Posted by: thebylog | December 23, 2008

Education ≠ Smart

How the Rich are Different From You and Me: Places that went for Obama are richer and smarter than places that went for McCain.

This is the headline for an article which argues that, in general, Democrats make more money and have more education than Republicans and that the trend is becoming more pronounced.  Leaving this central argument aside, I want to point out that when the headline and article are juxtaposed, it reflects a common misconception about educated people, that educated people are more intelligent than uneducated ones.  This is not true!  I know plenty of people without any formal education past high school that are much sharper than people in the midst of acquiring an education.  In fact, many of these uneducated people no doubt could go as far as they wanted in the academic system, if they desired to do so.

So argue until you are blue in the face that Democrats are more educated than Republicans, but the implication that this automatically means they are smarter is going too far.  In fairness to the headline, it might be true that this holds on average.  That is, there are many people who are uneducated because they are less capable of performing well in an academic environment.  My point is that there could be communities that eschew higher education in favor of other values but that may very well be more intelligent on average than the typical undergraduate in this country.  I use the conservative Mennonite community as an example, of course, but I wouldn’t doubt there are others as well.

I’m sure this has been formally studied in one way or another, so if anyone knows of any relevant studies … Of course, if the studies do exist they were no doubted headed up by academics.


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