In an exchange on Facebook yesterday where I outed myself as a godless commie pinko (I think that noise was Owen White blowing beer through his nose onto the library computer screen) because I think FOX is ridiculous in claiming that the Muppets are radical leftist propaganda, I mused that being part of the “educated class” (which, so we’re clear, I put in scare quotes and qualified by saying, “whatever that actually means”) seems to automatically place one to the left of most who publicly identify as “conservative”.
So what does the term “educated class” actually mean? About a year ago I was having a conversation with a friend about NPR as a source for news. I expressed appreciation for what seemed to be, on the whole, a lack of FOX News-style hyperbole; my friend said, “Well, it’s certainly the news outlet of choice for the educated class.” I’m sure that I had encountered the term “educated class” before, but not in a way struck me as being a discrete, identifiable category, and I’ve been chewing on it every so often over the past year.
Of course, in the past year, I’ve finished a Masters degree and completed doctoral coursework, so that makes me part of the so-called “educated class,” whatever that actually means, right…? I don’t know. Some initial poking into how the term actually gets used in public discourse turned up some not terribly conclusive references — it seems to be a term that neo-cons and moderates and “RINOs” use to pick cultural fights with each other more than anything. I’m half-tempted to see it as one of those terms like “moderate” where really it’s a label that allows for self-identification apart from distasteful extremes and is another way of saying “people like me”. It still seems, to me at least, that members of the “educated class” follow gut instinct as much as anybody else does, it’s just that we can back up our gut instinct with books you can’t find at Wal-Mart. Is that actually any better? I don’t know.
Since I’m not really sure whether or not to take it seriously, here is a half-serious/half-not look at what I think makes me part of the “educated class” (whatever that actually means):
- I have multiple degrees and am still trying to get more.
- I mostly hang out with people who have multiple degrees and/or are still working on more of them.
- I am married to somebody with multiple degrees who is still working on more.
- When I move (and remember I’m married to another academic), the single most expensive part of the move will be figuring out what to do with all of the books.
- I belong to more academic societies than I will have degrees.
- I assume that the people who write the books I read don’t make any money off of them.
- I travel for conferences.
- I actually attend conferences.
- There are conferences for people in my field.
- I have a “field”.
- When I think of “conservatives” I think of people like David Gergen, Russell Kirk, and Rod Dreher. Names like Sarah Palin and Dick Cheney come to mind when I think of “angry and/or creepy white people”.
- I get frustrated that what is presented as conservatism today seems to ignore its own intellectual history.
- I think conservatism has an “intellectual history”.
- I think there’s such a thing as “intellectual history”.
- I think it’s weird that it’s spelled “conservatism” rather than “conservativism”.
- I’d like to think that public discourse doesn’t have to be lowest common denominator in order to be effective.
- I’ve read all of Ayn Rand’s major works (including some of her “non-fiction”) and I still think it’s not only intellectual garbage but bad literature.
- I have to concede, with regret, that conservatives, at least in the last few decades, tend to produce lousy art.
- I tend to agree with Paul Krugman that Newt Gingrich is a stupid person’s idea of what a smart person sounds like. I also think that tends to apply to Ayn Rand.
- I think that “What do you read?” is a friendly, getting-to-know-you question. I’d love it if Katie Couric asked me that.
- I’m weary of Republicans claiming that their willingness to eat their own is what separates them from the Democrats, when it is obvious to me that it isn’t true.
- I’m aware that NPR isn’t free of bias but it’s nice to hear rational adults talking like rational adults, rather than watching either plastic people trying to buddy up to me over the anchor desk or angry white people yelling at me or each other about how a president who is to the right of Nixon on some points is a radical socialist.
- I can tell you that Theodosius, not Constantine, made Christianity the official state religion of the Roman Empire.
- Even as an Orthodox Christian, I don’t think that science is a secular conspiracy theory, and as such I think science has implications and consequences for my behavior and choices — much as Christianity does.
- I actually want my hypothetical future kids to learn languages other than English.
- I actually believe there’s a connection between what academics do and what happens in the real world.
- I don’t see being articulate (read: “being able to string a coherent sentence together”) and being authentic as diametrically opposed qualities. I’m a both/and kind of guy.
- When I’m given the opportunity to donate a book to a children’s group, I instinctively grab a single-volume copy of The Lord of the Rings and hope that it inspires some kid somewhere to think, to believe, to wonder, and maybe to be interested in the stuff that made Tolkien want to write the story in the first place.
- To think, to believe, and to wonder are the things I learned to do best as a little kid and they’re what I’ve tried to figure out how to make a living at doing ever since.
That’s all I can think of for now. Yeah, it’s kinda SWPL-ish, isn’t it? Maybe that’s inescapable. I’d be curious for anybody to come up with their own list.