Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
May 28, 2023

What Donald Trump revealed about academia

By DUY PHAN | November 17, 2016

But we have no time to be shocked. It is now a more important time than ever for scientists to be more involved in the political process and in life outside of the lab.

The shocked reactions to Trump’s victory in academia prove just how out-of-touch, and dare I say, arrogant, we academics are. For us, a college degree is a given. Ph.D.s and M.D.s are often the assumed paths after graduation. Being surrounded by these educational opportunities can make us forget the privileges we have.

The reality is this: Approximately six out of ten Americans still do not have a college degree, let alone a Master’s or a Ph.D. The working class still dominates a large chunk of the American demographic.

With the rise of technology and automation, however, manufacturing jobs are disappearing. Without  higher education, it can be extremely difficult to get a job in America. Therefore, rural America has very legitimate grievances for their employment and livelihood.

The Democratic Party originally became powerful in the 20th century because the white working class voted it in. Yet, in recent times, the Democratic Party has seemingly forgotten about its own original base.

Rather than listening to the grievances of the working class, it has shifted its focus to urban issues in order to capitalize on the votes of the youth and minorities. The white working class may, rightfully, see this as a betrayal.

At the same time, the Republican Party was not their ally either. The Republicans were busy promoting trickle-down economics, which ultimately benefited big businesses and the ultra rich. Therefore, when Trump promised a political revolution against the establishment, the white working class all flocked to the voting booths so that they could send a message to the mainstream politicians who betrayed them.

Although it is easy to ridicule members of the working-class for voting in support of problematic policies that harm science, we academics need to stop shaming and calling them racists or homophobes.

While it is true that Donald Trump has drawn support from real racists and homophobes, a large chunk of Trump supporters may actually turn out to be normal and decent people who are disenchanted with the system. Ridiculing Trump supporters only serves to further divide the country and widen the gap in educational attainment between academics on college campuses and rural America.

Academic scientists need to realize the reality that we are in. When we are stuck working in the lab, we forget that not everyone in America has Ph.D.s or M.D.s.

We need to take the high road and actually try to listen and address legitimate complaints, instead of ignoring alternative opinions. If we think an opinion is racist, we need to listen to the source of such viewpoints and do a better job of convincing people to change their minds on such matters.

For the sake of climate science and scientific research in general, scientists need to stop being so ignorant of the reality outside of academia and use their knowledge not to divide, but to educate the public on the necessity of science.

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