If you were to believe MSNBC's Alex Wagner -- which, I'm sure you don't -- GOP presidential candidate Rick Santorum is anti-college, believing the acquisition of higher education to be a mark of snobbery.
"Is it hypocritical, given Rick Santorum and the fact that he holds not one, not two, but three degrees -- more than the president, -- for him to allege that having a higher education is a form of snobbery?" Wagner pressed Santorum campaign spokeswoman Alice Stewart on today's edition of Now with Alex Wagner. I don't know what they teach at Brown University, where Wagner went to college, but one hopes it has nothing to do with Wagner's deliberate mischaracterization of Santorum's recent swipe at President Obama.
Far from saying that being college-educated is form of snobbery, what the former Republican senator said at an Americans for Prosperity event on Saturday -- and Wagner's producers aired earlier in the segment -- was as follows (emphases mine):
SANTORUM, first clip: President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob!
SANTORUM, second clip: There are good, decent men and women who go out and work hard everyday and put their skills to test that aren't taught by some liberal college professor that [is] trying to indoctrinate them.
"Before we went to break, we were discussing Rick Santorum's latest comments equating wanting to send your children to four-year college with snobbery," Wagner repeated at the open of segment following the Stewart interview.
Wagner may disagree with Santorum's rhetoric on the campaign trail, but nothing in those remarks suggests that Santorum believes a college education in and of itself is snobby or that parents desiring to send their kids to college is snobby.
An Ivy League-educated journalist like Wagner should be able to accurately and fairly report on the news, even if she's offering commentary in disagreement with it.
"I dare say what you are characterizing as President Obama telling people what to do is also known as the American Dream," Wagner lectured Stewart after she defended her boss's criticism of President Obama. "Many people in this country think that sending their children to college is the achievement of something in this country," Wagner added.
As to Wagner's take on the American Dream, the Library of Congress might beg to differ, noting that historian James Truslow Adams coined the term in a 1931, defining the dream as one of "a social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position."
The essence of the American Dream is highly individualistic and divorced from European concepts of class hierarchy, Adams added, where the individual is "able to grow to fullest development... unhampered by the barriers which had been erected in older civilizations, unrepressed by social orders which had developed for the benefits of classes rather than for the simple human being of each and every class."
It's up to the individual, not a president or any politician, to decide what his or her "fullest stature" and "fullest development" is and to pursue it. That was Santorum's point and it fits perfectly with Adams's classical definition of the American Dream.