Just when it appeared that an epic primary win in one of Mitt Romney's many, many home states -- Michigan. of the right tree-height and streets, to be exact -- was in his grasp, Rick Santorum has chosen the last few days to really bring tha crazy. We've discussed here in the past whether it would be "snobbery" for President Obama to insist that all Americans go to college (Spoiler alert: That's not exactly what Obama has actually said) and whether college is a liberal indoctrination plot. Those don't seem like winning issues, but this weekend he's been doubling down.
And -- although using statistics to prove your point sounds like something they'd teach you at those Commie-creatin' colleges -- Santorum has cited a "fact" in making his argument: That some 62 percent of those who attend college lose their religious faith.
You'll be shocked, shocked, to learn that some of Santorum's truths are false:
A study published 2007 in the journal Social Forces — which PBS reports that Santorum’s claim is based on, although his spokesman didn’t respond to TPM’s request for confirmation — finds that Americans who don’t go to college experience a steeper decline in their religiosity than those who do.
“Contrary to our own and others’ expectations, however, young adults who never enrolled in college are presently the least religious young Americans,” the journal concluded, noting that “64 percent of those currently enrolled in a traditional four-year institution have curbed their attendance habits. Yet, 76 percent of those who never enrolled in college report a decline in religious service attendance.”
Or Santorum may have been referring to a 2006 Harvard study in which 62 percent of college Republicans said “religion is losing its influence on American life.”
But that study negates Santorum’s larger point: It found that “a quarter of students (25%) say they have become more spiritual since entering college, as opposed to only seven percent (7%) who say they have become less spiritual.”
It kind of makes sense, in a warped way, to use invented facts when the cause that you're crusading for is that of anti-intellectualism. And make no mistake -- Santorum's political line of attack is nothing new; the late Richard Hofstadter made his name in the pantheon of American political thought by writing about anti-intellectualism in American lifenearly 50 years ago. In this election cycle, I though the Oz-like melting of Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin over the last year would reduce appeals to know-nothingism, but Santorum is proving me wrong.
That's tragic, because the issue underlying the Santorum crazy talk -- what is the proper career training and how to we find jobs for Americans, including those who do not attend college? -- is very important, and very serious. But instead of discussing real solutions, Pennsylvania's former senator is resorting to the lowest form of demagoguery.
And demagoguery has nearly destroyed some great nations. That's something I learned a lot about...in college.