- This type of quote is known as a “glittering generality”. The clearly implied assertion is that more people go to jail than to college but this is false. The quote makes for good propaganda but it is a lie.
- Comparing “instant in time” measures, there were 20.6M in college in the fall of 2012 to about 2.4 million in prison or jail or detention. 41% of those aged 18-24 are in college!
Poster source: Occupy Democrats
Even though the quote is dumb, it was shared 17,000 times and “Liked” over 50,000 times (which is the same as sharing since FB, by default, shares your likes to your friends). That this easily disproved quote was shared so widely demonstrates the incredible power of social media propaganda to influence millions of people.
Are We All This Gullible? Yes
I know smart people who share these posters – which highlights the late French sociologist Jacques Ellul’s observation that it is the smart people who are most susceptible to propaganda, not the uneducated masses. Smart people know a little about a lot, enabling “sounds plausible” claims to be accepted at face value, as they merely fill in the blanks with what they think they know. Confident in their knowledge, they like to share what they think they know with others.
I am surprised that everyone appears so gullible and easily persuaded, not just to adopt falsehoods as fact, but to quickly share with their friends. Today we can package any assertion into a social media poster and, if tied to ideological group think, quickly spread falsehood worldwide. Because everyone is gullible.
In such a world it is easy to see how evil dictators come to power with the support of the masses.
In the Fall of 2012, there were 20,642,819 enrolled in college programs (source: National Center for Education Statistics).
At a given instant in time, there are an estimated 1.4 million people in state prisons, 722,000 in local jails, 216,000 in Federal prisons, and another 100,000 in immigration detention, juvenile detention, Indian Tribal jails, military detention and other smaller groups. That’s about 2.4 million total.
Comparing “instant in time” measures, there were 20.6 million in college in the fall of 2012 to about 2.4 million in prison or jail or detention.
Clearly, more people are in college than in jail. Since Bernie Sanders wants to see more people in college than in jail (don’t we all, and its already true by a long shot), this becomes a meaningless “glittering generality” statement that “feels good”.
A separate estimate says “12 million people” are said to cycle in an out of jails each year, in the U.S. Most of those are thought to be a smaller group of people going in and out of jail several times.
Similarly, many students cycle in and out of college during the year too.
“Between 2002 and 2012, the number of 18- to 24-year-olds increased from 28.5 million to 31.4 million, an increase of 10 percent, and the percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds enrolled in college rose from 37 percent in 2002 to 41 percent in 2012.“
That is astounding – 41% of those aged 18-24 years old were enrolled in college in the fall of 2012! That would be good news, wouldn’t it?
Before someone freaks and says, but but but – you just went from 20.6 million to 31.4 million therefore this is wrong!!! – remember there are people in college under 18 and over 24 years old who are not included in the total.
In 11 states, the state government does spend more money on prisons than on higher education. This change occurred recently because state governments reduced public funding and raised tuition (such as in California and Washington). While prison funding did not change much, taxpayer funding to higher education was reduced. In 39 states, more money is spent on higher education than on prisons.
Bernie’s quote is actually plagiarized from a 100 years ago:
“What does labor want? We want more schoolhouses and less jails; more books and less arsenals; more learning and less vice; more leisure and less greed; more justice and less revenge; in fact, more of the opportunities to cultivate our better natures.”
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“I want more people in the country going to college than going to jail”, Bernie Sanders, Occupy Democrats