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.

Comments

Dexterous's picture
Dexterous 4 years 28 weeks ago
#1

No. Conservatives dislike public education because it doesn't work.

Roland de Brabant's picture
Roland de Brabant 4 years 28 weeks ago
#2

Sorry, Dexter, public education works fine. Forty years ago we had the best education and most educated population in the world. All we need do is keep Republicans away from it.

Roland

Dexterous's picture
Dexterous 4 years 28 weeks ago
#3

You are damned right we had better public education 40 years ago when

a teacher could knock you down if you smarted off in class,

when the leftie word PC was not yet jammed down everyone's throat,

when everyone didn't get a trophy, you actually had to earn one.,

you had to actually pass tests or be held back a grade,

you were held accountable for unfinished homework,

you were actually penalized for skipping or missing class,

there was no layer upon layer of unfireable school administrators whose huge salaries suck in up the budgets while pissing on the teachers.

Yes Roland, it was better before you lefties f*#@ked up the school system.

Robindell's picture
Robindell 4 years 28 weeks ago
#4

Conservatives long for a past that never existed as they imagine it. Interesting how some people who have no graduate degrees and, very possibly, no undergraduate degree, and no state teaching license, claim to know more about education than do actual educators, who have to teach classes and communicate with students day after day. Physical violence against students was only used in prescribed, approved ways. A teacher couldn't just assult a student; that is fantasy. As Natural Lefty, being a psychologist, if he would ever take the time to answer would no better than most, research has shown that physical punishment in the classroom does more harm than good. Some teachers I had yelled at certain students. There was paddling, but not all teachers resorted to it, and it was used relatively infrequently. Big city schools tend to have larger administrations than do suburban and small town schools, but then, they have bigger budgets and more students. Many school districts have zero tolerance policies for all kinds of different behavior, hardly a situation of lax discipline. School systems do have layoffs of administrators as well as teachers. I encounter middle aged or older people who went to school years ago, not recently, and some of them strike me as people who should have been made to repeat a class or two, if not held back for a year, which is still done today. There have been budget cuts in education for both economic and political reasons. I would say that someone expouses a completely biased, prejudicial, stereotypical, simple-minded, scapegoat-oriented ideology, then they no doubt spent a lot of time goofing around in school instead of reading and listening to what the teacher was saying. By the way, it was reported on the news that Congress is in the process of replacing the No Child Left Behind Act, which was supported and promoted by George W. Bush.

Legend 4 years 28 weeks ago
#5
Quote Dexterous:

You are damned right we had better public education 40 years ago when

a teacher could knock you down if you smarted off in class,

when the leftie word PC was not yet jammed down everyone's throat,

when everyone didn't get a trophy, you actually had to earn one.,

you had to actually pass tests or be held back a grade,

you were held accountable for unfinished homework,

you were actually penalized for skipping or missing class,

there was no layer upon layer of unfireable school administrators whose huge salaries suck in up the budgets while pissing on the teachers.

Yes Roland, it was better before you lefties f*#@ked up the school system.

Wow Dex, you are really a bitter old fart. What do you do spend your days yelling at kids to get off of your lawn?

Actually public education is alive and well. It is the righties in TX that want history books to ignore history and embellish Rush Limbaugh as a statesmen. Charter schools that do not teach evolution.

Robindell's picture
Robindell 4 years 27 weeks ago
#6

It occurred to me that, based strictly on what was said by this Dexterous, i.e., the specific phrasing used, the individual is advocating child abuse, which is illegal. The individual is hung up on the use of violence. When there is a criminal criticizing liberals, the criminal is 100% in the wrong, and the liberals are completely in the clear.

Robindell's picture
Robindell 4 years 27 weeks ago
#7

This topic of education is a complex one. My understanding is that there are standardized tests which are sometimes given to students on an international basis. The United States does well in language, but in math and science, we are behind quite a few other countries. We are living in an era when technology and technical fields, such as bioscience, predominates in economic development. Thom Hartmann to his credit has knowledge of what has been done educationally in some other countries, especially in Scandanavian countries, particularly Sweden and perhaps to some extent Denmark. In some of these countries, they have raised the educational requirements for teachers in the number of years of training that is required to become a teacher, and the standards that have to be met, but at the same time, as Thom has mentioned, they have increased the salaries for teachers, communserate with only the standards but with the idea that teachers are highly respected professionals.

In some states, schools of education in colleges and universities are having difficulty convincing the most able, talented students to major in education and become teachers. The people who are left are not always the most academically proficient. A newspaper article I read some time ago said that the test scores on a standardized test that students who are candidates to graduate with a degree in education are required to take at some point were not as high as might otherwise be desired. The trend toward associating job security for teachers with standardized test scores for their students and the emphasis on these standardized tests has caused teaching to have a high attrition rate -- of teachers leaving the profession -- as they are blamed for problems that are found in low-income families and neighborhoods.

As I once previously discussed with Natural Lefty, his state of California has a law that makes it difficult to fire public school teachers with tenure. Some students who were dissatisified with some of their teachers sued, claiming that these less-than-stellar teachers should have been fired instead of being protected. The judge sided with the plaintiffs and threw out the tenure protection, saying that it made it too difficult for school administrators to replace teachers with poor performance, thus harming education.

Another problem is that with state budget cuts to education, college students can see that they could make considerably more income going into a field other than teaching, which requires that they take various courses in education and serve as student teachers before being eligible to become licensed. In a small number of states, people who have a degree in a field other than education are now allowed to teach upon passing an exam in their area of expertise and undergoing a brief training program. The dean of the college of education at a state university in my state said that these "non-teacher" teachers are often too frustrated without the necessary pedagogical training and don't know the best way of proceeding with students, and so end up dropping out of teaching.

I am not sure that business executives are always that involved with making decisions about educational funding, staffing, and curiculum, and the better-educated ones believe in the idea of having a well-rounded graduate. Sometimes, specific methods and skills can become outdated, and knowing how to learn new things is just as important, if not moreso, than memorizing facts or learning specific practical skills. Some jobs like being a carpenter, plumber, computer security or network expert, and so on are inherently specific and practical. Even a teacher of literature has to know many specific authors and books very well. Some executives have complained that they have trouble filling certain positions which require some level of technical knowledge and skills. In Arizonia, I think there was an effort to cut back on the teaching of Spanish to students who may have a Latino background. One of the things that conservatives often complain about, other than illegal immigration, is "multiculturalism." The African-American, right-wing extremist, libertarian economist and syndicated newspaper columnist from George Mason University Walter Williams has written quite a few columns complaining about multiculturalism. The guy grew up in the same Philadelphia neighborhood, from what I have read, as did Bill Cosby. Williams also seems to be something of a Christian fundamentalist from what I can gather, but he doesn't emphasize that aspect as much as his political nonsense. I am pretty sure that Professor Williams also is connected with the conservative Hoover Institute at Stanford University, in Palo Alto.

MIT does not have a college of education, but I heard on NPR's Morning Edition that they have a professor who is creating an independent school of education, to train future teachers in a new way. He said something about the traditional way is simply to have college students spend so many hours in the classroom, taking required courses. Apparently, his approach is more flexible. The name of this new college of education is going to be something like the Woodrow Wilson College of Education. It is going to have the name of President Wilson in the title; that much I remember.

I have read of the criticism which you brought up that many universities have expanded administrative positions and pay these administrators higher salaries than they pay the actual instructors, many of whom have become part-time. As you know, some of them have built fancy residents halls, some of which offer private rooms. One private university down south has an upscale restaurant/steakhouse and other amenities on campus. I have heard that people who receive online degrees have greater difficulty finding employment than do students who attended college in person, but computers and the Internet might be the future for many, because of their efficiency and potential cost-savings.

Finally, even though you may not agree, I personally believe that some social students teachers somehow have taught people, even if that was not their intention, that it is o.k. to lie and distort the facts as best they can be determined in order to get across one's personal views, or at least teachers have not always found a way to overcome the narrow-minded views of lower middle class, poorly educated parents. Also, the emphasis on science and technollogy in many ways comes from educational institutions. Once upon a time, professionals such as physicians, psychologists, chemists, physicists, architectects, and so on appreciated the arts. Today, many of them have been turned into techocrats. There have been cuts in everything from physical education teachers, civics social studies teachers, and art and music teachers. But some of the narrowing of education I believe comes from regretable changes in the intersts and values of many educators, who have not always done an adequate job in conveying knowledge in compelling ways.

Robindell's picture
Robindell 4 years 27 weeks ago
#8

In the unlikely event that anyone is interested, I found an article on Inside Higher Education by Jacqueline Thomsen on the new school of education that is being created by the Woodrow Wilson Foundation. It will be called, The Woodrow Wilson Academy for Teaching and Learning. It will be a highly selective graduate school. It will be competency-based; the students will have to demonstrate learning rather than be required to attend for so many hours with required classes. It will teach science, engineering, technology, and math, but the curriculum could expand to cover other subjects over time.

rs allen 4 years 27 weeks ago
#9

It has been a systemic dismantling of the educational system Robin. Consider just the latest craze of standardized testing limitations placed on schools and teachers, it purposely narrows the focus of any teacher in any class room. You don't really think no money or time for any liberal arts studies just aren't there any longer is an accident do you? The liberal arts study programs create critical thinkers....and the people that own amerika don't want those kind of people loose on the street much less another entire generation of them.

Robindell's picture
Robindell 4 years 27 weeks ago
#10

The educational system still has many strengths, but it also tends to reinforce inequality in too many instances. If you are from a poor household or are disabled, your prospects while at school and after you get out may often may not be that good. Where I disagree with rs allen is that the problems of our educational system go back over 50 years. I also don't agree that deliberately mispelling the word America is in any way helpful, mature, meaningful, or grammatically correct. The one point where I agree to a certain degree with some conservatives is that more funding alone does not guaranty improvement in educational outcomes. Baltimore has low-performing schools and a high dropout rate, and yet they are among the highest-spending, highest-funded school districts in the country. Cuts are detrimental, but not all states have cut education funding to the same extent. A.S. Neil wrote about a unique school in England in, Summerhill. Paul Goodman wrote Growing Up Absurd. There was a famous report, the Coleman Report, from what year I don't recall, but sometime in the last century, which found fault with American high schools. Johnathan Kozol was a social critic and commentator who I think wrote about problems with education. John Holt, a teacher, wrote a number of books back in the 1960s in which he unabashe