Christine O'Donnell's Elitism: Fake Credentials From Fancy Universities

Christine O'Donnell on the campaign trail. Jessica Kourkounis / AP

Conservatives and Republicans are famously suspicious of educational credentials and disdainful of cultural (as opposed to economic) elites. They are especially scornful of the current president's impressive academic record, and that of many of his appointees. So it is pretty ironic to discover that Christine O'Donnell, the Sarah Palin-backed Republican Senate candidate in Delaware has just been caught for the third time dishonestly inflating her academic achievements. From the Washington Post's Greg Sargent:

O'Donnell's LinkedIn bio page lists "University of Oxford" as one of the schools she attended, claiming she studied "Post Modernism in the New Millennium." But it turns out that was just a course conducted by an institution known as the Phoenix Institute, which merely rented space at Oxford.

What's more, the woman who oversaw Phoenix Institute's summer program at Oxford tells me O'Donnell's claim about studying at Oxford is "misleading."

By itself, O'Donnell's Oxford claim might not matter too much. But the larger context is that O'Donnell has already been nabbed fudging her education record not once, but twice. She claimed for several years to have graduated from Fairleigh Dickinson Unversity, but she actually obtained her bachelor's degree last summer. And in a lawsuit she suggested she was trying for a Master's degree courses at Princeton -- but subsequently acknowledged she hadn't taken a single Princeton graduate course.

What makes this irony particulary rich and amusing is that, unlike actually going to Oxford or Princeton, lying about where you went to school really is elitist. Rush Limbaugh and Jay Sekulow attacked Elena Kagan as an elitist for having gone to Harvard Law but the mere fact that she went there does not show that she thinks one's worth is measured by where they they went to school. Of course she could think that, but all that having gone to Harvard proves is that she wanted to get the education they offer. (You could strain to argue attending expensive private institutions is elitist compared to attending public schools, but that would be a leftwing, not rightwing, populist attitude.)

By contrast, pretending that you took courses at Princeton or Oxford when you did not, and you are many years past college-age, demonstrates that you think having done so is really a necessary credential. Aside from the sheer patheticness of such insecurity, it is the ultimate reification of the elitist idea that middle-aged adults should continue to define themselves by the academic credentials they obtained in their youth and that the best schools are old, expensive institutions that started out only allowing only white Christian males to attend.

Since O'Donnell does not believe that holding a doctorate in the natural sciences makes you any more qualified to judge the veracity of evolution than, say, a drop out from Farleigh Dickinson, she is being especially hypocritical in her academic elitism. I eagerly await Rush Limbaugh's denunciations of O'Donnell for being an out-of-touch coastal cosmopolitan.