Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Donald: Connecting the Dots

Smug Elitist 

Resentment is au courrant.  It is the operating principle most talking heads use to explain the appeal of Donald J. Trump.

The underlying current is the people who resent their position actually deserve to be in the underclass. Typical of this attitude is the widely reported comment from Lawrence Summers, former president of Harvard and high mucky muck in President Obama's administration, an economist of MIT pedigree. He said people resent being paid what they are actually worth, which is to say, the underclass deserves being an underclass.

While it is probably true many people who have never been able to make much money are poor because they are simply incompetent at mastering remunerative jobs, there is another story when it comes to fairness in the economic and financial life of this nation. 
Truth Speaker: A dangerous Man

This is at the heart of Andrew Hacker's accidental masterpiece, "The Math Myth" in which he demonstrates how irrelevant math tests have systematically eliminated many capable people from jobs across a broad spectrum of occupations from becoming a physician to passing the licensing exam to become  an electrician. 

While it has been easy to  dramatize how pernicious "tests" can be used to perpetrate social injustice, the math test scam has been underappreciated.

Never took a SAT exam

It is easy to see how "poll tests" were maliciously applied to prevent Black voters in the South from voting. The scene in which a Black woman (played, I believe, by Oprah Winfrey) goes to vote but the white clerk asks her to recite the Declaration of Independence and when she recites it, he asks her to recite the Constitution--all this  is absurd enough to drive home the point that almost anyone can be failed if the exam is arbitrary enough. 

It's harder to dramatize the injustice of exams which eliminate some people and not others, but the injustice is just as real and destructive. 

How many people have been thwarted by the American system of eliminating applicants by means of arbitrary "tests" by insisting we have a "meritocracy" when in fact, what we have is an aristocracy of wealth?  The rich typically can afford the tutoring which stacks the deck in their favor.

Those people who were told they could not be electricians or vets or doctors, people smoldering with resentment,  now hear the call from someone who says, "Yes, you were cheated, and I'm going to stick a finger in the eye of those elitists who did this to you."
He feels Their Pain

I have no polls, no data, only anecdotes, only the experience of sitting in a room with a man who has failed his electrician licensing exams because he could not work irrelevant math problems and he now faces, after years of apprenticeship, the prospect of never being able to be licensed as an electrician, of having to remain an indentured servant to a man who did pass those tests.  This makes the wannabe electrician burn with shame, but he also burns with resentment because he has seen for years the work actually required of an electrician and he knows he can do that work and never need any math at all.  So he thinks the game is rigged. And he is correct.

Things may be coming home to roost here in America, for a lot of reasons. But if Mr. Trump is swept into office, we can add this to the list.

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