Why Conservatives Hate Public Education
Today is one of those days that people use to "celebrate America" -- jingoistic patriotic memes, militaristic displays and unquestioning praise for our nation are in full evidence. But there is scarcely a word about education, really, in any U.S. holiday.
It took me a long time to realize how lucky I have been in my education. I have never owed a penny to anyone for it, all the way to my Ph.D. I think the same is true for my 2 brothers. My parents paid my bill for a private college, which they could afford; it was much less expensive then, anyway. After that, I went to public universities, where either I had scholarships, teaching assistantships, or my parents paid when necessary. By the time I had my Ph.D., I think I was able to actually save about $20,000 in a bank account.
My first clue that something is seriously amiss with our education system, was when it became clear that the cost of education was increasing faster than inflation on a consistent basis. Did that result in an improvement in education? Smaller classes? More fundamental research of great value? Hardly. As it turns out, the extra increases are apparently all paying for extra "administrative costs," including more administrators but not more educators. Research continues to advance, but it has certainly not shown a massive, space age style advance as the influx of money would suggest.
Secondly, there have been conservative led pushes to privatize education, with the advent of charter schools, vouchers for private education and attempts to privatize education in general. These attempts continue, and charter schools are now common, although vouchers have never caught on.
My last clue was that people I knew were telling me about having enormous student debt, such as my friend Benjamin, who owed something like $70,000 for his education, by the time he finished his Pd. D. Benjamin didn't know how he would repay it with his modest paying job. Now I have a long time friend, through social networking, who owes something like $120,000 just for his recent bachelors degree at a private college, and he only has a low paying, part time job so far.
Stories such as these have been verified as being common, if not the new norm, by statistics on college education.
That the cost of education has been increasing, is not a coincidence. Conservatives hate education, especially public education. They are making education less accessible, and more corporate oriented in order to serve their agenda. The deterioration of public education is a result of decades of predominantly conservative government in the United States.
But why do conservatives hate education? The reasons are very clear if one understands what education means. There is a reason that a broad education is called a "liberal education." Education tends to liberalize people. The research on this is very clear. In fact, academics appear to be growing even more liberal than before (https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/10/24/survey-finds-professors-already-liberal-have-moved-further-left). Also, people who define themselves as liberals have the highest average education levels (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberalism_in_the_United_States). To quote Wikipedia, liberals "were the ideological demographic with the highest rate of college education. Of those who identified as liberal, 49% were college graduates and 41% had household incomes exceeding $75,000, compared to 27% and 28% as the national average, respectively."
Thus, when conservatives derogate education -- especially "liberal education" -- and make a good education less accessible to the public, they are serving their self-interests politically. It is no coincidence that liberals tend to be better educated and have higher IQs (http://readersupportednews.org/news-section2/318-66/9664-focus-low-iq-a-conservative-beliefs-linked-to-prejudice) . The primary way that access to education is being limited, is by making it more expensive, especially for the "better schools."
The second reason also involves money, but probably not in the way that you might think. While some people are becoming rich directly as a result of high tuition fees, increasingly, schools are turning to corporate sponsors, who make cooperative ventures with schools which are aimed at helping the corporations to profit. I suppose it would be more accurate to say that conservatives love expensive education, then. Thus, education is being increasingly corporatized.
Third, conservatives want to limit the types of education that people receive. Much as conservative Christians typically want children to have a Christian education, sometimes home schooling in order to do so, conservative business people want students to have a business-friendly education. It is no coincidence that the most politically conservative faculty, as well as the highest paid, tend to be economists. Conservatives would rather brainwash students to advocate their world view, than let them explore the world of knowledge and ideas in an unbiased fashion.
By limiting access to education, and the content of educational programs, conservatives can keep more of the public poorly informed, and thus more susceptible to their propaganda -- and more likely to vote conservative and to endorse conservative values. That is really the crux of this issue. However, what I say of political conservatives, also applies to the ultra wealthy -- the financial elites of society -- who have been in cahoots with conservative polticians. Not only is it in their short term (which is apparently all that they care about) interest to make people less informed and more conformingly conservative, but also, it is in the interest of most industries to limit advances in technology or cultural changes. They like things the way that they are, and most of all love having monopolies on products, making the public dependent upon them. Thus, while we can see that science is advancing in research labs around the world, most of them probably in institutes of higher education, and the impetus for cultural advancement is given validation by the academic social sciences, corporate owners do several things to minimize progress.
The most basic one is copyright law. A patent allows a corporation exclusive rights to use a product. Patents have become ludicrous, in my view, to the point of patenting naturally existing products such as genes, in GMO technology, for instance. Fortunately, there is also a movement to make an end run around patent law, through what is now called open sourcing. This is the sharing of information without the use of patents -- people helping people. What a concept!
Also, corporations generally invest in products which serve their purpose, which means that any research that they support, is likely not to be looking into topics which might radically change society for the better, but rather, tweaking existing products to create a better market for them, resulting in planned obsolescence of products as slightly different (sometimes better but not always) versions are brought to the market. The third way that corporations suppress progress is to run smear campaigns against people who have better, alternate ideas, or misinformation campaigns to confuse the public and make them not believe the findings of scientists. When society moves away from a corporate model, these problems will not be as severe, at least.
Finally, of course, by degrading the quality of education, corporations can keep consumers relatively uninformed and relatively uninterested in or hopeful of, being able to participate in paradigmatic progress.
However, progress cannot be stopped, only slowed. The inevitable rise of the internet has brought information -- and the ability to easily self-educate -- to the fingertips of the world. Meanwhile, most educators (in my view) continue to fight the good fight to give their students a liberal education. Texas conservatives can dictate the textbook curriculum, but they cannot be present in classrooms across the nation to implement it. Educators do that to their own satisfaction. And while public education has taken a hit, it continues to be the most popular mode of education in the United States. Meanwhile, a major candidate in next year's presidential race, Bernie Sanders, is advocating free higher education for all in the United States, in addition to K-12 public education. This is a step that several European nations have taken recently as well, Germany being the latest to do so.
As people become more knowledgeable, they will become liberalized; although there are setbacks, overall the trend of world history is toward greater knowledge and more understanding, tolerant, liberal attitudes. Whether ideas and inventions that can advance humanity are being made in institutions of higher education, in peoples' homes, or even in corporate labs or boardrooms, people are growing in awareness of the need to implement paradigmatic changes. In order to do so, we need to support liberal education, whether it is in a public K-12 school, an institute of higher education, a discussion group or spontaneous discussion, or at home with the help of a computer. Remember that the people who oppose progress don't want you to be well educated and informed, but the real progressives among us do, and there is no stopping us if we set our minds to it.