With the arrival of the cold of winter, let us warm ourselves around the raging dumpster fire that is American politics. This holiday season will be the final one of the Obama administration, and with that departure, Americans may be asked to abandon the concept of “facts.” Yes, the millions of Caucasian patriots who heroically elected international steak salesman/host of “The Celebrity Apprentice,” Donald Trump, have actually determined that “facts” do not matter. And in my opinion, this issue indicates the importance of two things: preserving learning and striving for intellect.

If this election has offered any tangible evidence of the current status of the collective American intellect, it is that the necessity for factual evidence or truth behind outlandish claims and statements is no longer necessary. No, Americans need only to “feel” like something is true. Americans only need to “feel” like President Obama is a secret Muslim, or “feel” like 3 million illegal aliens voted in California this election, or “feel” like crime, poverty and unemployment are all on the rise. And in regard to the concrete evidence produced by credible news organizations and non-partisan research centers, well, in the of words of Newt Gingrich, “liberals have a whole set of statistics that theoretically may be right, but it’s not where human beings are.”

Congratulations, for we are now entering a new era where misinformed and uneducated opinions are far more valid than fact because that’s just how Americans feel, damn it! In tandem with our departure from the real world, we have also elevated fake news and Facebook clickbait stories into national political discourse. The ridiculous posts we all saw about our Kenyan, Muslim comrade, Obama, waging war on Christianity were simply chalked up as that one racist uncle of ours having a slow Tuesday night. Yet now, individuals like noted conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and Tomi Lahren, future Fox News morning co-host, have been elevated, in public regard, to the uppermost levels of contemporary political journalism such as NBC’s Chuck Todd or CNN’s Jake Tapper. Instead of producing unbiased, factually accurate, hard-hitting journalism, they investigate whether juice boxes have chemicals that are turning children gay and how Black-on-Black crime is the real issue Black Lives Matter should be addressing.

We enter our new era led by our “blue-collar,” billionaire president-elect, who, from within his golden penthouse atop a skyscraper in Manhattan, will patriotically drag all of America into a political atmosphere so laughable it feels like an episode of “South Park.” Flanked on his right will be the Republicans that placed party over nation and went from condemning him as future sexual-assaulter-in-chief, to obeying him like pathetic dogs (Now, sit, Reince. Roll over, Mitt, roll over.) And on Trump’s left, or shall I say “alt-right,” will be the real ambitious members of the administration: men such as chief strategist Steve Bannon, National Security Adviser Mike Flynn and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Men who are all too giddy over the fact that so far their boss’s Twitter tantrums distract the national spotlight from their deplorable racist and xenophobic pasts.

With the approach of this fact-free administration and future, economists, historians and political scientists will more than likely analyze the multiple factors that contributed to how we have arrived here. And one of those key factors will be related to education and learning, and more importantly, how we treat the drive for higher intelligence within this country. For in order for our fact-free and intellect-absent world to develop, we must have forgotten how remarkably incredible real learning can be.

A recent TED Talk given by noted author and nerd archetype, John Green, compared learning to cartography. He argued that learning is not a straight line or organized checklist — instead, it’s a messy, uneven, spotty and sporadic experience. True learning requires individuals to somehow discover a passion unbeknown to them that drives them to stumble upon books, magazines or videos in order to gratify the mental hunger that overtakes them. Whether it be astrophysics or ancient Roman history, the uneven conquest of the unknown is strongly similar to the disorganized methods of early cartography, in which rough sketches of coastlines and measurements of land culminated in fuzzy maps attempting to chart a seemingly endless world.

And as students, we almost haphazardly stumble around learning, not only within the classroom, but through other acts as well. We piece together information, adding slices and fragments of data to an ever-growing map that slowly, over the progression of years, comes into focus. It grants us an ability to look out at on a massive horizon and over time, more accurately and precisely describe what we see in front of us. Every book, article, Khan Academy video or TED Talk clarifies and defines the rough draft of intellect within our minds.

And eventually that messy map becomes something remarkably beautiful. It becomes full of factual evidence and known “knowns.” Learning grants us an ability to contextualize information and analyze raw data for our interpretation. Those with greater levels of learning and clearer maps in their heads then have a responsibility to help others chart the fuzzy world in front of them, whether that be professors with students, parents with children, or citizens with citizens. Upholding both learning and the validity of fact is paramount in the progression of society. Lack of fact and truth can allow for a society to plunge into turmoil.

Essentially, this election has highlighted the importance to not belittle intelligence, for now more than ever, we as a country should strive for it. We are entering a new American era, one where fact has been dismissed as liberal, PC propaganda. And I hope that to combat this and maybe even prevent it from happening, the future presidential administration of Donald Trump holds itself to the same standards of seeking truth and promotes the intensity of learning that I share with many of my fellow citizens.

Michael Mordarski can be reached at mmordars@umich.edu.

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