Monday, September 12, 2016

The 67.5%, Anti-Intellectualism, and Oppression by the Educated Class

Will Barratt, Ph.D.
Roi Et Rajabhat University

A Brief Lesson in US Education Demographics

In 2015, according to the US Census Bureau, US 32.5% of adults over 25 have at least a four-year college degree.  This is the ruling class. 

An additional 10.2% have an Associates degree, a total of 58.9% have some college or more, and 88.4% have a high school diploma or more.  All in all people in the US are pretty well educated. The US ranks 13th globally in population with tertiary education.

Look at this another way.  A lot of people start college and don't finish with any degree, a lot of people don't even go beyond high school, a lot of people never finish high school.  The majority of people over 25 in the US do not have a four-year degree.

The ruling class, the educated class, basically people with at least a four-year college degree, is only 32.5% of the population.  And yet, this minority, the educated class, manages a lot of the economy, media, consumerism, advertising, and the school curriculum.  Some people are notable exceptions, and given the population size the exceptions are meaningless.

For the other 67.5% of the people, those without a four-year degree, well, sorry about all this.

What can this 32.5% majority thing mean?  It means income inequity, it means power inequity, it means access inequity, it means systemic inequity, largely created by the people who study inequity. This inequity also means that the majority of people depend on the minority of people to run things. If the minority, the educated class, doesn't solve problems that in itself is a problem.  If the minority, the educated class, is busy solving their own problems, that means the problems of the 67.5% don't get addressed.  Oops.

It is clear that the educated class, the 32.5% are not addressing the problems of the 67.5%.  Just look at health care, social services, water, infrastructure, and the rest in areas where the 67.5% live, then look at the nice neighborhoods with good services where the 32.5% live.

Look at college attainment by group;
     32.8% for European Americans
     22.5% for African Americans
     15.5% for Hispanic of any race
     53.9% if you are Asian American
     32.3% for men
     32.7% for women

Mentally adjusting for proportion of the population by ethnicity, (77.1% white, 13.3% African American, 5.6% Asian American, and 17.6% Hispanic) and, yes, the 32.5% is mostly white people (note please that the term white is what the US Census used in the data linked here).

The Reproduction of Social Class. Most people who attend college have parents who went to college.  The US has a self-replicating system of membership into the 32.5% group.  First generation students and students with low income are a minority on campus.  Look at College Navigator, pick a college, look at Financial Aid, and find the number of Pell Grant students.  High prestige colleges have very few. Graduation rates by family education and income are what you might expect.

Chances are good that those members of the educated class are you and me. Honestly, who else would be writing or reading a blog on social class?


My hypotheses is that anti-intellectualism is the failure of education in two ways.

  1. The failure to educate all people appropriately.
  2. The failure of members of the educated class to recognize their privilege as a minority group with majority power.  This failure leads to the exclusion of members of the 67.5% group. 

Failure to Educate

The educated elite in the US, the 32.5%, have normalized a college degree.  Everyone in charge, the ruling class, have college degrees.  College preparation curriculum in high schools abound when we know that not everyone will go to college, and not everyone will be successful in college.  And yet the college preparation curriculum is favored in high schools.  The children of the college educated 32.5% set the curriculum for everyone.

The official Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate for high school looks only at those who begin 9th grade and graduate within four years.  That number is 82% overall, Asian 89%, White 87%, Hispanic 76%, and Black 73%.  We know that college graduation rates are heavily affected by income, so we can assume that high School graduation rates are similarly related to income. Income, is related to education.

There are two conclusions to differential educational attainment by income and ethnicity.  One conclusion is the failure of the educational system to appropriately educate all students.  The other conclusion is the failure of students to achieve because of low ability. I refuse to believe that any demographic factor has anything to do with student ability. There is no credible evidence at all for any differences and intelligence between groups of people, and yet intelligence is so highly praised by the educated class and yet is evenly distributed in the population.

The Failure of the Educated Class to Recognize the System they Created

The undereducated is a phrase that assumes that everyone should have maximum education and that members of the 67.5% are somehow inferior.  The overeducated is a phrase that suggests that the 32.5% don't have common sense and are somehow inferior.  There is an assumption among people in the 32.5% group that upward mobility and educational attainment should be valued by everyone. Badges of honor for members of the 32.5% are decals in the back window of the car, class rings, campus shirts, and football weekends.

There is an assumption among members of the 67.5% that the system is rigged against them.

Oppression is always a transaction.  The 32.5% don't see their half of the transaction, believing instead in open access, meritocracy, and the good life in spite of massive evidence to the contrary. The idea among members of the 32.5% that "We know best because we are educated." is quite indefensible.

Consequences of Systematic Exclusion of the Under-educated. 

Why do people embrace the anti-intellectual, the anti-rational, the idea that my opinion is as good as your fact?  Intellectualism, rational thought, data and discourse are perceived by members of both groups as part of the 32.5% mental model.  The education groups, like genders, are seen by members as mutually exclusive.  (I recognize that this binary exclusionary membership is an indefensible idea.) Characteristics of your group cannot be characteristics of my group. Because you like science, data, dialog, and rationality, I don't.  And yes, I am well aware that this dialog is carried out in people's heads about gender, religion, and all of the facets of identity.

Final Thought

What voice do the voiceless have?  Where are the media outlets for the 67.5%?  Is it Fox News?  Is it conspiracy theory web sites?  Or are these outlets conscious efforts to exploit the 67.5% for financial gain.

A riot is the language of the unheard.  M. L. King, 1966 


tl;dr the US system is made for and by the college educated, sorry.

Watch Mike Rowe do a Ted Talk about the 62.5%


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Ria adam said...

Such a nice and informative blog.

Cloud EMS said...

Upper-class flexibility and informative accomplishment must be appreciated by everyone as domination is always a transaction.