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Across the country Republican governors have announced major cuts to higher education budgets that will significantly alter issues of access to quality public education and excellence in what those programs can offer.  Yesterday Graham Spanier, the President Penn State University, had this to say about the 52.8% cut announced by Governor Tom Corbett:

"Abraham Lincoln is weeping today," [Spanier said], a reference to the Morrill Act of 1862. The act, signed by then-President Lincoln, fostered the creation of land-grant institutions -- including Penn State -- to expand the availability to higher education for the non-elite.

Now state funds make up about eight percent of the Penn State budget, having declined steadily from nearly 37 percent as recently as 1970. Under Corbett's budget proposal, introduced Tuesday, state support would fall to about four percent of the university budget.

According to Penn State-supplied numbers, the proposal would mean a decline of $182 million from current state funding levels for the university.

Pennsylvania is not alone.  

Similar massive cuts to state-assisted higher education have been announced by an overwhelming cadre of gung-ho Republicans and a few feckless faux Democrats in Florida, Louisiana, Nevada, Arizona, California, Utah, Colorado, Missouri, Georgia, and Texas.  Plans to cut budgets are still being formulated in other states, but the pattern—indeed, the Republican template—is already clear.  By the end of the next fiscal year, universities in many states will be forced to consider privatizing their flagships in addition to seeing programs and faculty at other state-assisted schools terminated.

States used to gladly support universities and colleges because leaders on both sides of the aisle recognized that a well-educated workforce is in the best economic and social interests of all of us.  That progressive narrative changed with the election, and re-election of Ronald Reagan, who began a conservative propaganda campaign based on three key ideas:  that big government is bad for everyone because it is big; that regulation is bad for business because it regulates; and that taxes are an evil invention created by liberals in order to (a) get their hands on our hard-earned money, so that (b) they can redistribute wealth to those who don’t deserve it.  

Since Reagan’s message fired a shot across the collective university bow, there has not been a single president from either party who was brave enough to call bullshit on these three ideas for fear of alienating an increasingly fearful and ignorant electorate.  Instead, we have seen a short history of increasing capitulation to the trumped-up demand for lower and lower taxes, which led to less available funding for schools; to less and less regulation, which led to the creation of online universities passing as legitimate institutions of higher learning while being allowed admit students on the basis of their loan value; and smaller and smaller governments that balk at doing anything that might require a sensible increase in revenues to support the public good.

To this mix of Reagan’s message came an effective propaganda campaign to redefine colleges as “enterprises” on the business or “entrepreneurial” model. By turning students into paying customers and measuring success by the MacDonald’s or Walmart multiplication metric of low price x numbers of customers served, over time too many Americans came to see state-assisted education (for cutbacks in funding by the year 2000, state systems no longer identified themselves as “state-supported) as little more than commodities that failed to meet the “green light special” test of cheapness.  

Higher education was touted by Republicans and by a relentless barrage of propaganda on right wing talk shows as a business no longer associated with the public good because its product had become too dear.  A college education was and is widely criticized by these silver-tongued lizards of the right wing talk show swamp as being “too expensive”; professors, by the lie of the Republican fairy tale, only work a couple of hours a week, and “get paid too much”; and, given the recent lack of employment opportunities for college graduates despite the largest capital reserves for corporations who should be hiring them (an inconvenient fact left out of right wing arguments), if getting a degree didn’t mean getting jobs, then what good is it?  What good is all that fancy education, huh?

So it was that the dramatic decrease in funding support for higher education that had been on a downward spiral for twenty years didn’t become the annual nightmare for universities until 2008, when the global economic meltdown, a “get out of jail free” bailout for banks and Wall Street, and significantly reduced state revenues coalesced into a perfect opportunity for Republican strategists to deliver on one of their principle goals, which is the dismantling if not the wholesale dis-establishment of public education.  We can no longer afford it, they say.  Abraham Lincoln weeps, indeed.

America, wake up!  Your country needs you to get off the couch and commit yourselves to countering this anti-education narrative.  Because without the support of the public who public education serves, things can only get much worse.  How so, you ask?  Hmmm, let’s see.  

There are nine states currently considering laws that would make it okay for students to carry guns on college campuses.  How do you think that fulfills any legitimate educational mission other than to make campuses into dangerous places where A’s are guaranteed?  I can envision this scenario being played out by bulging pistols in the pockets of angry undergrads: “Tell me, professor, why I don’t deserve an A on that exam?”

In the end, defunding public education and passing laws that make guns on campus a fact will only drive away intelligent students and faculty alike.  It will cheapen the idea of what constitutes an educated person.  And it will make access to a quality education all but unattainable for whole classes of people, including the “sons and daughters of the working classes” that land-grant institutions such as Penn State were established to serve.

Put bluntly, it is not in the best interests of the rich to have a college educated citizenry.  Educated people are critical thinkers and know enough history and science to see through the political chicanery of Tea Party liars and global warming deniers.  And make no mistake, this war on public education is a delight to the wealthy, whose own offspring will always be able to afford an elite private school here or abroad.  For working people, for those of us who aspire to send our sons and daughters to the best public schools because we think we still live in a country that provides that opportunity to everyone, think again.

Abraham Lincoln weeps.  So do I.  So should you.

Originally posted to Dr Bud on Thu Mar 10, 2011 at 08:17 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Great post... (6+ / 0-)

    You addressed a lot of critical areas.  Its a TRAGEDY to see what the right has done and will do too education.  Once they make it impossible for average students to afford college you can bet the Private Colleges will become right wing "madrasses" for corporate/GOP fundamentalism.

    When Republicans Win You Lose

    by workinguy on Thu Mar 10, 2011 at 11:41:41 AM PST

  •  Conservative Republicans (10+ / 0-)

    have been engaged in a twenty-year strategy to undercut our most foundational institutions by demonizing them, making it much easier politically to start cutting off the funding.

    The press came first. Without a free, diverse press it's much easier to get big chunks of the public to believe lies.

    Education is another of those institutions.

    These Republicans succeeded in painting us as out-of-touch and elitist, and thus anti-American.

    What we're seeing now has been their goal all along. NCLB was statistically unsustainable. Its purpose was to "prove" that American public schools are irredeemable. Even huge swaths of moderates/liberals now have bought into that belief.

    Now they're after higher education.

    I've been teaching at the college level for two decades, and never thought it would come to this. In my naivete I believed the American people would stand up before the plan came to fruition.

    There would have been more hope if the Republican party hadn't purged itself of enlightened moderates, but when demonizing is a group's main tactic, the marketplace of ideas can no longer exist in any pragmatic way.

  •  We must stand up to the cuts in education unless (5+ / 0-)

    we want our children and our grandchildren to be without options and under educated.  It isn't about education.  It is about greed.

  •  Cuse we caint affird no edmicatid foalkes (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fiddler crabby, HylasBrook

    John Kasich, R-OH-gov hates black people, women, children, and unions, I guess that covers almost everyone.

    by OHknighty on Thu Mar 10, 2011 at 11:53:15 AM PST

  •  If there was anything else needed (6+ / 0-)

    to convince voters to STOP voting for Republican candidates and START voting for Democratic candidates, surely this must be it.

    I remember Ronnie Ray Gun gutting the California State College and University systems.  They were among the finest in the country, and their students had the audacity to disagree with ole Ray Gun.

    He and his education secretary, Max Rafferty, decided to get even with these audacious impertinent youth,  They'd make it so expensive to get an education that these lazy loungeabouts would have to go to work and pay for their own education.

    Ole Ronnie Ray and Max the Axe forgot that the parents of these kids already paid for it.  Ronnie Ray hated public sector employees when he was Governor of California; he conveniently forgot that he was one,

    He similarly forgot that when he infamously said that "Government is the problem".  The posturing fool was the President of the United States when he said it.

    I say again -

    Vote for Democratic candidates and stop the assaults.

    •  Wish to FSM & Ceiling Cat we could go viral (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      fiddler crabby, HylasBrook

      with your message, California 06:

      A video of Ronnie saying "government is the problem," with a caption pointing out he was the head of the government at the time.

      LBJ & Lady Bird, Sully Sullenberger, Molly Ivins, Barbara Jordan, Ann Richards, Drew Brees: Texas is No Bush League! -7.50,-5.59

      by BlackSheep1 on Thu Mar 10, 2011 at 12:29:12 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Cuts to everything in Pennsylvania (4+ / 0-)

    but our natural gas is given away for free.

    Why can't ACORN drill for natural gas? You'd see a lot of right wingers turn into environmentalists overnight.

  •  And they (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Amber6541, HylasBrook

    wonder why our American children are scoring so low in math and science and have such a high drop out rate.

    "These people" make me want to ... well, I'm too much of a DFH liberal to say it.

    When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it? Eleanor Roosevelt

    by IndyRobin on Thu Mar 10, 2011 at 12:35:04 PM PST

  •  So if you see government as something (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fiddler crabby, HylasBrook

    to be run like a business, then education is investing in the future. The land grand schools have done so much for promoting technology and expanding the level of skills in the entire economy. Lincoln did well.

  •  The GOP wants Dumb Americans. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    strangedemocracy

    It sure seems like the Republicans don't care about education at all. And why should they? Stooopidity serves them well.

    Michael Moore has pointed out that the 400 riches Americans hold as much equity as everyone else. Consider that. No smart, thoughtful, intelligent population would accept that filthy situation, that ugly concentration of wealth, that damage done to many millions of people.

    For that lopsided distribution of wealth to persist, the GOP must have a vast horde of doormats, bootlicks, stooges, dummies, asses, slobs and toadies. Americans must remain ignorant in order to let the very few walk off with so very much.

    Greenspan admits his free market faith was "a mistake" - Reliance on self interest creates a flaw "in how the world works."

    by Otherday on Thu Mar 10, 2011 at 03:08:50 PM PST

  •  States cut back on funding for (0+ / 0-)

    state schools, which means higher tuition and fewer course offerings.

    JYet im DeMint and 2 other senators object to any more regulation of for-profit that charge students more to train them than the student can make in a year.

    Definitely more of Republican anti-intellectualism in action --- education is an expense, not an investment which is what it is.

    HylasBrook @62 - fiesty, fiery, and fierce

    by HylasBrook on Thu Mar 10, 2011 at 03:23:36 PM PST

  •  Nevada (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pollyusa, Dr Bud

    Nevada leads the country in unemployment rate, at 14.5% currently. We just installed a new governor, Brian Sandoval, (R). He claims:
    (a) the key to increasing employment is to diversify our economy.
    (b) We must have an educated work force to do that successfully.
    (c) We must have a "business friendly" environment, which means no taxes. (After 40 years of being amount the states with the lowest rate of taxation, I'd say that the evidence indicates that taxation isn't the only thing that matters, but I don't want to digress.)
    (d) The state budget is broken, and the state is broke.
    (e) The universities have to do a better job.
    (f) The universities have too much money.
    (g) The path forward requires us to scale back the universities by about 40%.

    The audacity of that message is incredible. The voters are buying it! I do teach in a university, and I suppose that makes me one of those ivory tower elitists. I don't anticipate raising my kids in this climate. This is really getting crazy.

    I had been thinking that things were better in states like Pa and NJ, but now I'm not so sure... Maybe Canada.

    •  I've kept my teaching library (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      fiddler crabby

      I'm a former teacher and I'm keeping my teaching library so that I can teach my grandchildren at home if the Republicans manage to destroy superior quality, intellectually honest and independent public education.

      I've never viewed a superior education as job training and I fear that having an education will no longer guarantee a career that makes a lot of money.  For that reason, we made sure our children had skills they could peddle to their communities. We will educate our children so that they can retain the body of knowledge necessary pass on to some future generation of grandchildren who can eventually help jump start the culture.  

      I am not optimistic about the future.

      Newt 2012. Sociopath, adulterer, hypocrite, Republican.

      by tikkun on Thu Mar 10, 2011 at 05:12:26 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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