Does Education Make You Progressive?
April 1st, 2021 | JH
Why do university educated people tend to vote for centre-left political parties? This is the case all around the world. Media loves to promote this statistic under the implied understanding that smart people side with progressives on all the important issues of the day and stupid people consequently vote conservative. There hasn’t been a lot of analysis of this cliché, so let’s take a closer look at what’s really going on with university educated voters.
The first thing to take note of is that rarely do polls regarding university educated voters delineate between what subjects these voters were educated about. I think it’s safe to say that those in the STEM fields are much more likely to vote conservatively than the people with basket weaving or gender studies degrees. Why does this matter?
As the poison of education escalation has risen over the years, the amount of people graduating with degrees that are less rigorous and technical has exploded. For the longest time, the cultural attitude was that a university education was a ticket to material success. It didn’t even matter what your degree was, you just had to get one and then abracadabra…you’re middle-class at a minimum. Consequently, people were eager to get those degrees! At some point, however, the supply of university graduates exceeded the demand. This has led to the new cliché of your Starbucks barista being university educated. There simply aren’t enough high-end opportunities for all these university-degree holding job hunters to start careers with. Then they all complain that they have student loans and minimum wage jobs that won’t pay for them. They feel like the market has failed them so it’s the governments job to step in and fix things. This sense of entitlement and dissatisfaction leads to left-wing voters.
So, there’s your first piece of the puzzle. The second piece of the puzzle is arrogance.
Universities are institutions for higher learning and should be celebrated as such. The one negative human element in higher learning is the development of arrogance in the person cultivating their knowledge. As the years go by the learner becomes more educated in their field and has introductions to a variety of other fields as a component of their degree. By the time the experience is over the student has a sense of thinking they know better regarding…everything. The real world nicely corrects for most of this very quickly, but when it comes to politics, there’s a sense that the unwashed masses need herding and grooming. University educated people think they’re the ones in charge of doing this because of their credentials. Even if they know they aren’t in charge, they will still side with those who are (so long as they are progressive and educated) and vote accordingly.
That’s your second piece of the puzzle. The third piece is signalling.
Virtue-signalling is an important part of our culture. We like to brand ourselves in the eyes of others and use impressions as currency amongst our peers. Progressive politics has been on the ascendency for decades (arguably centuries) and it is hegemonic in the Western World today. Every time progressivism has advanced and conquered a new taboo or tradition, the people slowly get on the latest bandwagon in order to show that they’re the correct type of person.
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Slavery, for example, was just a normal part of human existence since forever. Between 1800 and 1900, slavery went from being normal, to distasteful to unacceptable to beyond the pale. It doesn’t even matter if slavery is right or wrong, the cultural attitudes changed, reached a tipping point, and then settled on a new status quo. If you were on the wrong side of this development, you lost status.
A more recent example is gay marriage. The idea of gay marriage went from being a punchline in the 1990s to a reasonable position by 2000 to a heated debate by 2005 to a new status quo by 2015. Today, if you suggest you have any problems with gay marriage, whatsoever, you are viewed as being beyond the pale.
University graduates tend to be more attuned to these cultural developments than non-university graduates. If the ruling classes start adopting a new position on something, then university graduates will be sure to follow. It’s aspirational virtue-signalling.
In order to be successful in a university setting, you need to have certain attributes that make scholastic success possible. You need to subscribe to conformity, defer to authority, memorize, regurgitate, and facilitate. These are all attributes that make it easier to get that degree. If you get that degree, you’ll presumably be successful. After you get that degree you can still use those learned attributes to chase success.
If the ruling classes inform everyone that men can be women if they identity as such, then those university graduates read the situation and then use their powers of subscribing to conformity, deferring to authority, memorizing, regurgitating, and facilitating, in order to virtue signal to the world that they are totally onboard with the new normal. Soon the cultural tide turns and suggesting that men are men and women are women becomes an opinion beyond the pale. University degree holders enjoy being early adopters of these top-down movements, because it keeps their status on the correct side of dynamic social norms and, thus,successful.
Zman suggested that if the ruling classes adopted Buddhism as the new really important ideology then the trickle-down effect would see university graduates all adopting Buddhism as their religion because that would be the signal they would desire to reflect. Instead, we get climate thumpers and anti-racists and pride parades. I’d rather we got Buddhists.
The fourth and final puzzle piece is the long march through the institutions.
Cultural Marxism was developed in the aftermath of the first world war. Communists couldn’t understand why the horrors of that moment didn’t convince people to rise up and throw a revolution against the status quo. They theorized that people were simply too beholden to their customs and traditions to adopt a radical ideology like Communism. So, the new strategy was to slowly, but surely transform society using power structures already established. The new communists would begin a long march through the institutions until they held significant influence in the areas of media, politics, arts, law and most importantly…education.
"We like to brand ourselves in the eyes of others and use impressions as currency amongst our peers."
It took a hundred years, a few setbacks and some hearty compromises, but here we are.
The march through the universities was especially effective. Little by little, old scholars would resign or retire, and substandard leftist professors would take their place. The old leftist professors would hire the next batch, until we ended up with the situation we have today. Democrat supporting professors outnumber Republican supporting professors by a ratio of 10 to 1 and much of woke politics is now arriving in the real world via the universities.
These four attributes combined…dashed expectations due to education escalation and the high costs to attain it, arrogance attached with scholastic achievement, aspirational social signalling, and the conscious strategy of socialists marching through the institutions have all combined to create a permanent progressive left amongst university educated voters.
The next time you hear someone smugly claim that educated people are progressive because they’re smart, remember this: the forces that lead them towards progressivism have more to do with debt, resentment, arrogance, conformity and brainwashing than any sort of critical thinking or natural intelligence. These are forces we are all susceptible to, but educational attainment has a way of institutionalizing and weaponizing these flaws.
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