the fight for public universities

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Andrew O'Hehir discussion of the Right's hatred for public universities observes that student debt "sums in excess of $150,000 [are] not unknown," and asks, "what was it that went wrong, exactly?"

In one egregious example cited in the new documentary http://www.starvingthebeast.net/ "Starving the Beast" (not an untypical example, sadly), public funding for Louisiana State University went from 75 percent of the school's operating budget to about 13.5 percent -- in nine years. It took LSU's president threatening to furlough the university's entire staff for a year before the state legislature decided not to make further cuts.

"Surely this was all a big mistake, right?" asks O'Hehir. "As 'Starving the Beast' makes all too clear, what happened to public higher education in America was no accident:"

Instead, it was one of the most ingenious and nefarious elements of a long-term right-wing assault on the public sphere. That assault has taken many forms in many places, but it represents the pursuit of a grand political and ideological goal under the cloak of "innovation" and "reform" and "disruption," and its effects have been disastrous.

O'Hehir notes AEI's Frederick Hess questioning of a hypothetical "thesis about gender roles in medieval poetry. "One aspect of the social contract, which many right-wingers and libertarians hope to shred," runs O'Hehir's explanation, "is that we fund certain things with our tax dollars without looking at them as business transactions:"

It's entirely possible that young woman's research project on the "Chanson de Roland" will be filed away in the university library, never to be read by human eyes again. But plenty of projects in engineering and the sciences go nowhere too, and we simply don't know what great books or great ideas or revolutionary insights might flow from that scholar (or her future students) somewhere down the line. The entire point of higher education -- or, let's say, one of its most important points -- is that it creates an environment of intellectual ferment that is likely to produce unforeseen and unimagined discoveries. [...]

As LSU grad James Carville says in the film, the state-by-state attack on public higher education is closely aligned with many other right-wing causes. It dovetails perfectly with anti-tax czar Grover Norquist's long campaign to starve many aspects of the public sphere into the private sector, and to shrink the federal government so small that it can be drowned in the bathtub, in his famous phrase. It also fits with the stealth culture-war being waged by Charles and David Koch, who have used endowed chairs and other strings-attached donations as a means of reorienting the ideological map at numerous colleges and universities. The fight to save America's state universities -- which are literally the legacy of Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln -- from the tycoons and technocrats is the fight for the future. We've been losing that fight, but thanks to Bernie Sanders we are finally paying attention.


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This page contains a single entry by cognitivedissident published on September 9, 2016 12:26 PM.

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