Andrew Sullivan is at it again:
How anti-intellectual is Sarah Palin?
Ramesh Ponnuru asks the question. He refers to Noam Scheiber’s devastating piece on Palin’s Nixonian hatred of educated elites. But Ponnuru wants more evidence. Here’s one way to look at the question: how has Palin brought up her own kids? Her eldest son is a high-school drop-out. Her eldest daughter has had, so far as one can tell from press reports, very uneven attendance in high school, and no plans for college. Her other daughters seem to spend a lot of time traveling the country with their mom at tax-payers’ expense. I’ve seen them at several rallies with the Palins this fall. Are they not in school?
The least one can say is that none of her children seems to have been brought up thinking that college is something to aspire to. And her new son-in-law just dropped out of high school as well.
Sarah Palin’s own record of several colleges over several years – ending with a degree in sports journalism – tells you a lot. So does her interest in policing the Wasilla library as mayor and using the town’s money for a sports stadium.
If we’re going to criticize Palin for anti-intellectualism, let’s stick to her obnoxious remarks about civilian casualties in Afghanistan or her nonsensical take on anthropogenic global warming. Knocking her kids for skipping school is neither here nor there, and given the fact that her oldest son volunteered for military service in Iraq, I think we should applaud the Palin family for encouraging certain worthy alternatives to college.
Moreover, attending college in modern America has never been a leading indicator of intellectual curiosity. In fact, questioning the benefits of a four year college degree is one of the more persuasive conservative criticisms of higher education to have emerged in recent years (see this recent Cato Unbound discussion). And if I ever become a parent (God forbid!), I hope to have the good sense not to force my children into higher education against their will.
As for Sarah Palin’s own record of educational achievement, I recommend this LA Times article on her college years. Reading it, I was instantly reminded of the hard-working commuter students I knew at school. They didn’t have the luxury of a parental stipend and usually worked a job on the side, and they rarely (if ever) made it out on weekends. But they always attended class (which is more than I ever did), took copious notes, and generally did everything possible to get a damn good return on their investment. Palin may have come from a parochial background, but she evidently cared enough about her intellectual development to work her way through five years of post-secondary schooling. I can’t imagine it came cheap or easy.
And why the hell would Wasilla need a museum, anyway?