Two Weird Higher-Ed Items from the Far Right

The First Item:

David Brat who came to national prominence by defeating Eric Cantor in the GOP primary in 2014, despite being outspent by Cantor by a 40-1 margin. For the 18 years before that election, Brat had been a professor of economics at Randolph Macon College, for three years heading the college’s Moral Foundations of Capitalism program, which like parallel programs at five dozen other colleges and universities is funded by the BBT Corporation. Besides believing in the moral value of unfettered capitalism, Brat is an advocate of very limited government and minimal government spending.

So, it would not have been surprising if he eventually expressed ideologically consistent concerns about the scope of federal spending on higher education. That is, it would not have been surprising if Brat had  chosen to express those concerns in some less weird way than how he did express them.

What Brat said is: “Socrates trained Plato in on a rock and then Plato trained in Aristotle roughly speaking on a rock. So, huge funding is not necessary to achieve the greatest minds and the greatest intellects in history.”

So, one can suppose that what Brat has in mind might mean that the climbing walls on almost every campus in the country will have to be dismantled so that the rocks can be placed strategically across the campuses’ open spaces in order to increase enrollment capacities of the institutions without having to increase any facility costs. Indeed, if the instructor were fitted with a microphone and the classes were spaced far enough apart, maximum class sizes set to room sizes would become a non-issue.

I personally wonder whether or not Brat ever floated this proposal while he was teaching at Randolph Macon College—whether he ever had the students in even one of his classes gather around a large rock in the middle of some lawn and then climbed on top of it to engage with them in Socratic dialogues about the wit and wisdom of the Robber Barons.


The Second Item:

Despite all of the incessant attention to Brian Williams’ enhancements of his own parts in at least one news story and very likely several other news stories that he reported, Rand Paul can’t seem to remember that he never actually graduated from Baylor University.

This past week Paul was participating in a “Reboot Congress” event sponsored by Lincoln Labs, and twice he publicly referred to the baccalaureate degrees in English and biology that he had earned at Baylor. In actuality, Paul left Baylor after three years without ever completing either degree, and he was subsequently admitted to and graduated from Duke University’s School of Medicine. At that time, Duke did not require a baccalaureate degree as a prerequisite for admission into its graduate and professional programs.

Worse for Paul, this is hardly the first time that his misrepresentation of his educational background has been publicly exposed. Most notably, the repeated assertion that he had earned the two degrees at Baylor at least briefly became a major issue during his 2010 campaign to become Kentucky’s junior senator.

I know that my own recollections of events are sometimes imperfect, and I am very hesitant to hold others to standards that I myself might have trouble meeting. More specifically, I do not believe that the small details of a person’s history ought to assume undue prominence within the larger picture of what they have done and said or that such details ought to outweigh the gist of what they stand for.

That said, if one believes that Brian Williams can no longer be trusted to deliver the nightly news, how does one logically argue that Ran Paul can be trusted to serve as the President of the United States?

Perhaps we have always held our news anchors to higher standards than our presidents: Walter Cronkite and Richard Nixon come immediately to mind as an illustration of this paradox. But that would seem only an even more significant and more troubling problem with lack of proportion.


2 thoughts on “Two Weird Higher-Ed Items from the Far Right

  1. I am more worried about the lying and corruption then the misremembering.

    Brat tries to use Socrates and Plato as evidence that education need not be expensive. But how much do we know about the education system of ancient Greece and how similar was it to today’s system? Was it in fact cheap by today’s standards? If it relied on tutoring it would be labor intensive and expensive. Was everyone educated or just the elite? Socrates taught for free. Is that a feasible model? Brat might be correct but his argument is weak. I suspect a similar argument could be made against anything.

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