Unlike accounting, marketing or computer programming, which are skills, human rights, a free press and democratic government are ideas. Consequently, if those who believe in democracy don't stay conversant with ideas and how they should influence us, an appreciation of the subtleties that allow democracy to work will dissolve. We're already seeing it every time we turn on the news.Here's the whole column:
Democracy Dies in Materialism and the U.S. is at Risk
Shortly after the inauguration of Donald Trump, in what amounted to an ongoing editorial about his administration, The Washington Post situated the slogan "Democracy Dies in Darkness" right below the paper's masthead. It's a bold pronouncement: not entirely inaccurate, but one that falls far short of encompassing the broader threat to the democratic order in the United States.
It's more accurate to say that democracy dies in materialism, by which I mean our utilitarian attitude today that knowledge is rooted only in marketable skills. It changes our perception of democracy from being a way to secure abstract rights and liberties into a means by which we can have fewer limits on what we obtain, measure each other by what we have and block those who disagree with us.
A materialistic view doesn't equip us to think deeply about human rights, civil rights, the role of government or human flourishing. It cripples our ability to think historically and critically, and so reinforces the tribalism that's already transforming our politics into isolated echo chambers of certainty and hostility.
As a teacher I see this constantly. "I love history and I would major in it, but my parents won't let me," is one of the saddest things a student has ever said to me. What she meant was that she loved it and wanted to study it but her parents insisted she get a degree that would get her a job.