“What a snob!”
“That makes me want to throw up!”
What kind of immature language is next from presidential candidate Rick Santorum? “My day can beat up your dad”?
Playground antics aside, the content of the criticism that caused me the deepest concern this week was the senator’s statement before he resorted to name-calling. Sen. Santorum said, “President Obama once said he wants everyone in America to go to college. What a snob.”
First, to be clear, that is not an accurate representation of what the president said. What he said was actually broader. He said, “I ask every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training. This can be community college or a four-year school, vocational training or an apprenticeship.”
In a time when our children are competing not only with each other, but with children in China and India and every other country in the world for jobs, it is hard to imagine that either college or some kind of job training wouldn’t be a good idea, both for them as individuals and for the sustainability of our workforce. Such further education would seem both prudent and smart, and may even be a matter of national security in these uncertain times.
Not to Sen. Santorum. To him it seems snobbish.
“Seriously, Santorum? Seriously?” questioned KSL 5 executive producer Molly Daunt on “A Woman’s View.” “Not only is there the regular value of your education with books and classes, but there is the cultural value of education. It’s ludicrous to say it’s snobbish to want everyone to have the options education gives.”
“Education is vital,” environmental health educator with the Utah County Health Department Andrea Jensen offered. “You never stop learning. A college education is almost as much of the American dream as owning a home. Honestly. This isn’t third grade. We shouldn’t be calling names like that.”
Uh, oh. Andrea and Molly might be a couple of snobs, if that’s what believers in the value of a college education are labeled as these days.
And I stand with them as a proud snob, if that’s what I must be labeled in order to stand up for what I believe in.
“It was a mistake,” the professor in the group, Dixie Huefner, suggested. “It was a tactic. I think he knew what he was saying. Name-calling may get an emotional reaction from part of his base. But he’s taken a hit on this one, and he’s had to back pedal with ‘My wife went to college.’ That sort of thing.”
Let me be clear on one aspect of this discussion. I do not limit the value of a college education to preparation for certain kinds of careers. My children may choose work that would not require a college degree, and if it brings them joy, I would heartily support their choice. And I would still encourage going to college.
College is about expanding your horizons, your mind, your options, your understanding of the world you live in. How do you know at 18 or 20 or 25 what kind of work is right for you if you haven’t tasted disciplines that might await you in college or technical school classes? I’m not sure high school gives you sufficient exposure to the variety of career options the world offers. The way I explain it to my kids sounds like this, but I have no doubt you explain it better: “I want all the doors to be open to you. You may want to walk through these doors over here that would open without college, but you may want to walk through these doors that require a college degree. I just want all the doors to open for you.”
I want to give Sen. Santorum the benefit of the doubt. I truly do. I want to think that what he was trying to say is that college isn’t for everybody. I have two children with disabilities. I, perhaps more than some parents, understand that college isn’t for everybody. But aspiring to more is for everybody. Training and learning is for everybody. Name-calling is for nobody. And a president who asks us to want more for ourselves and our children is not a snob. He is a leader.
Whatever his party.