Saturday, November 12, 2011

Why Do Conservatives Hate Education?


Was anyone shocked at the decidedly anti-education tone of the Republican "presidential" debate this week? You shouldn't have been. Conservatism is inherently anti-education-- at least anti-education as a social and economic leveling tool for the masses. And once President Obama took the profit for corrupt GOP politicians like Buck McKeon out of for-profit college lending, there was no longer any reason for any Republican to give a damn about education. In fact, Pat Garofalo at Think Progress hit the nail right on the head with a shocking look at the cavalier approach to the would-be right-wing presidents.
Outstanding student loan debt is projected this year to hit $1 trillion for the first time, while the average college student now graduates with more than $25,000 in debt. Federal student aid has failed to keep pace with the skyrocketing cost of tuition, even as the U.S.’s educational attainment begins to trail that of other developed nations.

According to the Lumina Foundation, by 2025, the U.S. will be short 16 million college educated workers. But according to the GOP presidential candidates, who took part in yet another primary debate last night, the government should deal with these problems by doing away with federal student loans:

REP. RON PAUL (R-TX): The policy of student loans is a total failure. I mean, a trillion dollars of debt, and it’s going to be dumped on the taxpayer?…There’s nothing more dramatically failing than that program…We should get rid of the loan programs.

NEWT GINGRICH: It’s an absurdity. What does it do? It expands the ability of students to stay in college longer because they don’t see the cost.

GOV. RICK PERRY (R-TX): I don’t think the federal government should be in the business of paying for programs and building up huge debt out there.

Corey Robin's spectacular new book, The Reactionary Mind led me to an essay he did in 2008 for The Nation, Out of Place, which helps explain the conservative antipathy to the equality inherent in equal educational opportunities.

In "Conservative Thought," an unjustly neglected essay from 1927, Karl Mannheim argued that conservatives have never been wild about the idea of freedom. It threatens the submission of subordinate to superior. Because freedom is the lingua franca of modern politics, however, they have had "a sound enough instinct not to attack" it. Instead, they have made freedom the stalking horse of inequality, and inequality the stalking horse of submission. Men are naturally unequal, they argue. Freedom requires that they be allowed to develop their unequal gifts. A free society must be an unequal society, composed of radically distinct, and hierarchical, particulars.

Goldwater never rejected freedom; indeed, he celebrated it. But there is little doubt that he saw it as a proxy for inequality-- or war, which he called "the price of freedom." A free society protected each man's "absolute differentness from every other human being," with difference standing in for superiority or inferiority. It was the "initiative and ambition of uncommon men"-- the most different and excellent of men--that made a nation great. A free society would identify such men at the earliest stages of life and give them the resources they needed to rise to pre-eminence. Against politicians who subscribed to "the egalitarian notion that every child must have the same education," Goldwater argued for "an educational system which will tax the talents and stir the ambitions of our best students and...thus insure us the kind of leaders we will need in the future."

Yeah, more men and women like Rick Perry and Herman Cain.

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At 7:03 AM, Blogger Stephen Kriz said...

People who think we shouldn't invest in education are people who think their 401(k) is an "expense", not an investment. It is a jaundiced, wrong-headed view of the world. It is a view that we shouldn't take control of our dsetiny, we should just "let it happen" to us. History has not been kind to societies that engage in such short-sighted, fatalistic thinking

At 8:01 AM, Anonymous me said...

Why Do Conservatives Hate Education?

Surely that's not a serious question.

First, education costs money, and that means taxing corporations. Second, educated commoners are less likely to vote conservative.


At 9:27 AM, Anonymous Tom M said...

The audience is so mindless that when Paul and Gingrich talk about total student debt exceeding $1 trillion, they get away with making it sound like it will all be "dumped" on the Federal government.
In their minds, aid to education IS a failure. Just listen to what the audience cheers for.


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