Could Virginia be getting smarter?
September 2, 2008

I had a discussion with 3 strangers in a bar about how America was smart inside the beltway but the reason that candidates could get elected with catchphrases and by spending a lot of money on advertising was because a lot of Middle America is stupid.

One woman said, “no, Middle America isn’t dumb, that’s just what they want you to believe” and another patron who grew up in Missourri, said that, no, the people there are considerably less informed.

This got me to thinking as to which states were less informed than other states. Some people often say that Virginia is somewhat of a different animal out of the beltway. The common perception is that the two of us are crammed together in less than desirable circumstances and it results in the rest of Virginia having their say in political matters. The result is uninformed decisions such as voting not to raise the gas tax or supporting tobacco companies, or voting overwhelmingly conservative on presidential candidates (I’m not saying that a conservative candidate can’t be a good idea, but we’ve done it going back to the ’80s, even when bad candidates come along). People from towns in southern Virginia like Lynchburg and even Charlottesville have told me that racism that still exists in a subdued manner in the deep south today still exists in some parts of Virginia, as well. 

I wonder if this will be changing in the near future. Consider that the vast majority of people in my generation from Virginia high schools went to college. I’ve now attended three in-state schools in Virginia and people come from all over the state. Also consider that schools like Mary Washington and James Madison have very active diversity outreach programs, AND that George Mason is itself very diverse. I don’t know about UVA, however. I had a roommate at JMU who got into UVA but turned it down because she has heard reports of racism there (although, to be fair, it was mostly from her mom). What’s more, Virginia has some of the best public colleges in the country.

So I think the future is going to look up for the next generation of Virginians.