Pretty sure my friend said this as a joke, but the true answer is, we totally can, and we really should.
I have written a lot about cultural evolution, evo theory of cooperation, the destabilization of the American CCP (Cooperation Competition Paradigm), GWAS of educational attainment, and what I perceive to be the greatest threat to the society of the United States going forwards. But the clear and present danger I see is what happens the day after the Nov. elections. I’m on the deck of the Titanic and I can see the iceberg from here. After the 2016 election there was some analysis linking low EA (educational attainment) to Trump voters and I wrote about it here. Nate Silver wrote about it here, and Dan McCormack here.
Over the summer two hugely important papers came out, one describing the heritability of EA and one linking higher EA to higher social class mobility. The reason these papers are critically important is not just the sample size– Dr. Lee’s results are derived on the basis of 1.1 million SNPs– but the information encoded in the results. It seems pretty obvious that in the age of Cambrian explosions in robotics and machine learning and agile innovation a college degree is going to be a basic neccessity to get a good job. The good middleclass jobs of the 21st century are projected to be computer programmer and data scientist, not auto-factory worker or miner/farmer. IOW theres no place for Jefferson’s Noble Yeoman Farmers in the 21st century economy.
What this means for the balanced CCP is that the fitness landscape has changed. In the past conservative tendency humans could make a reasonable case for common sense and a good work ethic having more value than a fancy college education…that’s not true anymore.
Here is another huge problem…this is a graphic of the 2016 Scholastic poll. Hillary won that fantasy election by 2 votes to 1. The only thing I want you to take away from this graphic is that roughly 1/2 of the students depicted will be able to vote in the 2020 election.
Will they vote? Cant say…but this bluing of the public school map is more evidence that Cthulu is still swimming slowly and inexorably left. Pair that with fact that academe is painted blue and its a pretty grim picture of the breakdown of the CCP. We have current divisions on race and gender and culture and geolocation in the electorate– a division on educational attainment of college vs non-college will be disastrous.
Two books that came out on the same day have really influenced my thought on this… Coddling by Jon Haidt and How Fascism Works by Jason Stanley. I think these books should be read in tandem, in context. I think the premise of Coddling is fine, and certainly we should implement its precepts– but the idea that it will mend the imbalance in academe is ludicrous. The problem with opening minds and a safe space for discussion is that are not any conservative ideologies that can compete on 21st century university campuses. Slowing change in the age of time dilation imposed by the internet is probably a very good idea, but unsaleable to college students hoping to turn degrees into good paying jobs. And other good ideas– free trade, limited government, are basically unsalvageable because Trump is actually doing the exact opposite. The adjacency-branding of conservative ideology is unmitigatedly horrible for high EA youth: Trump, Nazis, IDW edgelords (Eric Weinstein) and barking islamophobes (Sam Harris), dusty ancients like Charles Murray, Proud Boys, KKKlansmen, ridickkulous goofs like Jordan Petersen, incels, channers, confederate revanchists, white supremicists and nationalists, evangelicals, racists and misogynists oh my…its pretty unappealing. Haidts sillie, fluffy, well-intentioned book is epically useless. See here.
The problem with Haidts book is that its a cheat– and im just going to call it “Coddling” because that is what it is– both sides know full well the real reasons conservative ideology cant get traction on campuses– the free speech screaming from the right is just performative. But its also fascist myth-making– the idea that terrific conservative ideas are embargo’d because of liberal bias, and the state should take over the schools/courts/google etc.
This is happening. And its scary, but what im more scared of is the idea of two subpopulations diverging on the basis of educational attainment, two classes of citizens, the educated and the un-educated. And im not even going to mention IQ, even though EA is consistently used as a proxy for IQ in research…because its CORRELATED, not causal.
What im terrified of is that the conservative tendency half of the CCP is being presented with a stark choice: Collapse or survive by embracing fascism. Now I love Collapse…its fascinating, magnificent…an obsession…I want to be the Tanya of Mars (one of my favorite scientists) but of Collapse. The Collapse zone, on the border of complexity and chaos is where SOC occurs. And Collapse would be the optimal outcome for the GOP– because it could reinvent itself to be modern, inclusive, adaptive, appealing to youth, minorities, women, etc. But I dont think that will happen…in complexity science we dont say tribe…we say organism. What will an organism do to survive?
So Ive been slurred pretty often as a Social Justice Warrior…I guess it isnt a slur if Im proud to be one. So I want to be a social justice warrior for the right in the domain of educational attainment.
There are things we could be doing that would work:
1. create viable, relevant online universities. For-profit online unis are currently an epic fail. Graduation rate 22% and a dismal job placement rate– traditional degrees are just worth more in the marketplace. And Trump and DeVos are working to make them worse, by deregulating them. Its projected that half of all universities will be online by 2027– lets make the graduation rate and job placement stats comparable to brick and mortar schools WITH GOV REGULATION. Better yet, lets make college free for everyone that needs help!
2. give every US citizen highspeed internet access via a workfare infrastructure program. So kids could go to college from home, in situ, right from the rural heartland. Part of inheritance is symbolic and behavioral– letting conservative youth go to school in situ could go a long ways to rebalancing the CCP. And also– rebalancing geolocation.
3. The Virtuality is coming for us anyways— lets get there first. People are lately deploring the growth of the internet comms giants and their insipid response to security and privacy protections in favor of making vast wads of cash– thats just how unregulated capitalism works, sry. But we could PLAN for an egalitarian, democratic Virtuality if we got started now.
We could use the government to create these programs, which is a profoundly anti-conservative idea, i guess. But my favorite would be The Ludus Strategy.
This wont make a lot of sense unless you read the book (recommended) or see the movie Ready Player One, so here’s a shmoop of chapter seven. Ludus is a planet in the Virtuality that is home to thousands of free public schools.
Some cool things about Ludus: all the virtual schools are built from the same template, excellent teachers can be copied in virtual presence to thousands of schools, everyone wears uniforms, football tackles are virtual (no CTE)…and most of all its FREE.
Could conservatives be persuaded that these are good ideas where government intervention could level the playing field for them and their offspring (instead of for minorities and women)? Because quotas and force installing conservative professors in colleges and Haidt style “Coddling” just wont work. Conservatism needs to evolve in the 21st century to be appealing to high EA youth (college students).
Sorry this got so long. But I am very sure the day after the midterms the analysis is going to show the anti-Trump vote centers around EA, and this will just exacerbate the divergence between the two sub-populations. Here is a sample from a recent poll…
…the only demographic Trump still carries is non-college white males, and only by 55%. It will be disastrous for the US if we are divided into college and non-college sub-populations.
We can do better for America.