Thoughts from an indoctrinated graduate on Rick Santorum and higher education

Liz Lefebvre| comments | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare
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My grandfather passed away before I was born, but I’ve come to know him over time through his favorite phrases and sayings that my mom now repeats. One that she quotes most often is: "Education is something no one can take away from you."

Born in 1906 and orphaned at the age of 4, it took my grandfather until he was nearly twenty years old to complete high school. His college education was interrupted by both the Great Depression and the deaths of his siblings, but he ended up earning his B.S. from Marquette University in 1938 and went on to teach biology, chemistry, and history in the Milwaukee public school system.

My grandfather valued his education as a way to make smart decisions about life, something he placed such importance on that he used his education to give others in his community access to the same knowledge. It's in this context that I heard Rick Santorum’s recent comments that President Obama is a “snob” because “he wants everyone to go to college.” (The president isn’t trying to mandate college education – he’s just interested in making it more affordable, and thus an option for more Americans who would choose it.)

More people than ever are attending college and earning degrees, recognizing that having a college degree is the best path forward to career advancement and financial security. At the same time, for many people in our country, a college education is an unattainable, unaffordable part of the American dream, and student loan debt threatens to cause another financial crisis.

Santorum—who, with an undergraduate degree, an MBA, and a law degree, holds more degrees than President Obama—also referred to the harmful “indoctrination” that occurs at the university level. (I assume he isn’t considering skills like engineering, computer science, medical science, or trade skills that are taught at our nation’s colleges and universities.)

I thought I’d share a few things that I got indoctrinated with during the four years I spent attaining a liberal arts degree at a (by no means politically or socially liberal) Catholic university:

  • How to think critically about large scale concepts and how to soundly reason arguments
  • How to engage in respectful debate with people who don’t share my views
  • How important my responsibility is to serve and improve my local and global community

Does Santorum really believe that teaching people these principles will harm our country? It seems that the much bigger threat would be to keep people out of college. If higher education was more widely available, would people consider it to be an ugly mark of the wealthy elite?

No one can take your education away from you—provided you are able recieve it in the first place.

Be sure to check out Admission impossible: Preferential option for the poor at Catholic colleges from our February 2012 issue of U.S. Catholic.