About Rationally Speaking

Rationally Speaking is a blog maintained by Prof. Massimo Pigliucci, a philosopher at the City University of New York. The blog reflects the Enlightenment figure Marquis de Condorcet's idea of what a public intellectual (yes, we know, that's such a bad word) ought to be: someone who devotes himself to "the tracking down of prejudices in the hiding places where priests, the schools, the government, and all long-established institutions had gathered and protected them." You're welcome. Please notice that the contents of this blog can be reprinted under the standard Creative Commons license.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

So, what is the matter with Kansas?

I just came back from a brief visit to Kansas State University, in Manhattan (KS), where I spoke both about my research and, of course, about Intelligent Design creationism. "What is the matter with Kansas?", besides being the title of a recent book about the turn to religious conservatism in the US, was also a question that some of my biology colleagues living there asked me!

Well, there is nothing specifically wrong with Kansas, I think. True, it has been the focus of much publicity (largely negative) during the last several years because of continuous changes in the makeup of the State Board of Education, and consequent swings between pro- and anti-evolution sides (currently the anti- is in charge, but things may change again in a few months).

But that isn't that much different from what is happening in many other places in the US, especially the mid-west and south (although the current high-profile case is the anti-ID trial going on in Dover, PA). The problem isn't Kansas, or Pennsylvania, or Tennessee. Indeed, the problem isn't even the split between so-called red and blue states. After all, most of these states are themselves almost equally split within their own boundaries.

No, the problem is of course the increasing cultural divide between urban and rural America and, quite bluntly, between cosmopolitan and educated sectors of the population on one side, and provincial and ignorant ones on the other. The problem is that "red" states (i.e., those with a preponderance of rural and less educated population) have too much power because the electoral system is such that the number of senators they sent to Washington is the same as that of states (such as California or New York) with much larger (and on average more educated) numbers of people. The problem is that the current movement toward "home schooling" (an oxymoron, really) is creating a new generation of people with huge areas of knowledge completely missing or dramatically distorted during their upbringing. The problem is that the Republicans don't want to change all of this because they need a backward and ignorant population to keep being elected despite the fact that they are so obviously the party of the rich and powerful (by definition, a minority). That is what's the matter with Kansas, and Pennsylvania, and Tennessee.


  1. "...quite bluntly, between cosmopolitan and educated sectors of the population on one side and provincial and ignorant ones on the other."

    Bluntly - farming and rural life is what made America better place to live. Anyone who suggests otherwise knows nothing about it. And who really cares if the people who choose this lifestyle were very well educated or not? At least, this is where people cared about others, and would, for the most part, lend a helping hand without expecting anything in return.

    And because of that metality, it is also one of the few places one might learn how to stay out of wars.

    "...[backward and ignorant] population to keep being elected despite the fact that they are so obviously the party of the [rich and powerful]"

    Those two sets of ideas don't even logically belong in the same sentence. And if you really believed that rationality was important, you'd at least cleanse your speech of appeals to emotion. I don't believe it, and I'd be surprised if you did.

    Where I happen to live, the 'rich and powerful' are almost exclusively on the left. - And you know who keeps voting them back in? All kinds of people! Educated, uneducated, poor, wealthy. Just like the Reps.

    I believe you may have either fallen off your philosophical rocker, or you're just in mood to irk somebody's ire, M.


  2. I know one thing that is the matter with Kansas: it is flatter than a pancake. Here is the scientific proof: http://www.improbable.com/airchives/paperair/volume9/v9i3/kansas.html

  3. I think someone did a study on education in the red vs. blue states after the last election, and found, on average, no significant difference in years of schooling attained.

    I know that the average IQ of red vs. blue state denizens are about equal.

  4. Adrienne,

    right, the difference, I argue, isn't between states, but between rural and urban populations (within states). So the results you recall are what I would have expected.


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