I have been wondering why the alt right have gotten hysterical about American colleges and why they've been hollering about "snowflakes" and "crybabies." I could not understand what was fueling this animus toward the educated, nor why Donald Trump would appoint someone to run the Department of Education who had no education in education...and no experience either. In fact, Betsy deVos has spent many years and a lot of money trying to dismantle the Department of Education. Why her, I wondered?
After reading the Washington Post this morning, I am beginning to get a clue.
The alt right, represented in this article by Frank Antenori, "a former Green Beret who served in the Arizona state legislature" believes that public colleges and universities should only be funded if they teach courses of study that result in a degree with which a person can make an appreciable income. An art degree, for instance, is a "junk degree." Culture means nothing to them.
According to Antenori, the current situation is that students go to major universities to "get brainwashed and learn how to become activists and basically go out in the world and cause trouble."
The hammer headed "solution" for this alleged problem, according to Republicans, is to cut funding for education, which they have done. Nearly every state has had to cut funding to public colleges and universities since the 2008 financial crisis, according to this article. Exactly how this is supposed to fix the problem is a mystery to me, since all it does is prevent poor and middle class kids from having access to a college education.
I should have intuited the "problem" about education before this. You just have to "follow the money" when trying to understand overblown right wing anger.
For those on the extreme right, the solution to any alleged problem is to cut funding to everything that helps poor and middle class Americans, while giving tax breaks to the wealthy. If they can gin up anger toward some aspect of a public program, no matter how small, that is what they do. They spread lies about "massive fraud" in the welfare system, then cut funding to programs that feed children. In a bid to cut Social Security benefits, Republicans would also have you believe that a large number of disabled people are liars and cheats, when there is no factual basis for this complaint whatsoever.
The inconvenient fact (for the "alt right") is that there are liars and cheats in every walk of life. The percentage is about the same, whether you're a 60 year old disabled veteran in a wheelchair or a billionaire. The only difference is that the billionaire steals more money from the public pocket and is therefore a more successful criminal.
The process of disinformation begins like this. Take a minority of a minority of a minority. For instance, students who are also activists. It is a small number, but in order to whip up the Republican base, you have to turn something into a problem, then exaggerate both the number of miscreants involved and the cost to Americans of whatever behavior is being inflated.
Instead of actually addressing the wisdom of that one class on "climbing trees" Republicans want to dismantle the government agency that regulates educational institutions while at the same time cutting funding. Once again, they are taking a giant hammer to a gnat, and missing the gnat. They never cared about the gnat to begin with. That is why they miss it...again.
If Republicans really cared about the state of our educational system, they would do something that actually fixes the imagined "problem." That would be the role of the Department of Education.
There are many reasons why an art degree or an English literature degree is not "junk" and why funding the educations of our poor children is crucial to the continued success of the American way of life. It should be obvious that institutions of higher education do not exist for the sole purpose of turning out human machines that produce consumable products, especially since those type of degrees are not EXCLUDED from courses of study.
There is room for every type of person in America, and there is no reason why our educational system should not teach everything on the spectrum, from the artist who makes towers out of tin cans, to the corporately inclined student of business administration.
I do not care for art made from tin cans or cow carcasses. My tastes run to the traditional, but I do not presume to tell other people that their taste has to conform to mine. The sign of a real "nanny state" would be one in which only the left-brained, commerce-inclined children would be fed, while all others are starved.
As a final note, I would remind the reader that the rest of the civilized world provides free education to all its children.
Silver Rose Parnell
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