Professor Alan Taylor teaches at the University of Virginia. He has won the Pulitzer prize…twice! Look for a review or interview on his latest book in the months ahead.
Taylor has written a terrific piece on the need for an educated electorate (HT to www.thewayofimprovement.com). I spent some good time marking up and pondering Taylor’s critical assessment and prescription. Here’s a taste:
“Here then was the rub. Visionary leaders insisted that preserving a republic required improving the common people by an increased investment in education. But a republic depended on common voters who lacked schooling and often balked at paying for it, preferring to spend their money on consumer goods. As farmers, they also wanted to keep their children at work on the farm. To justify their preferences, they invoked a populist distrust of the educated. A rustic republican from North Carolina insisted, ‘College learned persons give themselves great airs, are proud, and the fewer of them we have amongst us the better.’ Preferring ‘the plain, simple, honest matter-of-fact republicanism,’ he asked, ‘Who wants Latin and Greek and abstruse mathematics at these times and in a country like this?’ Distrustful of all aristocrats, natural and artificial, he insisted that they should pay to educate themselves, and the poor could make do without book learning; thus, he would vote for candidates who kept taxes low. Common voters in the southern states often did not regard education as essential to preserving their republic.”