their skills to test, that aren’t taught by some liberal college professor that are trying to indoctrinate them.”
4. “I understand why he wants you to go to college: he wants to remake you in his image.”
5. “I want to create jobs so people can remake their children into their image, not his.”
Conclusion: If Americans go to college they will be made into the image of Obama, a snob, instead of their parents.
Simplified, and interpreted, with none of the emotive terms originally used, here is what this argument says: Obama wants Americans to go to college. Obama is a snob. (We are not entirely sure of what connection between college and Obama-as-snob are, and, unfortunately, this term is edging on argumentum ad hominem: argument against the person rather than the idea, so becomes invalid except for its juicy emotional persuasiveness.)
Men and women put their skills in manufacturing to test, skills which they did not learn from college professors but from starting at entry-level positions and gaining more skills with their hands as they moved up in companies. Obama wants Americans to go to college so they will have the same image of snobbishness as him rather than, for instance, children having the same image of their parents who have skills at making things with their hands. The parents who work in manufacturing positions are not snobs because they did not go to college. People who want their children to go to college are snobs.
What Santorum is essentially advocating for are creating jobs where people can start at the entry level and work their way up by developing their skills. The skills he is keen to highlight are those involving the use of hands and he applauds people with incredible talent in making things. Of course, this is vague and a surgeon is good at making organs work better and an artist is talented at creating beauty in creative forms. His argument seems, to us, that he is against higher education. This creates a problem in two ways:
1. It contradicts what he mentions as developing skills from the entry level to further up on the manufacturing ladder, or hierarchy. Developing skills is, essentially, learning. Learning is a good thing. It happens in many ways, including school.
2. If taken to the extreme, he would wish there not to be better-learned, college-educated Americans, but an increase of young people entering the workforce who have the same education as their parents rather than options to develop skills either involving the used of their hands or the use of their capable mind, or both.
We have attempted, here, to break down this assault on American children. Santorum’s underlying premise is that college makes snobs, not skilled Americans. Here we have used a highly emotive term–assault– in an attempt to incite emotion and draw attention to the potential ethical implications.
If our children are to be made in the image of an educated and concerned citizen then this is a good thing. Children are already, by the very fact of their genes, made in the image of their parents. All parents should want the best for their children, and often this involves the hard work and discipline of a college education, available to individuals with all kinds of characteristics, snobbery and others.
(The author wishes to note that the above topic is inexhaustive…she could keep going and likely will in various forms later. The author would also like to note this begins an attempt to blog everyday in March.)