Republicans are funny. In their own antisocial way, that is.
When you get them talking about politics, and about the differences between the parties, you can't shut them up about the value of education, and how being all smart and educated makes them better than Democrats. They love to point out the differences in educational attainment between Democratic and Republican voters. Ol' Rushbo loves to attack what he calls the “low-information voters”, by which I'm pretty sure he means black people who vote for Democrats. In fact, education is so important to the Republicans, and conservatives in general, that the ur-text of the modern conservative movement is William F. Buckley's God and Man at Yale, where he upholds the sacred values of education against the political perversion of the academy.
But, as I say, they're funny. Somewhere after William F. Buckley was a lone, foaming-at-the-mouth conservative standing athwart history yelling, “Stop,” and the present, where the whole Republican Party is foaming at the mouth, their attitude toward education took a radical turn. To be specific, they used to be for it, now they're against it.
Developments in the last week or two have made this painfully clear, and I'll just mention a couple of them.
Wisconsin. For many years, probably owing to its Progressive history, Wisconsin has been the only state to enshrine the principle of tenure for public university faculties in its statutes. That won't last long, as Governor and likely presidential candidate Scott Walker got a legislative committee to repeal that statutory provision. Because Walker has a right-wing supermajority in the legislature, count on that repeal becoming law very soon.
Wisconsin. Walker again. This time it's not just attacking academic freedom and protections for professors, Walker is also pushing $300 million in cuts from the state's public universities while asking for $500 million to give the Milwaukee Bucks a new stadium.
Wisconsin. Still Walker. This time it's a proposal to gut teacher licensing standards. Anyone with a bachelor's degree could teach core subjects from grades six through twelve, no advance degree or specialized education required. And it gets better: for non-core subjects, no college required!
Is it fair to pick on one state so much? Maybe not, but with Walker's own undistinguished education (dropped out of Marquette with a 2.6–in other words, passing, barely–GPA) maybe we shouldn't be surprised that he places little value on education for others.
Nevada. New rule in Nevada: Who needs public schools? Take your voucher and go wherever you want. Want to send your kids to a fundamentalist school where they'll learn that the universe was created in six days, six thousand years ago? Well, there go your tax dollars right along with it. We'll see how that stands up to a constitutional challenge.
Texas. You know what William Tecumseh Sherman said about Texas, don't you? “If I owned Hell and Texas, I'd rent out Texas and live in Hell.” Things haven't gotten any better. Now, when your kids study history in the Texas public schools they will learn that Moses was one of our Founding Fathers. Yes, that Moses. The one with the burning bush. Since it's Texas we're talking about, maybe it was a tumbleweed.
North Carolina. (Motto: Not as bad as South Carolina!) Budget cuts, tuition increases, and attacks on academic centers based explicitly on political ideology. Will there be anything left of higher education in North Carolina once the John William Pope Center, the Tarheel version of the Koch brothers, gets done with it?
Kansas. Last but not least. It's a little older news, but it's breathtaking in the sheer audacity of the program. You know that Sam Brownback has been working for his entire tenure as governor to undermine and abolish any beneficial government activity, hoping to prove that if he cuts enough taxes on enough rich people the economy will perk back up. It hasn't happened yet, but in Brownback's mind that just means that he hasn't cut enough for long enough. The collateral damage? Hardly anything worth mentioning. They just had to shut down public schools in Kansas early because the government doesn't have the money to keep them open! Is that even possible? Forget about the dislocation for the families, who now must make other arrangements for their children while the parents are working, did it even occur to them that what goes on in schools is actually important? Apparently not.
Louisiana. Believe it or not, Bobby Jindal is a Rhodes scholar. Still, in Louisiana public school teachers are being allowed, encouraged, and pressured to teach that creationism is a valid explanation for the millions of species on earth. The parents must be hoping that when their kids graduate from high school they can get accepted to one of those many fine universities that “don't hold with book-larnin'”.
I could go on, but it's really too discouraging. For instance, I'm not even going to get into global warming. We are brought to a point where the parties aren't even seeing the same world. How is it possible to have any kind of debate or discussion when one of the parties is so militantly opposed to reality and facts?
The Republican attacks on education are a direct attack on the future. As long as this goes on they won't need Buckley to stand athwart the future. It's a good thing, because they're going to have a hard time finding someone who knows what “athwart” means.