Sunday, November 26, 2017

Don't let conservatives dumb down our universities

By SJ Otto
The latest trend among conservatives is to berate a college education. Not unlike the good ol' boys in the 1800s who believed that education was just not necessary to getting a job or leading a practical life, good ol' boy rednecks today are encouraging people to seek out practical education, devoid of such "crybaby" subjects as philosophy. They have been ridiculing the idea of a "liberal arts education." According to these conservatives, there is no reason to try and understand the world around us. There is no reason to try and understand the culture we live in or its history of development. There's no need to have a well rounded education. There is no need to understand basic ideology. In other words they are promoting pragmatic basic skills to operate in a work environment and nothing more. I would seem they are trying to create autonotrons.

"Why does a kid go to a major university these days?" said Frank Antenori, 51, a former Green Beret who served in the Arizona state legislature, interviewed by Reading Eagle. "A lot of Republicans would say they go there to get brainwashed and learn how to become activists and basically go out in the world and cause trouble."
Antenori is part of an increasingly vocal campaign to transform higher education in America. Though U.S. universities are envied around the world, he and other conservatives want to reduce the flow of government cash to what they see as elitist, politically correct institutions that often fail to provide practical skills for the job market."

As we can tell from Antenori, he doesn't like the idea that University professors often hold liberal views, or at least not conservative beliefs. Of course there are conservative Professors, but he is willing to throw "the baby out with the bath water" as they say.
He admits that he got a lot of his skills from being a Green Beret in the military. 

"Antenori shot the head off a rattlesnake at his back door last summer - a deadeye pistol blast from 20 feet. No college professor taught him that. The U.S. Army trained him, as a marksman and a medic, on the "two-way rifle range" of Afghanistan and Iraq."

Rather than understanding his countries culture or history he values being able to shoot the head off of a rattle snake. The important skills he learned were marksmanship and being a medic. I suppose being a medic could come in handing if Antenori wanted to be a paramedic, but the only thing useful about being a Marksman is his past job as a member of the Arizona state legislature. Marksman skills are essential to being a conservative legislator.
It is not surprising this man values the military. Right-wing leaders today have far more interest in defending the US Empire overseas than studying ways to make this country operate more fairly. Antenori is not alone in his opinion. Conservatives across the country are trying to trash universities. They are having some success. According to Reading Eagle:

"To the alarm of many educators, nearly every state has cut funding to public colleges and universities since the 2008 financial crisis. Adjusted for inflation, states spent $5.7 billion less on public higher education last year than in 2008, even though they were educating more than 800,000 additional students, according to the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association."
And why are such school's funding being cut? Because the Republican Party runs almost 80 percent of this country's state legislators. All kinds of big shots are getting into the act of short changing the universities. Again from the Reading Eagle:

"Schools in Arizona and across the nation are welcoming private donors, including the conservative Koch brothers. In nearly every state, the Charles Koch Foundation funds generally conservative-leaning scholars and programs in politics, economics, law and other subjects."

Here in Wichita we have seen all the blatant corruption of the Koch Brothers trying to control the content of classes and the actual teachers who work at Wichita State University. There is noting unusual about conservatives wanting to struggle over who's ideology gets taught in our universities. Of course they want more conservative professors at work in our schools. But trying to dumb down education is something that needs to be fought on all levels.
Ever since Donald Trump got elected president we have been told by many pundits that we have to drop our elite attitudes. They say we should try to understand the views of those who actually elected Trump. That means getting away from those who are highly educated to understand the average working class voter who isn't well educated.
Consider what Christine M. Flowers wrote for the Philadelphia Daily News:

"But worse than the people who didn't get the joke, the mainstream pooh-bahs decided to take a swipe at the president's people by suggesting they were the only ones who fell for the tweetstorm. How stupid, they implied, that these idiots actually didn't recognize the handiwork of Thomas Jefferson, delivered up in 140-character servings.
Sniff, gawd, bring on the brie and Chablis.
The assumption that only Trump supporters were boondoggled into believing that NPR was calling for the overthrow of government is the same type of pretentious arrogance that caused so many people to react violently when President Barack Obama talked about the poor folks who "cling to their guns and their religion." It is the sort of progressive put-down that made a lot of people vote for Trump as a big "F U" to the establishment, without actually considering the consequences of their act of defiance."

Most of us on the left don't like elitism. We don't believe that we are better than others. But we might be better educated than others. And being anti-elite does not mean allowing the less educated to put ignorant and dangerous politicians in important positions of power.
It has been years, decades and maybe even a century since people argued that the American worker should be less well educated. For years our country's leaders have encouraged students to go to college. Now that is changing.
Are Republicans seriously implying that they need a less educated population in order to get their people elected? That almost seems to be their argument.
We need to fight against those who want to dumb down our educational institutions. A well rounded education has both value and need. We need well educate citizens who can understand the system and how it works. Let's stop conservatives from wrecking our higher education.

What a wonderful world - James Taylor, Simon & Garfunkel

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