Opinion

Ann Coulter's sneering at 'bush-league colleges' is unbecoming of a true conservative

This is who we are now — the defenders of the academic elite?

Chief Donald Trump apologist Ann Coulter's latest column, headlined "Useless idiots," celebrates the Ivy League-educated "outsiders" at the top of the GOP presidential polls — Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina — while skewering the Trump-bashing candidates and political pundits who went to "bush-league colleges." She writes:

Trump graduated from the Wharton School of Business and went on to make $11 billion. Carson went from Yale to the University of Michigan Medical School and was the first man to separate twins conjoined at the brain. Fiorina graduated from Stanford University and then earned $80 million in business.

By contrast, look up the educational achievement of the average pundit sneering at Trump's idiocy and the ordinariness of his supporters. I won't be as nasty as they are, but wow! — people who went to bush league schools shouldn't throw stones. There's nothing wrong with attending a bush-league college. But maybe ease up on holding yourself out as a great intellectual appalled by the dirty masses if you went to a third-rate college in the era of need-blind admissions. [Ann Coulter]

I guess this is meant to put people like me in my place. I'm a conservative political pundit. I've been critical of Trump. And I went to two so-called "bush-league colleges": Frederick Community College, and then Shepherd College (now Shepherd University) in West Virginia.

In Ann Coulter's world, this seems to mean that I am not qualified to have an opinion about someone who graduated from Wharton.

This is actually a topic I've thought a lot about recently. My forthcoming book is titled Too Dumb to Fail, and it's not terribly kind to Mr. Trump. It occasionally dares to differ with Ivy Leaguers like the honorable Ted Cruz, too. Couple that critical posture with the derisive title of the book, add in my own less-than-sterling academic record, and well, it seemed inevitable that someone would suggest I'm throwing stones from a glass house.

Intelligence and academic performance are important, I know. But they must also be tempered with virtues like wisdom, prudence, and humility — not to mention leadership skills. Many of the most evil people in history, who have unleashed the vilest ideas, were not stupid people. The most dangerous person isn't a dumb person — it's more likely a highly intelligent person who lacks wisdom, or has selfish motivations.

In Intellectuals and Society, Thomas Sowell put it this way: "The opposite of intellect isn't dullness or slowness, but the opposite of wisdom is foolishness, which is far more dangerous." Intelligence is important, but without other virtues, it's more dangerous than ignorance. The unadulterated worship of elite academic achievement employs a brand of tunnel vision that is not only wrong, but dangerous.

The other big problem with Coulter's stance, of course, is that by sneering at anyone who didn't go to an elite and expensive school, she's condescendingly dismissing the value of (forgive the Occupy-like rhetoric) 99 percent of the country. This is not only morally contemptuous and politically stupid — it's flat out wrong. And it's unbecoming of a conservative. We should admire those Americans who work up from humble roots, go to college — whether community or Ivy League — and work hard to achieve the American dream. Conservatives should and do have heroes beyond the Harvard crowd.

Coulter hates it when we reference Ronald Reagan. She opens her column criticizing Scott Walker for referencing him (Walker didn't even graduate from college!), but it's worth noting that The Gipper, who attended tiny Eureka College (what a loser!), was our last non Ivy League president. Reagan was also, perhaps not coincidentally, our last great president.

Both Bushes were Ivy Leaguers. Bill Clinton was an Ivy Leaguer and a Rhodes Scholar. President Obama — you know that guy we conservatives hate? — is an Ivy Leaguer, too. You know who else attended Ivy League institutions? All nine of the Supreme Court Justices. Clinton, Dubya, Obama, John Roberts… not exactly conservative heroes.

Going to an Ivy League school does not a great president make. And conservatives dismiss the Americans who didn't attend Ivy League schools at our own peril.

Editor's note: This article originally misidentified the author of Intellectuals and Society. It has since been corrected. We regret the error.

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