Cognitive dissonance is a term describing the stress that arises from trying to hold contradictory beliefs, or engaging in actions that conflict with beliefs.
An example might be a person who smokes despite knowing the health dangers involved, or an environmentalist who drives a gas-guzzling car.
Wikipedia doesn’t provide any examples of entire states struggling with the stress of this dissonance but if it’s possible, Kentucky’s among the leading victims.
Kentucky is trying to attract global employers with the promise we will educate and train young people for a future our leaders deny.
Just last week Gov. Matt Bevin traveled to Germany to attend Hanover Messe, the world’s largest industrial fair, while his Tourism Development Finance Authority was approving $18 million in tax incentives for a development that denies evolution and asserts the world is 6,000 years old.
At Messe, where countries and companies compete to present the most cutting-edge technologies, Bevin could see robots play ping pong and dance, and listen to a presentation on using plankton for lightweight bionic solutions. Back home, he can see dioramas of dinosaurs playing with children.
Bevin is not alone, in fact he’s too representative of Kentucky’s political discourse when it comes to this strange love/hate affair with science.
In Kentucky politicians elbow each other aside to deny climate change and defend the wonders of coal while extolling the STEM — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — disciplines that hold out hope to solve one and replace the other.
Perhaps the companies Bevin was trying to recruit while in Europe just want a spot near interstates with inexpensive labor and cheap electricity but if, as he and everyone else says, what they really need are well-educated, problem-solving, technologically aware employees, they’ve got to be confused.
People who want to work at the tax-incented Noah’s Ark theme park — originally endorsed by former Gov. Steve Beshear who said he was elected “to create jobs” — don’t need to know much science but they must agree the Old Testament Book of Genesis is a “factual presentation of actual events,” providing “a reliable framework for scientific research into...the origin and history of life.”
Beshear backed off his support when news arose about the statement of faith as a precondition for employment, giving rise to a federal lawsuit that Bevin chose not to pursue, paving the way for his appointees to approve the tax incentives.
This state is perenially short of money thanks to an outdated tax code and breaks like this one. Bevin is cutting investment in education at every level, rolling back access to the medical care children need to show up at school ready to learn, is lukewarm at best about assuring they have clean air to breathe and water to drink.
Somehow this is supposed to yield a generation ready for the high-skill, highly-paid jobs that will miraculously — it would have to be a miracle — transform their futures and that of Kentucky.
The cognitive dissonance is overwhelming. It’s also limiting, inefficient and ultimately self-defeating.
Kentucky forgoes tax revenue to help deny science while telling students they need to learn it. In homage to coal, Kentucky dumbly stints on alternative energy technologies, or even conservation, while telling young people they need to prepare to work in advanced manufacturing.
The messages aren’t just mixed, they’re in open conflict.