I see something once and then see it again and… You don’t see anyone in a cast for months and then you see them everywhere you go for the next week… Maybe that’s why I am finding so many small-minded thinkers this week. This piece, “Parsing Santorum’s Statistic on God and College: Looks as if It’s Wrong,” by Jonathan P. Hill in the Chronicle of Higher Education, seems almost militant in its pursuit of a meaningless question.
I’m almost– not quite–shocked by Hill’s seeming lack of perspective. He seems to have not noticed that the Republican candidates aren’t in the least worried about veracity. If all you do is try to test the truth of the hypothesis that U.S. universities are “atheist factories” then you’ve already fallen prey to a very basic political tactic that has proven widely successful at least since the War Department was renamed the Department of Defense.
If academics interested in truth-based argument are going to get anywhere we are going to have to stop letting these truthiness advocates set the agenda. Santorum didn’t imply that college destroys faith because he read a study that suggested it might. He’s saying this because it resonates with a politics of misplaced resentment and anger. Higher education has a lot to answer for among working people and we need to articulate our own response.
You can’t counter these folks by measuring the size of the domestic oil supply or its impact on domestic prices; it does no good to try to assess the impact of the death tax. There is no death tax, there’s a relatively toothless estate tax; oil prices are set internationally. At the very best, it would take decades of research, development, and drilling in the United States to have any impact on the world market. Santorum should be ignored.