We're a little crazy, about science!

The politics of education

It’s time to make a minor shift back to the focus of my little daily posts and that’s getting a PhD. Technically even the most political of posts are part of this journey, but I think it would make sense to discuss the link a little more explicitly since we never made the connection and I think it’s important.

Education and politics, well it’s more than politics really, even the most apolitical of us are affected by policies put in place by the people who rule govern over us. Some of those policies benefit us, some benefit only a subset of us, and in the past four years, a lot of those policies are created specifically to do us harm.

The “educated” elite. It’s ironic that this is the stereotype that the GOP uses to describe people who pursue a higher education while most of them hold degrees from fancy private schools and have had a good education, more so than even the above average citizen. It’s sad to see one side of the political spectrum push so hard against being educated. It’s even sadder to see people agree with the idea that being uneducated is somehow a better way to live.

I’m a researcher and a PhD candidate. My purpose right now is to create and explore new methods for treating spinal cord injury. I take it very seriously and I absolutely love the work I do. Small victories help, finding something new or discovering something that could lead to an improved life for someone who has a spinal cord injury is the only thing that makes this worth it. I don’t get paid very well, neither do my colleagues. Frankly even if the group I work with discovers a magical cure for spinal cord injury, we would never be a tenth as wealthy as the poorest of politicians.

We do the work for the same reason teachers teach even though they get paid like garbage. We do the work to help people and if that makes me somehow part of the “elite” well then I must be in some damned good company. I don’t expect to get rich, nor do I want to. I don’t expect to be famous and I don’t think I would want that either. I’m happy just having some stability and being able to do work that can benefit people.

Knowledge is power, that’s the issue. Knowing how to think is more difficult than being told what to think. The GOP loves driving home the idea that education makes us less than the average person or that it makes us out of touch. Ironic coming from a group of people who have more money than 98+% of the population. In truth, they do it because they want you to believe what they are telling you without question.

Education is the one thing in this world that no one can take away from you once you have it. Cars, homes, money, power, fame, those are things that can be stripped away from you faster than you can blink. That makes education dangerous, especially in the hands of minorities or the middle and lower class working families that the GOP targets. You don’t know what you don’t know and not knowing what your rights are is exactly what they want.

The most valuable thing I’ve learned since I’ve been in school isn’t what I was taught explicitly. The most valuable thing I’ve learned is how to find the answer to a question I have. To be able to separate facts from opinion, good studies from bad. To know my rights BEFORE I ever get stopped by the police.

Hint: you have the right to remain silent, always, ALWAYS remain silent, there is never a benefit to speaking with the police no matter what they tell you to the contrary, I promise you this. They literally tell you flat out anything you say can and WILL BE USED AGAINST YOU. Nothing you say or do will help you. You also have the right to a lawyer, use it, even if you did nothing wrong, even if you cannot afford one.

By making education out of reach for everyone but the people who can afford it, the GOP is essentially ensuring that you are kept in the class that you were born into. That doesn’t seem right, that doesn’t seem fair, and that certainly isn’t the “American dream.” Education isn’t free for a reason, but I hope that will change. There are a lot of opportunities out there to have your education subsidized or paid for completely (getting your FAFSA filled out is a huge help, don’t be afraid to try even if you think you cannot afford it).

I’ll leave you with this. The people in charge try time and time again to take away your right to vote because try as they might, there is power there. Sure they limit that power and try to keep you from using it, but they can’t take it from everyone. They are doing the same thing with education, trying to limit who can get it and using disinformation to keep you from getting one. They do this because the phrase “knowledge is power” is true.

Don’t be afraid to go after it if you want it. I’ve had both my Masters and my PhD paid for, as in I GET PAID to do my PhD and Masters. My education has been my job basically since I started this journey. If you want it, there are ways and people who can help you get there. Just like voting, there are barriers, but just like voting there are people who will help guide you if you need it.


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