Saturday, November 28, 2015

All we want you to know

This week's Saturday Leader Times had two editorials, one of which was ignorant and the other positively evil. The first editorial criticized PA governor Tom Wolfe and Pittsburgh mayor Bill Peduto for announcing that they would not change their positions on welcoming Syrian refugees after the terrorist attacks in Paris sponsored by ISIS. There are plenty of published articles and blog posts refuting the first editorial, so I will let it pass.

The second editorial was a thinly-disguised hit piece against Bernie Sanders' proposal to make education at a public college free. The ostensible focus of the editorial was Neil Cavuto's interview of Keely Mullen, an organizer of the Million Student March held on November 12. The editorial is largely made up of select quotes from the interview meant to highlight Mullen's inability to describe a realistic plan to pay for the march's three demands: free education at public colleges, student debt forgiveness and a $15.00/hour minimum wage for student employees at colleges and universities. The editorial opens like so:
 All one needs to know [italics added] about the ignorance of the "free college" crowd can be found in the words of Keely Mullen, the national organizer of last week's Million Student March ....
 After a selection of quotes from the interview the editorial concludes,
Ms. Mullen and Co. plant lots of "gimme" seeds.  They then expect others to water, weed, harvest and hand over the fruits of their labors.  Thinking Americans should find grotesque this ignorant, if not narcissistic, sense of entitlement.
 Let's dispose of Ms. Mullen before we get to the problems of this editorial.  She was a poor choice as a spokesperson for this group.  First, she comes from an upper-middle class family.  Second, she attended an expensive private high school and attends Northeastern University, an expensive private college.  Third, she is personally indebted to the tune of $150,000.00 in college loans.   For these reasons she does not represent the bulk of the young people who would most benefit from free public college education.  This background would not make her an inappropriate choice for the group's leadership.  History is full of people from upperclass backgrounds who were able to advocate effectively for the less fortunate.  The problem is that the group's goal of student loan forgiveness puts her in a compromised position.  It is not just that she would personally benefit from forgiveness of her college debt, but also that her deep indebtedness is a consequence of  very avoidable choices.   This makes her advocacy for that cause is transparently self-serving.  What's worse, in the interview she lied about her background, claiming that her family is working-class and dependent on government assistance.    The conservative blogosphere has since understandably erupted in outrage and contempt over her comments.

I have no idea how the national leadership of the Million Student March is organized but it clearly lacks in accountability and common sense.  There is no way Ms. Mullen should have accepted this interview.  A more articulate, better-prepared and more representative spokesperson should have been selected.   There is no doubt such a person could have been found.  If the Leader Times editorial board doubts this, they are still mired in the same immaturity that led Ms. Mullen to accept the Cavuto interview.

And that's the point.  Mullen is a college kid.  A narcissistic sense of entitlement is just one of many serious character/personality issues that people in their late teens and early twenties can struggle with.  Among the others: overly-legalistic idealism, self-doping, the Dunning-Krueger effect, depression, sexual manias, etc.  This is just a short list from memories of my own college experience.  Do I have to remind the editorial board of how many student leaders of conservative campus organizations have been guilty of ignorant behavior and/or statements?  

Of the organization's three key positions, the call for cancellation of college debts is the most controversial, for reasons that Cavuto and this editorial either state or imply.  But the editorial, while clearly taking shots at the entire movement because they regard Ms. Mullen's heavily leveraged investment in an expensive private institution as typical, explicitly mentions only the first position:  free tuition.  Furthermore, the editorial does so without qualifying the organization's position:  free tuition at public institutions.

Since the editorial takes specific aim at the position that public college education should be tuition-free, why not take on a seriously-considered proposal by someone with some governmental experience, e.g., Bernie Sanders' position papers on financing higher education?  A competent editorialist would have taken aim at the best version of an opposing viewpoint and would have made an argument against it and in favor of a better proposal, rather than indulging in guilt by association and related sleaze. I'm sure you'll claim the "liberal" media started it by reporting on the Million Student March and giving the students a public forum to express their views. Then you can point to the fact that Fox broadcast the Cavuto interview. If you want to stoop to Cavuto's level, go get a job with Fox. Cavuto is no college kid, but in the interview he managed to peddle the ridiculous claim that people with incomes over $250,000.00 are now paying nearly 50% of their income in taxes. Forget what Cavuto thinks of his audience; the man is an idiot. So, Leader Times Editorial board, what's your excuse? This sleazy piece of contemptuous redirection you've attempted to pawn off as an editorial is the kind of writing I'd expect from an entitled, snotty and rather stupid undergraduate propagandist. Except that you are not undergraduates; you think you're too clever for that. Instead, you are hoping that your audience will associate Sanders' proposals with "entitled brats" like Mullen and reject it as hopelessly unrealistic and unfair without bothering to learn anything further about the issue. After all, you've already given your readers all they need to know, right?

Clearly, you assessed your readership as largely older and already resentful of young people who go to expensive private colleges, e.g., the kind of kids that most of the older readers in Armstrong county don't have.   Many of them don't have any college-age kids at all anymore, which means that their knowledge of the financial challenges facing families tyring to get their kids through college right now is outdated and unrealistic.   Rather than challenging your readers to get updated on the facts and think strategically about the educational needs of a modern society, you indulge their resentments, saying in effect, "Nothing more to see here, move on sheeple."    Whoever is responsible for putting this editorial in the paper ought to lose his/her job.

No comments:

Post a Comment