At the Democrats' presidential debate last week, the candidates were asked to comment on issues pertaining to education. This was Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd's response:
"I've been asked the question over the years, 'What's the single most important issue?' I always say education because it is the answer to every other problem we confront as a people here."
Needless to say, no other candidate took issue with Sen. Dodd, and it is likely that most senators, all the Democrats and many Republicans, would agree with the sentiment.
But the sentiment is not only wrong, it is destructive.
There are, of course, links between education and professional success, between education and the ability to read and write. And obviously we need well-educated people in order to be able to compete with other countries. But for at least the few generations in the Western world there has been no link between higher education and human decency.
This is one of the many myths believed by the educated in Western society (people are born good is another). But there is not a shred of evidence to support it.
In fact, the record of the last hundred years -- if it argues for any link between higher education and goodness -- argues for an inverse link. Put simply, the higher educated in Western society have been more likely to have awful moral values and more likely to support massive cruelty than the less well educated.
The two greatest evils of the 20th century -- fascism and communism -- were often headed by well-educated individuals. And communism was supported in the West almost exclusively by intellectuals. You almost had to be an intellectual in order to support the mass murderers Lenin, Stalin and Mao.
Ask any well-educated person to identify the educational backgrounds of the Nazi mass murderers who made up the einsatzgruppen, the mobile killing units that massacred Jews and anti-Nazi dissidents before the gas chambers were invented. It is a safe bet that most would respond that the vast majority of einsatzgruppen members were poorly educated. In fact, however, of the four einsatzgruppen sent into Russia, for example, "Three of the four commanders held a doctorate, whilst one was a double Ph.D." (HolocaustResearchProject.org). These Nazi mass murderers "included many high-ranking officers, intellectuals and lawyers. Otto Ohlendorf, who commanded Einsatzgruppe D, had earned degrees from three universities and achieved a doctorate in jurisprudence" ("The Einsatzgruppen Reports," Holocaust Library, 1989).