You've just come across an infuriating post on Facebook. You open up the comment box and start typing furiously. You counter-argue using scientific sources, real numbers, and logic, and all you get back in response is name-calling and ridicule. Sound familiar?
Welcome to the "educated elite." See what they did there? They took something positive ("educated"), paired it with something negative ("elite"), and used it to label us.
When did being "educated" become a bad thing? There was a time when education was revered and school teachers were respected. A time when scientists were heroes because they got us to the moon and people listened to doctors because their advice could save our lives. Today, I tell my kids to study or else they'll never get a good job, and what do they reply? "Mom, Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates dropped out of college." Or, even better: "Mom, YouTubers make millions of dollars and they never have to go to college."
Today, Google has all the answers your doctor will never give you, all the science your religion allows you to believe, and a perfect world that beautifully matches your so-called values. Evolution isn't real, it's just a theory. Teachers are indoctrinating our kids, scientists are conspiracy theorists who enjoy telling us that the world will end, and doctors are vaccine impostors paid by Big Pharma. (On a side note, vaccines are cheap, they don't make the Big Pharma rich. What makes them rich are all the drugs you need when you get the diseases you could've vaccinated against.)
Who needs education when we can learn stuff on our own? This, you see, has been this election's winning message. And that's exactly why the incoming cabinet features a secretary of education who wants to dismantle public education; a national security adviser who tweets fake news; a secretary of treasury who ran a bank that was dubbed the "foreclosure machine"; and an EPA administrator who doesn't believe in environmental policies and doesn't believe in climate change. If you think about it, it's like all these people, instead of being rightfully shamed for their failures, have been rewarded with the highest positions in the government. All because we no longer trust education, let alone if it comes from the establishment. Can you hear your teenage kid's voice? "Get out of the way, Mom. I can do stuff on my own, now!"
The secretary of energy for the past two terms has been a PhD. In fact, our previous secretary of energy was a Nobel laureate. These bright minds will now be succeeded by a BS in animal science and 'Dancing with the Stars' contestant. I'm sure those stardom experiences will come in handy when talking to scientists and engineers about the state of our nuclear weapons and climate change policies. Oh, wait. I forgot; the incoming secretary doesn't believe in climate change. So I'm sure he doesn't believe in investing money in basic research to address questions like, "Why are our trees dying?" or "Is there going to be enough water for our growing cities twenty years from now?" or "How are we going to sustain our agriculture when we'll run out of water?" or "Can we make more potent antibiotics in order to fight drug-resistant bacteria?"
And if you are wondering, all those questions do pertain the US Department of Energy. DOE oversees national security labs like the one where I work. My colleagues and I work hard every day on questions like the ones I mentioned above because drug-resistant bacteria and water problems are among the greatest threats our society is facing today. Ill-minded people could easily get a hold of these problems and turn them into bioweapons. But don't worry, I'm sure Google will hold all the answers.
Nelson Mandela once said, "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world." I want you to think about that for a moment. What do Mandela's words say about a country where college education is so expensive that many can no longer afford it? And even worse, a country where a good chunk of the population does not trust college education? Knowledge is freedom. Ignorance, instead, and the general inability to discern facts from fabrication and lies, make a country vulnerable to hacks and tyranny.
And so now the "educated" people are labeled "elite" when in fact we are the ignored majority, the ones who lobby for renewable energy, who warn that fracking and drilling will eventually contaminate all our drinking water, and who call for climate change action. We are the majority and if our voices go unheard it means we have to be louder. Because in a world too busy to take the time to ponder, too loud to stop to listen, and too arrogant to realize its own ignorance, the "educated elite" is all America will have left when catastrophe will strike. And in the best of Hollywood traditions, we will be there to come to the rescue.
The opinions expressed here are my own.