The poisonous polarization of the culture has produced some ill-considered attacks that call into question one of the most fundamental American values: the notion that each individual deserves to be judged on ability, not background, and evaluated on performance rather than credentials.
For instance, some of the pre-emptive dismissal of
Some of the nation's most influential commentators face similarly sneering criticism based on educational background. I recently received an angry letter from a Texas teacher who despised all of conservative talk radio. "You're a pathetic joke, just like all the other professional blowhards who pollute the airwaves with their rants," he cheerfully opined. "Look at the biggest clowns in your business
It's true that my colleagues
Cronkite, Novak, Safire
The public recently mourned the loss of three universally respected journalists —
Cronkite, Novak and Safire rose to fame in an earlier era, when far fewer Americans graduated from college. In 1960, only 8% of adults 25 or older had earned university degrees. Today, the percentage of college graduates is nearing a third of all adults. In the election of 1948, the voters paid scant attention to the fact that President Truman never attended college. But today, with college education far more common and accessible, no politician could run a credible presidential campaign without some post-high school diploma.
Ironically, the emphasis on intellectual elitism has become far more pronounced on the left than the right, despite the long-standing association of Democrats as "the party of the people." In 2008, college graduates voted decisively for Obama, and he won even bigger majorities of those with post-graduate degrees — not surprising for a candidate with credentials from Columbia and Harvard.
Not only do studies indicate a considerable liberal tilt in college faculties, but Democrats support increased government spending for institutions of higher learning. Because progressives attach greater significance to universities, it makes sense that they judge the educational backgrounds of candidates (and commentators) accordingly: In the past six presidential elections, every one of the
This liberal infatuation with Ivy League affiliation, going back to the Harvard-trained Roosevelt and Kennedy families, also protects prominent progressives from doubts about their "unserious" early careers. Conservatives note that Sen.
In that context, I've received personal attacks because of the 12 years I spent as a full-time film critic (reviewing movies for
Of course, these achievements will do nothing to help my latest book if it's inarticulate or unpersuasive, just as Sarah Palin's early life struggles should in no way discredit her best-seller if it's riveting and insightful. Attempts to disregard messages by attacking the background of the messenger count as not only illogical but also un-American. A nation that proudly offers fresh starts and open doors regardless of old world titles or family connections should reject snobbery based on either academic attainment or aristocratic ancestry.
For Palin, as for any candidate or commentator, the public will appropriately judge performance, not personal history, and should by all means read the book, not the r?sum?.
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