Often the question is raised, generally of those more conservative voters in the deep South, why so many people so frequently vote against their own interests? With labor and economic policies being promoted by candidates with often radical and regressive agendas and the nations lowest rates of economic mobility, the collective decision making in the southern electorate which results in bombastic Tea Party darlings and questionable public school priorities is often the subject of scorn and ridicule throughout the more progressive North and West. And while perhaps much of the regressive conservatism in America’s south is rooted in certain cultural underpinnings, census numbers regarding educational achievement do pose a curious correlation.
Take for a first example, this image, depicting comparative high school graduation rates throughout the country.
This disparity in graduation rates offers a rather stark look at the general educational levels of the common voter throughout the south. But it’s affects, beyond lending itself well to fundamentalist religion, racial tension and politics that are often utterly absurd, also seem to represent themselves economically, with the average rates of economic mobility for average Americans being well below the national average.
(Image courtesy of The New York Times — click image to view interactive map)
Now granted, correlation does not equal causality, at least, not as a proper rule. But it would take a particularly bent and broken logic to avoid acknowledging that where education is at its weakest, so is the popular economy and culture.
The poorest are typically also the least educated in society. They’re by nature of both their poverty and their lack of education, also the most vulnerable to corruption and manipulation. Should it be any surprise then that this is the region which produced the Koch brothers? Should it shocking to learn then that Scott McCutcheon and the Alabama Coal Association, who are seeking to eliminate caps on how much the wealthy can buy off politicians through campaign donations, are part of the southern Republican establishment?
And in the midst of all of this, while school systems are ignored, crumble and fall victim to the industrialization of education, the priorities in many southern school districts continue to seem to bewilderingly misplaced. All of this begs the question if this war on education, which the right has been fighting for ages, isn’t merely a matter of fiscal conservatism, but a politically calculated move.
h/t: The Atlantic