It’s not what Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez doesn’t know that gets her into trouble; it’s what she knows for sure that just ain’t so. In an impressively fact-free interview with PBS’s Margaret Hoover, Ocasio-Cortez credited "everyone having two jobs" for the record-low unemployment rate; bewailed America’s “no-holds-barred, Wild West, hyper-capitalism that means profit at any cost”; and decried the Israeli “occupation of Palestine." Never mind that individuals' working multiple jobs has no effect on the unemployment rate; the United States boasts an economic freedom score below Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand, Estonia, the United Kingdom, Canada, the United Arab Emirates, Iceland, Denmark, Taiwan, Luxembourg, Sweden, Georgia, and the Netherlands; and there has never existed a nation called “Palestine” in the history of the world.
Despite having received a degree in International Relations at Boston University, which costs more than a quarter of a million dollars to attend, Ocasio-Cortez excused her vacuity by amiably explaining, “I’m not the expert on geopolitics." Frequently wrong but never in doubt, she assured her interviewer she remains a “firm believer” nevertheless.
Ocasio-Cortez’s blithe ignorance attests to a broader problem among her coevals: Millennials — even those who grew up in affluent school districts and attended elite universities — have been poorly educated. The educational regime that brought up Millennials has increasingly eschewed detail in favor of “broad themes,” leaving its pupils bereft of specific knowledge but convinced of ideological narratives. As early as 1977, The New York Times acknowledged the steady erasure of traditional curricula from the classroom: “It is clear that tomorrow’s Renaissance men are feeding on science fiction, not Chaucer: on ‘Seventh Avenue,’ not Dickens. Brevity is the soul of their lit, not greater expectations of their students.”
As reliance on great works declined, polemical screeds such as Howard Zinn’s “People’s History of the United States” took their place. On college campuses, critical studies departments like Yale’s “Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies” and "Ethnicity, Race, and Migration" majors have displaced the primacy of liberal arts such as literature, philosophy, and mathematics. The result is a generation of students well versed in leftist ideology but little else.
Millennials may be forgiven their impoverished intellectual upbringing, which largely wasn’t their fault. The aspect of Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s blithe ignorance more troubling than her ignorance is her blitheness. She and the Millennials she represents seem happily, even proudly, uncurious. “I’m not the expert,” she shrugs with a smile — then, not missing a beat, she parrots more propaganda.
Radical leftists have long relied on “useful idiots” to spread their pernicious ideologies. The Democratic Socialists of America have seized on a whole generation of them to swell their ranks eightfold in just the past two years. One hopes the benighted Ms. Ocasio-Cortez might eventually recall George Santayana's famous adage, but let's face it: she's probably not the expert on him either.