I read an insult online the other day.  Someone called another person “overeducated” — and the angry howling in agreement from the malingering crowd that followed that contextual rasping — make me realize there is a concentrated, and vocal, segment of this country that loathes learning and defiles any sense of being “book smart” or thoughtfully, formally, trained.

What, exactly, does “overeducated” mean?  Too much college?  An advanced degree?  Graduating from high school?

Can a craftsman become “overeducated” by staying too long in an apprenticeship?

Why is being perceived as “overeducated” a bad thing?  Does education suggest you are an elitist and not of the soil or from the land?

I am always learning, and I believe the longer I live, the less I know — but I suppose there are some in the world who might try to label me “overeducated” in some sort of wan attempt to reduce who I am and what I know and to redact what I have earned and stowed in memory — and yet I am still befuddled as to why, in the USA, it is more admirable to the religious majority and the conservative minority be “undereducated” than “over.”

7 Comments

  1. I think Bill Hicks said it best. (With expletives deleted, naturally.)

    I was in Nashville, Tennesee last year, after the show I went to a Waffle House, I’m not proud of it, I was hungry. And I’m alone, I’m eating and I’m reading a book, right? Waitress walks over to me, “Tch tch tch tch. Hey, what you readin’ for?”
    Is that like the weirdest [deleted] question you’ve ever heard? Not what am I reading, but what am I reading for. Well, [deleted], you stumped me. Why do I read?
    Well… hmmm… I guess I read for a lot of reasons, and the main one is so I don’t end up being a [deleted] waffle waitress.

    The thing with your craftsman example is that a craftsman cannot become over-educated because it is seen as a blue collar profession no matter how good the craftsman becomes whereas a BS in English almost immediately makes someone “over-educated” because of the class association.

      1. The difference is that the english degree can only be used for “upper class” work whereas the craftsman does “blue collar” work. You can be a brilliant mechanic and be able to be cool with any other blue collar worker. Once you step into an office and start doing work where a BS is required, you’re too smart.

        1. Well done, Gordon! I like that explanation a lot.

          I was also thinking about Bill Hick’s quote — in the South and even in the Midwest — it is considered rude to eat at a table while eating… even if you are alone. She could have been pretend scolding him based on that narrow, cultural value, rather than suggesting he should not be reading a book. It doesn’t make sense that a waitress would be so disconnected and rude when she does rely upon the kindness of strangers for tips.

          1. People don’t like over-educated people because it makes them feel insecure or threatens their position, at work, for instance. In my opinion, you can be a blue collar genius or white collar genius. It has to do with skill. Does it not? I don’t agree with that statement that if you’re a blue collar worker that you can’t be considered over-educated. I have seen this type of situation in blue collar settings, for I am not of the elitist. People can become extremely testy if someone is more knowing than them. Class distinction doesn’t necessarily have to do with over-all intelligence.

            I agree with Mr. Boles about the waitress. I feel bad for her; too bad she doesn’t have an education.

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