Education to Build Sturdier Bubbles


As Glenn Reynolds suggests, news like this isn’t exactly “startling”:

In a surprising new national survey, members of each major American political party were asked what they imagined to be the beliefs held by members of the other. The survey asked Democrats: “How many Republicans believe that racism is still a problem in America today?” Democrats guessed 50%. It’s actually 79%. The survey asked Republicans how many Democrats believe “most police are bad people”. Republicans estimated half; it’s really 15%. …

… But what’s startling is the further finding that higher education does not improve a person’s perceptions – and sometimes even hurts it. In their survey answers, highly educated Republicans were no more accurate in their ideas about Democratic opinion than poorly educated Republicans. For Democrats, the education effect was even worse: the more educated a Democrat is, according to the study, the less he or she understands the Republican worldview.

Democrats without high school diplomas are three times more likely to understand members of the opposing party than Democrats with PhDs.  That may not actually be that surprising, but one odd finding is that ignorance of the opposition’s beliefs increases as people become more politically engaged.

Of course, we should layer on the caveats.  The questions by which the study collected its data deserve scrutiny, and there could be all sorts of distinctions that might correlate with party affiliation and/or education, such that neither is really a cause of the effect.

That said, the study makes intuitive sense that corresponds with conservatives’ interpretation of modern political dynamics.  Working class Democrats are more likely to be conservative, which would give them more sympathy with Republicans; if you hold a particular political view, for example, you’ll be able to see that it isn’t implicitly racist.  Moreover, at lower levels, occupations are less likely to be a matter of choice, so perhaps those who hold them are more likely to be thrown together with people in similar circumstances who have different political affiliations.

At the same time, education has shifted toward indoctrination, which means that it teaches and prioritizes judgment, not understanding.  This, in turn, changes the nature of political engagement, as being politically active shifts away from an emphasis on addressing real problems and toward the dominance of an ideology.

  • ShannonEntropy

    At the same time, education has shifted toward indoctrination, which means that it teaches and prioritizes judgment, not understanding.

    LR³ …. Liberals R the Real Racists


  • Joe Smith

    Well, with the “Squad” coming from “working class” families doesn’t seem to translate to more open mindedness toward the other side.

    education has shifted toward indoctrination – Well, when education was primarily delivered via a single textbook and/or the lecturing of the “teacher”, there was much more “indoctrination” potential based on the book and teacher. But, whether that book and teacher were biased one way or another was balanced by the facts that (1) a smaller proportion of students matriculated (and thus more proportionally got their real world understanding from well the real world) and (2) more learning was being done at the home because of greater parental involvement (or maybe availability) and less access to unfiltered/no context material.

    Also, going back to 35 plus years ago – “A Nation at Risk” – “It is important, of course, to recognize that the average citizen today is better educated and more knowledgeable than the average citizen of a generation ago–more literate, and exposed to more mathematics, literature, and science. The positive impact of this fact on the well-being of our country and the lives of our people cannot be overstated. Nevertheless, the average graduate of our schools and colleges today is not as well-educated as the average graduate of 25 or 35 years ago, when a much smaller proportion of our population completed high school and college

    At the heart of such a society is the commitment to a set of values and to a system of education that affords all members the opportunity to stretch their minds to full capacity, from early childhood through adulthood, learning more as the world itself changes. Such a society has as a basic foundation the idea that education is important not only because of what it contributes to one’s career goals but also because of the value it adds to the general quality of one’s life. Also at the heart of the Learning Society are educational opportunities extending far beyond the traditional institutions of learning, our schools and colleges. They extend into homes and workplaces; into libraries, art galleries, museums, and science centers; indeed, into every place where the individual can develop and mature in work and life. In our view, formal schooling in youth is the essential foundation for learning throughout one’s life. But without life-long learning, one’s skills will become rapidly dated.”

    • Rhett Hardwick

      About 25 years ago, the Mass. Education Comm. (Dr. Silber?) while running for governor, observed that when we adopted the idea that everyone should graduate from high school, we implicitly lowered the standards.

    • ShannonEntropy


      Appears to be C&P’ed from some other text

      Maybe we should ask the “Learning Society” if they mind you stealing their Intellectual Property