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Texas Board of Education Attacks the Enlightenment

“Texas Conservatives Win Curriculum Change” by James McKinley, Jr.; The New York Times; 3/12/2010.

Comment: Because of its size, Texas wields a disproportionately large influence over school curricula. The Texas Board of Education’s decision to delete textbook references to Thomas Jefferson in favor of mention of Thomas Aquinas and Jean Calvin will affect far more than the unfortunate pupils of  “Baja Oklahoma!”

After three days of turbulent meetings, the Texas Board of Education on Friday approved a social studies curriculum that will put a conservative stamp on history and economics textbooks, stressing the superiority of American capitalism, questioning the Founding Fathers’ commitment to a purely secular government and presenting Republican political philosophies in a more positive light. The vote was 10 to 5 along party lines, with all the Republicans on the board voting for it.

The board, whose members are elected, has influence beyond Texas because the state is one of the largest buyers of textbooks. . . .

Even the course on world history did not escape the board’s scalpel.

Cynthia Dunbar, a lawyer from Richmond who is a strict constitutionalist and thinks the nation was founded on Christian beliefs, managed to cut Thomas Jefferson from a list of figures whose writings inspired revolutions in the late 18th century and 19th century, replacing him with St. Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin and William Blackstone. (Jefferson is not well liked among conservatives on the board because he coined the term “separation between church and state.”)

“The Enlightenment was not the only philosophy on which these revolutions were based,” Ms. Dunbar said.


9 comments for “Texas Board of Education Attacks the Enlightenment”

  1. Having just completed a fairly detailed and thoroughly researched historical study entitled “The Lost World of Thomas Jefferson,” I am struck by several glaring areas for which I cannot help but shudder in fear for the days ahead. First, Jefferson’s philosophy and writings (and the Jeffersonians themselves) are actually saturated with the omnipresent importance of God. Organized religion however, was to Jefferson, like a King or a Corporation– i.e a vehicle for the tyranny of mankind.
    Speaking of tyrannies over mankind, I am disturbed by how ignorant so many Americans are about America. The time to recognize the death of the American Republic and it’s “dream” is omnipresent. I’d bet my home that not 1 of those 10 in favor read Jefferson’s voluminous materials.
    So…this is America. We will reduce ourselves to ignorant serfs while waving around Heritage Foundation copies of the “Declaration of Independence,” watch tea parties abound who couldn’t tell you what the Boston Tea party was protesting, meanwhile making Anti-Obama/I heart Glenn Beck signs and championing corporate deregulation…and what better agitprop to distract the children from the biggest corporate crime in history against the U.S. (and the world) by changing the Sex Education curriculum to focus on teaching students the proper way to perform fellatio on the Capitalist phallus…
    …how long before our calendars have an official day of the apocalypse marked(with whatever comes after blank as their brains…)

    Posted by Ruairi MacDonaill | March 22, 2010, 4:29 am
  2. Huh, so it turns out college is a communist conspiracy:

    Michigan Tea Partiers Share Rick Santorum’s Fears Over Obama’s College Push

    Evan McMorris-Santoro February 25, 2012, 5:25 PM

    TROY, MICHIGAN — Rick Santorum’s contention here Saturday that President Obama’s plan to make college more accesible is really a scheme to brainwash people into becoming liberals may have struck some outside observers as a little odd.

    But for the tea party crowd gathered here as part of an Americans For Prosperity rally, Santorum’s words about higher education were right on point.

    “President Obama wants everybody in America to go to college,” Santorum said. “What a snob!”

    Santorum started by saying some people don’t need to go to college: “Not all folks are gifted the same way. Some people have incredible gifts with their hands.” He then suggested there was an sinister motive behind Obama’s push to get more Americans in college classrooms.

    “There are good, decent men and women who work hard every day and put their skills to the test that aren’t taught by some liberal college professor… That’s why he wants you to go to college. He wants to remake you in his image,” Santorum said. “I want to create jobs so people can remake their children into their image, not his.”

    Red meat, yes. But still not something you hear a lot on the campaign (though Santorum’s used the line before). So I set out into the crowded ballroom to find out just what the people the AFP crowd thought of Santorum’s attack line.

    Turns out they quite liked it.

    “I thought that was brilliant,” said Angie Clement of Commerce, Mich. “Not everybody has to go to college. We need garbagemen, we need welders, carpenters.”

    “Everybody can’t be equal,” agreed Paul Murrow of Milford, MI seated nearby. “Somebody needs to do the manual labor.”

    Clement’s husband, Stephen, said Santorum was right on the mark when he said that Obama wants to send kids to get college degrees so as to produce more liberals.

    They all agreed that college can help some people — but they also agreed that universities are basically socialism factories.

    “They try and disguise it with, you know, ‘equal opportunity’…” Stephen Clement began.

    “It’s communism,” Murrow said, cutting him off. “The professors are all teaching the kids…”

    “Where does the social engineering stop?” Clement jumped back in, fired up. “Does it stop after we send everybody to college, or does it stop after we set their curriculum and said, ‘these are the things you’re allowed to study?’ Does it become the Soviet Union?”

    I think Ricky might be try to get some of that sweet sweet Thiel scratch (ok, probably not, but who knows).

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 25, 2012, 3:37 pm
  3. The Texas Board of Education’s textbook curriculum committee had better watch out. It has competition. Ok, it’s not really competition. It’s more like help, although there might be some competition over who can please the Kochs the most:

    NC education department used Koch-funded group for proposed history lessons

    By Lynn Bonner

    December 3, 2014

    State high school social studies teachers would be encouraged to use curriculum materials prepared by an institute funded by the conservative Koch family, under a proposal the Department of Public Instruction presented Wednesday.

    The Bill of Rights Institute, based in Virginia, had a $100,000, sole-source contract with the state to help develop materials for teachers to use in a course on founding principles that the state requires students to take. The institute was founded in 1999 and receives grants from David H. Koch, the Charles Koch Foundation, and the Fred and Mary Koch Foundation, according to a website on Koch family philanthropies.

    The state Department of Public Instruction decision to “highly recommend” that school districts use the Bill of Rights Institute material comes as the state is embroiled in a controversy over teaching history – whether schools have students study the founding principles as the law requires, whether AP U.S. History meets those requirements and whether the college-level course developed by the College Board has a liberal bias.

    The 390-page founding principles curriculum includes readings, activities, questions students should discuss and references to online resources for the 10 principles described in a 2011 law inspired by proposed legislation promoted by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative group backed by major corporations.

    June Atkinson, state school superintendent and a Democrat, said the state looked for groups that could help write the founding principles curriculum but found only the Bill of Rights Institute. The institute did not return phone calls.

    The institute collaborated with state educators, Atkinson said, and they requested feedback from teachers, who reviewed the work and suggested changes.

    “It wasn’t a carte blanche, we’ll take what you have,” she said. “We wanted a balanced approach.”

    But history teachers said in interviews Wednesday that they already have a wealth of resources available for teaching the founding principles. Some said it was not appropriate for a Koch-connected group to write public school course materials, and none knew that the state had hired the institute to develop a curriculum.

    Charles and David Koch are active in conservative politics and finance an expansive political network.

    People whose “principal concern is profit-making” should not develop curriculum, said Bryan Proffitt, a history teacher at Hillside High School in Durham. Curriculum should be developed “in a democratic fashion” by people closest to the classroom, he said.

    State education officials maintain that a required course on civics and economics covers the founding principles as the law intended. To emphasize the point, DPI is recommending that the name of the course be changed to “American History: The Founding Principles, Civics and Economics.” DPI staff gave the State Board of Education its recommendations Wednesday.

    State legislators, education leaders and board of education members have spent this week talking about founding principles, AP U.S. History and requirements under state law. Larry Krieger, a leading critic of AP U.S. History, spoke to legislators and school board members Monday, saying the course does not meet state requirements. Krieger also argues that the course has a liberal bias. A representative from the College Board said the course meets the requirements.

    Larry Krieger, the North Carolina-based “leading critic” of AP U.S. History courses, might be waging this fight in North Carolina at the moment, bu t keep in mind that Krieger’s influence isn’t limited to North Carolina. He’s got powerful allies. Like the RNC:

    Conservatives Mad About the New AP History Course
    By Pema Levy 8/14/14 at 10:23 AM

    As a high school history teacher for more than 40 years, Larry S. Krieger felt it was his duty to teach his students what made America great.

    Before retiring in 2005, Krieger, 66, liked to begin his Advanced Placement U.S. History (APUSH) course each year with the story of John Winthrop, the early Puritan leader who famously called the new colonies a “city upon a Hill.”

    “It sets the theme of American exceptionalism and the ideals of this country,” Krieger explained last week. He believed the taxpayers of New Jersey, where he spent most his long teaching career, weren’t paying him to be subversive or revisionist.

    So Krieger was horrified last September when he read the new framework for APUSH, a course taught to around 500,000 high school juniors every year. It didn’t mention Winthrop, or Thomas Jefferson, or even Martin Luther King, Jr. Instead, Krieger read the new framework—which takes effect this fall—as pushing a revisionist view of American history that elides heroic individuals and emphasizes oppression and conflict.

    Krieger got angry, then decided to fight back. For months he’s been raising awareness about the new curriculum. He has conservative activists on his side and just last week won the official support of the Republican Party.

    The College Board, the nonprofit that administers Advanced Placement (AP) tests as well as the SAT, designed the new APUSH framework to foster critical thinking skills. The lengthy document outlines how the end-of-year AP exam, which typically earns well-performing high school students college credit, will test skills such as “periodization,” “contextualization,” and “comparison,” and themes, such as “identity,” “work, exchange, and technology,” and “America in the world.”

    In teaching these new themes and skills, the framework is not meant to exclude any figures or events but give teachers the “flexibility across nine different periods of U.S. history to teach topics of their choice in depth.”

    On its website, the College Board stresses that it revised the APUSH framework based on input from thousands of teachers. “The teachers and professors participating in the AP U.S. History program expressed strong concerns that the course required a breathless race through American history, preventing teachers and students from examining topics of local interest in depth, and sacrificing opportunities for students to engage in writing and research,” the site reads.

    But Krieger is convinced that the fact that the framework fails to mention most of America’s greatest historical figures by name means that they won’t be on the test and therefore won’t be taught. And he’s aghast that events and themes he always considered part of America’s greatness appear in the framework as, well, not so great.

    “As I read through the document, I saw a consistently negative view of American history that highlights oppressors and exploiters,” Krieger said on a conference call sponsored by two conservative groups fighting the new APUSH framework. He read quotes from the framework to illustrate his point: “Instead of striving to build a city on a hill, according to the Framework our nation’s Founders are portrayed as bigots who ‘developed a belief in white superiority’—that’s a quote—that was in turn derived from ‘a strong belief in British racial and cultural superiority’ and that of course led to ‘the creation of a rigid racial hierarchy.”

    To his continued horror, Manifest Destiny suffered the same fate as the Founders. An idea Krieger taught for years as “the belief that America had a mission to spread democracy and new technology across the continent” was described in the framework as “built on a belief in white racial superiority and a sense of American cultural superiority.”

    Perhaps most dispiriting to Krieger was the framework’s treatment of World War II. “There’s no discussion whatsoever of the valor or heroism of American soldiers,” Krieger said on the call. He then quoted from the framework: “Wartime experiences such as the internment of Japanese Americans, challenges to civil liberties, debates over race and segregation, and the decision to drop the atomic bomb raised questions about American values.”

    .Angry over the new guidelines, Krieger turned to the Internet, where he came across a YouTube video of conservative education activist and attorney Jane Robbins, who is working to stop the adoption of the Common Core educational standards across the country. He reached out to her in November of 2013. By this spring, the two had become a team, drafting an open letter to the College Board (as of the time of writing it had 1,136 signatures) and publishing op-eds on conservative news sites opposing the new curriculum. Robbin’s group, the American Principles Project, and the conservative Christian group Concerned Women for America (CWA) have taken up the cause—and sponsored last week’s conference call.

    Their cause has also been adopted by the conservative National Association of Scholars, which pushes against multiculturalism in higher education. The group’s president, Peter Wood, called the framework politically biased. One of his many complaints is about immigration: “Where APUSH sees ‘new migrants’ supplying ‘the economy with an important labor force,’ others with equal justification see the rapid growth of a population that displaces native-born workers from low-wage jobs and who are also heavily dependent on public services and transfer payments.”

    Krieger and Robbins’s work got its biggest boost yet last Friday when the Republican National Committee (RNC) adopted a resolution calling the new framework “a radically revisionist view of American history.” The resolution, drafted largely by Robbins, urged the College Board to delay implementation until a new framework could be drawn up and called on Congress to investigate the framework and withhold federal funding from the College Board until the framework was changed. It was approved unanimously.

    With the RNC finally on board, the College Board responded to the campaign early this week. In a letter, Coleman was careful to distance himself from the standards—he wasn’t president when they were adopted and he didn’t help draft them—but he describes conservatives’ anger over the framework as based on a “significant misunderstanding.”

    “Just like the previous framework, the new framework does not remove individuals or events that have been taught by AP teachers in prior years,” he said. “Instead, it is just a framework, requiring teachers to populate it with content required by their local standards and priorities.”

    The College Board also released to the public a sample test based on the new framework, to prove that they are not excluding anyone from being taught in APUSH courses. But when Newsweek reached Krieger by phone this week, he said the sample test in no way allayed his concerns. In fact, Krieger explained, the sample test is evidence of the framework’s “revisionist, progressive bias.”

    Krieger demonstrated his findings by going through the sample test, beginning with the multiple choice section of the test. In this, students are given a prompt or “stimulus,”—a quote, an image, or a graph, for example—then asked several multiple choice questions about it. Krieger’s first example is a photograph by journalist Jacob Riis, who famously drew attention to the squalid living conditions in New York City’s tenement housing in his 1890 book “How the Other Half Lives”—a staple of U.S. history courses.

    The photo in the sample test likewise depicts late-19th century poverty in New York. The first question is, “Conditions like those shown in the image contributed most directly to which of the following?” The correct answer is, “An increase in Progressive reform activity.”

    “That’s historically true but note that progressives are going to be the heroes in this narrative,” Krieger pointed out.

    Then he moved onto the second question, which asked what caused the poverty in the picture. The correct answer is, “Low wages earned by workers in the late nineteenth century.” This was also true, Krieger allowed, but he felt many such workers, often immigrants, were victims of their own limited skills and poor knowledge of English, not any structural injustices.

    Finally, Krieger gets to the third question: “Advocates for individuals such as those shown in the image would have most likely agreed with which of the following perspectives?”

    Krieger read the correct answer: “The answer is—and this is the classic progressive answer—‘Government should act to eliminate the worst abuses of industrial society.’”

    Krieger believes the answers are written to send kids a message. He stresses that a wrong answer to the final question is, “Capitalism free of government regulation would improve social conditions”—even though that would be the opposite of what the Progressive movement believed.

    Krieger moved on to the next set of multiple choice questions, this time based on a 1909 quote from the pioneering environmentalist John Muir. The answers in this section hit on Muir’s belief that “government should preserve wilderness areas” from “exploitation of western landscapes” and that this new environmentalism was opposed by “companies involved in natural resource extraction.”

    This was not only true then, but you need look no further than battles between the Chamber of Commerce and the Sierra Club to see that the same dynamic persists today. Krieger even admits he personally agrees with Muir. But, he said, it’s not his job to “indoctrinate kids.”

    “What we have here is a repetition of a theme: There’s another problem, the progressives come to the rescue, and who are the villains?” he asks. “Well, American companies are the villains, of course.”

    It’s not hard to see why far right groups like the Concerned Women for America (Phylis Schlafy’s group), the American Principles Project, and the RNC would be backing this Krieger guy. But when you read things like…

    Krieger moved on to the next set of multiple choice questions, this time based on a 1909 quote from the pioneering environmentalist John Muir. The answers in this section hit on Muir’s belief that “government should preserve wilderness areas” from “exploitation of western landscapes” and that this new environmentalism was opposed by “companies involved in natural resource extraction.”

    This was not only true then, but you need look no further than battles between the Chamber of Commerce and the Sierra Club to see that the same dynamic persists today. Krieger even admits he personally agrees with Muir. But, he said, it’s not his job to “indoctrinate kids.”

    “What we have here is a repetition of a theme: There’s another problem, the progressives come to the rescue, and who are the villains?” he asks. “Well, American companies are the villains, of course.”

    …it’s pretty clear that the Kochs and the rest of their far right fellow travelers have found their man for destroying US history classes! Heck, he even agrees with the idea that “government should preserve wilderness areas [from] exploitation of western landscapes” and yet opposes curriculum that teaches about figures like John Muir who promoted the idea because that would be indoctrination. Yes, the Kochs have their man.

    So get ready to hear more warnings from Larry Krieger about the dangers of teaching high school kids about history of the Progressive movement and dangerous ideas like ‘Government should act to eliminate the worst abuses of industrial society.’

    While this is all incredibly depressing, keep in mind that the RNC and the Koch brothers aren’t simply doing their best to destroy high school history curriculum. They’re also get awfully close to teaching these kids one of the most valuable lessons they could possibly learn by the time they graduate high school: The oligarchs running this country want to brainwash your kids into being a clueless proles.

    Seriously, just imagine being in high school and finding out (on the internet or somewhere) that two of the richest guys in the nation just trashed your education for their personal and corporate advantage. How is the rebellious teenage mind going to process that fun fact?

    Sure, there’s always been attempts by the powerful to manipulate education, but it’s not normally this obvious and easy to catch. In other words, kids across North Carolina are about to very direct lesson that the manipulation of society by powerful forces isn’t just something for the history books, it’s happening to everyone today and the kids are one of the primary targets. What an invaluable life lesson for all those kids!

    Granted, it would be a lot better if students were allowed to learn from textbooks that weren’t tailor made for the perpetuation of a suicidal oligarchy, but some of the most important lessons in life can’t be learned from a textbook. So….thanks for being so open about your power mongering Koch brothers!

    In related news…

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 5, 2014, 3:18 pm
  4. Here’s a closer look at North Carolina’s new Koch-rriculum for kids:

    TPM DC
    The Conservative Ideas The Koch Brothers Want To Sneak Into Schools
    By Caitlin MacNeal
    PublishedDecember 10, 2014, 12:59 PM EST

    The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction last week encouraged high school teachers to use a history curriculum drafted by a group funded by the conservative billionaire Koch brothers.

    The state legislature passed a law in 2011 requiring public schools in the state to offer a history course on the “Founding Principles,” which was based on model legislation from the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

    The News and Observer reported that North Carolina hired the Bill of Rights Institute to write a history curriculum for teachers to follow, and that the Virginia-based organization has received grants and donations from Charles Koch and multiple Koch groups.

    The decision by the Department of Public Instruction to “highly recommend” came just after the state Board of Education discussed the controversy over the new AP U.S. History exam, which conservatives have criticized as negative and unpatriotic.

    The 390 page document produced by the Bill of Rights Institute, along with some input from teachers in the state, unsurprisingly centers on the founding fathers and the documents they penned.

    By focusing on the founding documents like the Bill of Rights and the Constitution, the course feeds the concept of “American exceptionalism,” a phrase favored by the conservatives who hate the new AP History exam. The course presents the founding documents as a mostly perfect structure on which America was built.

    Limited Government

    Throughout the curriculum, students are asked to tie lessons back to the concept of limited government, which the state’s 2011 bill calls for. And the curriculum consistently emphasizes that the Bill of Rights was established to limit the government.

    In a lesson on the “rule of law,” the curriculum asks students to analyze how the Constitution serves to “ensure liberty and limit government.” The document claims, “Rule of law is important because it limits the government and the people under the same set of laws so that they cannot infringe upon rights.”

    The section on rule of law leaves out any discussion of civil disobedience or the civil rights movement, reminiscent of a Colorado county school board’s attempt to ensure its history curriculum does not “encourage or condone civil disorder, social strife or disregard of the law.”

    Individual Responsibility

    The curriculum introduces the module by asking students to “challenge preconceived notions about what freedom means, and understand the way individual freedom is inextricably tied to personal responsibility.”

    Students are then asked to articulate the “importance of civic virtue and individual responsibility in our society” and “evaluate how free government depends on citizens’ virtue.”

    In defining “virtue,” the curriculum tells students it’s okay to be judgmental.

    “To further justice, we must exercise judgment. In order to understand and evaluate virtue, we must be willing to admire heroes and condemn villains. We must be willing to take a stand. A special challenge today may be that many people do not wish to appear judgmental, especially when another person’s actions do no harm to others,” the document reads.

    The Founders Weren’t Racist

    The curriculum written by the Bill of Rights Institute addresses the founders and slavery during a lesson on “inalienable rights,” but the document justifies the founders’ decision to maintain the institution of slavery.

    “Some say that the Declaration’s authors didn’t mean to include everyone when they wrote ‘all men are created equal.’ They say that Jefferson and the Continental Congress just meant to include white men who owned property. But this is not true. Jefferson and the Continental Congress did not believe that there was a natural class of rulers, and they asserted that the colonists had the same right to rule themselves as the people of England,” an essay in the curriculum asserts.

    “Slavery was an important economic and social institution in the United States,” the essay continues. “The Founders understood that they would have to tolerate slavery as part of a political compromise. They did not see a way to take further action against slavery in their lifetimes, though many freed their slaves after their deaths.”

    A separate essay acknowledges that many of the founders, like George Washington, owned slaves. But this small unit glosses over the institution of slavery and how the nation was in fact founded with glaring inequality.

    The Federal Government Has Too Much Power

    The curriculum constantly questions how much power and authority the federal government should have and subtly asserts that the federal government has gained too much power since 1789.

    During a lesson on incorporation, the process through which the Supreme Court extended the Bill of Rights to the states, the curriculum casts doubt on whether it was a smart move. The language in the document argues both for and against incorporation, but then mentions the increase in Supreme Court cases since the Bill of Rights was extended to govern the states.

    “It seems that fewer people are making more decisions about the nature of our fundamental rights,” the curriculum reads.

    The curriculum is also critical of the the expanded use of the commerce clause to justify actions by the federal government.

    “Congress was now able to create laws regulating, banning, and supporting a wide range of activities, and it did. Laws would be upheld as long as the Court was convinced that the regulated activities had a close and substantial relation to interstate commerce. Federal power expanded dramatically for the next fifty years,” the document reads, implying that this could lead to abuses of power.

    So the Kochs and ALEC want to indoctrinate school children into a worldview that sees the original structure of the US government as almost perfect, where slavery was merely “an important economic and social institution” that didn’t reflect any sort of endemic racism. And once you accept all that, the history of civil disobedience and the civil rights movement is kind of moot, so why bother teaching it, right? And how can we get back to that state of near perfection? By curtailing federal regulations on interstate commerce, of course. Also, don’t forget be judgmental of people that aren’t harming anyone, kids! It’s a virtue!

    Wow. Still, it’s a little surprising there wasn’t anything about overturning the 17th amendment. It’s probably tucked away in there somewhere.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 12, 2014, 6:46 pm
  5. Knowlege isn’t power. Know you know, FWIW:

    The New York Times
    Knowledge Isn’t Power
    Paul Krugman

    FEB. 23, 2015

    Regular readers know that I sometimes mock “very serious people” — politicians and pundits who solemnly repeat conventional wisdom that sounds tough-minded and realistic. The trouble is that sounding serious and being serious are by no means the same thing, and some of those seemingly tough-minded positions are actually ways to dodge the truly hard issues.

    The prime example of recent years was, of course, Bowles-Simpsonism — the diversion of elite discourse away from the ongoing tragedy of high unemployment and into the supposedly crucial issue of how, exactly, we will pay for social insurance programs a couple of decades from now. That particular obsession, I’m happy to say, seems to be on the wane. But my sense is that there’s a new form of issue-dodging packaged as seriousness on the rise. This time, the evasion involves trying to divert our national discourse about inequality into a discussion of alleged problems with education.

    And the reason this is an evasion is that whatever serious people may want to believe, soaring inequality isn’t about education; it’s about power.

    Just to be clear: I’m in favor of better education. Education is a friend of mine. And it should be available and affordable for all. But what I keep seeing is people insisting that educational failings are at the root of still-weak job creation, stagnating wages and rising inequality. This sounds serious and thoughtful. But it’s actually a view very much at odds with the evidence, not to mention a way to hide from the real, unavoidably partisan debate.

    The education-centric story of our problems runs like this: We live in a period of unprecedented technological change, and too many American workers lack the skills to cope with that change. This “skills gap” is holding back growth, because businesses can’t find the workers they need. It also feeds inequality, as wages soar for workers with the right skills but stagnate or decline for the less educated. So what we need is more and better education.

    My guess is that this sounds familiar — it’s what you hear from the talking heads on Sunday morning TV, in opinion articlesfrom business leaders like Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, in “framing papers” from the Brookings Institution’s centrist Hamilton Project. It’s repeated so widely that many people probably assume it’s unquestionably true. But it isn’t.

    For one thing, is the pace of technological change really that fast? “We wanted flying cars, instead we got 140 characters,” the venture capitalist Peter Thiel has snarked. Productivity growth, which surged briefly after 1995, seems to have slowed sharply.

    Furthermore, there’s no evidence that a skills gap is holding back employment. After all, if businesses were desperate for workers with certain skills, they would presumably be offering premium wages to attract such workers. So where are these fortunate professions? You can find some examples here and there. Interestingly, some of the biggest recent wage gains are for skilled manual labor — sewing machine operators, boilermakers — as some manufacturing production moves back to America. But the notion that highly skilled workers are generally in demand is just false.

    Finally, while the education/inequality story may once have seemed plausible, it hasn’t tracked reality for a long time. “The wages of the highest-skilled and highest-paid individuals have continued to increase steadily,” the Hamilton Project says. Actually, the inflation-adjusted earnings of highly educated Americans have gone nowhere since the late 1990s.

    It may be possible to do well job wise without a formal education; but I would think it is highly unlikely. Ones chances of having the…

    So what is really going on? Corporate profits have soared as a share of national income, but there is no sign of a rise in the rate of return on investment. How is that possible? Well, it’s what you would expect if rising profits reflect monopoly power rather than returns to capital.

    As for wages and salaries, never mind college degrees — all the big gains are going to a tiny group of individuals holding strategic positions in corporate suites or astride the crossroads of finance. Rising inequality isn’t about who has the knowledge; it’s about who has the power.

    Well, at least we probably shouldn’t have to worry about hearing that same stale argument about how we would be living in a sea of shared prosperity if only people would properly educate themselves. The GOP stopped pretending to even care about improving access toa quality education years ago (ok, they still sort of pretend). Now it’s all about the false tax-cut induced austerity, which means we hear less from politicians pretending to care about education and more about pretending that we have no choice but to cut hearts and minds of the next generation:

    GOP governors want higher education cuts to recoup budget shortfalls

    02/10/15 02:07 PM—Updated 02/10/15 03:30 PM
    By Suzy Khimm

    Facing budget shortfalls, a handful of prominent Republicans governors want to cut funding for higher education to help make up the gap, while insisting that tax hikes are a non-starter.

    Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker wants a $300 million funding cut for higher education, and Gov. Bobby Jindal has proposed the same level of cuts in Louisiana. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey wants at least a $75 million cut to higher ed, and Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is aiming to cut $45 million from K-12 schools and higher education combined.

    “The people of Wisconsin deserve a government that is more effective, more efficient and more accountable, and this plan protects the taxpayers and allows for a stronger UW System in the future,” said Walker, who’s tying the cuts to greater autonomy for state universities. Both he and Jindal are under heightened scrutiny as they’re considering presidential bids for 2016.

    State governments have largely recovered from the worst of the recession, when falling revenues decimated their budgets, and most have begun to restore funding for higher education. But some state budgets are still strapped in part because of the enthusiasm Republican lawmakers have for new tax cuts and their reluctance to raise taxes to make up for fiscal shortfalls.

    In Wisconsin, Walker has targeted higher education funds to make up for a $650 million budget gap that the state is facing after its Republicans pushed through $2 billion in tax cuts. Walker, in fact, proposes further property tax cuts in his latest budget, further reducing revenue to the state coffers.

    Arizona Gov. Ducey’s budget also preserves major business tax cuts that the state had passed in 2011, despite calls by Democrats to reverse some of them to help address the state’s $1.5 billion shortfall. “This protects taxpayers by rejecting calls to raise taxes. It asks all areas of government to share in the work to develop and find savings,” Ducey said.

    Jindal blamed Louisana’s budget woes on the steep, unexpected decline in oil prices in recent months. But others point out that the state’s fiscal woes far predate the crash in oil prices — with some, such as fellow Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter, accusing Jindal of exacerbating the problem by recklessly expanding tax breaks.

    Kansas, meanwhile, has been in fiscal disarray after Brownback pushed through massive tax cuts, creating a huge budget shortfall and even leading the state to be downgraded by ratings agencies. While he’s proposed some tax increases, Brownback is also relying on the education cuts to help make up the gap.

    In most of these states, the higher education cuts could mean higher tuition and fewer services. As state support has dwindled, public colleges and universities have shifted the burden to students and their families. In 2012, money collected from tuition exceeded state funding for public colleges nationwide for the very first time, according to a January report from the Government Accountability Office.

    “To compensate for lost state funding, public colleges and universities have both steeply increased tuition and pared back spending, often in ways that compromise the quality of the education that they offer,” the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) wrote in a report last year.

    In Wisconsin, Walker has tried to avoid the problem by explicitly prohibiting college and universities to raise their tuition for the next two years, when his proposed budget cuts are scheduled to take effect. That simply means, however, that the the state university system will have to look for other ways to save money.

    Walker’s budget would give the University of Wisconsin system greater leeway to do so, granting it more authority over construction projects, contracting, and merit-based pay.

    His approach builds on broader criticism that college and universities themselves aren’t doing enough to become more cost-effective, simply passing on cost of the cuts to students instead of embracing broader reforms. “Until the 2008 recession, institutional spending patterns showed more evidence of cost shifting and budget balancing than cost reduction or restructuring,” the National Association of State Budget Offices said in a 2013 report. “Over time, spending on instruction has declined slightly, and administrative and general support costs have increased.”

    Nationwide, higher education funding still hasn’t returned to pre-recession levels in terms of spending per capita. Funding increased 7% overall last year, but it remained about 23% below 2008 levels, according to the CBPP.

    Yes, while it’s clear that a “skills gap” is not the cause of stagnating wages and rising inequality, as so many “serious people” would have you believe, that still doesn’t mean we don’t need an educated populace in order to have a functional society…quite the opposite. But it does mean that having an education that gives you useful skills in no way ensures that you’ll be compensated enough for putting those skills to work to even achieve a middle-class lifestyle these days, let along rising wages. Decades of stagnant incomes and an economy increasingly concentrated in the hands of the oligarchs does that to the value of the education.

    So let’s hope there’s a big push to expand educational opportunities because the US society actually values having an educated citizenry and not as some sort of magical inequality panacea Let’s also hope any efforts to increase access to education take a “pay it forward” approach to financing instead of the “pay it back (wiht interest)” model that dominates the college experience today. Just because the right-wing has undermined the notion that expanding educational access with lead to both a closing “skills gap” AND a closing inequality gap AND drive the economy doesn’t mean there aren’t ways we could achieve all of those goals simultaneously.

    Although, keep in mind that,even if we pulled all that off and provided free universal education for all, finding a new social contract that works for everyone in an era when education has less and less value is still going to be necessary.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | February 23, 2015, 1:51 pm
  6. If you thought the GOP’s war on school lunches for poor kids was unappetizing, Indiana Supreme Court just gave the green light to a whole new strategy for ensuring children from homes with the greatest financial resources learn even more poverty-related life lessons: Pay-for-service privatized school buses:

    Indiana Supreme Court: Schools don’t have to bus students

    Justices rule that state constitution doesn’t require schools to provide transportation.
    Kris Turner, 5:44 p.m. EDT March 24, 2015

    The Indiana Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that public schools are not constitutionally required to bus students to and from school.

    The ruling further clarifies state law, which already permitted public school corporations to opt out of providing transportation services.

    The case stems from a decision by Franklin Township Community Schools to discontinue free bus service in the 2011-12 school year. Parents, upset by the district’s action, filed a class-action lawsuit based on the premise that students had a constitutional right to bus service.

    The district, which was facing severe financial difficulties, cut its free busing program because it could no longer afford it, Franklin Township Superintendent Flora Reichanadter said. It reinstated the program the following year after changes to state law allowed the district to restructure its debt.

    Last June, the Indiana Court of Appeals found the school district violated the constitution when it stopped providing transportation to and from school. But the Supreme Court justices rejected that, saying that although the constitution refers to a free public education, “the framers did not intend for every aspect of public education to be free.”

    “This court does not dispute that being present at school is necessary to avail oneself of the benefits of the education offered there. However, that does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that the school corporation alone must provide transportation under the Education Clause,” Justice Steven David wrote.

    The unanimous ruling said the court has “neither the ability nor the duty” to establish requirements for school systems, a duty that falls to lawmakers and state code.

    “It will inevitably require some families to make alternative accommodations, but it will not close the schoolhouse doors,” David wrote of Tuesday’s decision.

    “Obviously, it affirms our case that we indeed were not acting in an unconstitutional way when we had to make the tough decision to eliminate bus service,” Reichanadter said.

    Lora Hoagland, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said she worries that the ruling opens the door for public school districts to be fiscally irresponsible.

    “Prior to the ruling, there were many districts that were talking about discontinuing busing, and they were waiting for the ruling to do so,” she said.

    Under state law, schools can discontinue transportation services if they provide three years notice to the public or are granted a waiver by the Indiana Department of Education.

    In Franklin Township’s case, the district switched to a pay-for-service bus system that was later barred under state law. School corporations that provide busing must do so free of charge.

    Although the district brought back busing, Reichanadter said, it will continue to face fiscal pressure — like many others across the state — because of state-mandated property tax caps. The school corporation is short $18 million a year because of the caps, she said.

    Local property tax revenues pay for school districts’ transportation and facilities costs.

    OK, so…:

    “Prior to the ruling, there were many districts that were talking about discontinuing busing, and they were waiting for the ruling to do so,” she said.

    Under state law, schools can discontinue transportation services if they provide three years notice to the public or are granted a waiver by the Indiana Department of Education.

    In Franklin Township’s case, the district switched to a pay-for-service bus system that was later barred under state law. School corporations that provide busing must do so free of charge.

    Although the district brought back busing, Reichanadter said, it will continue to face fiscal pressure — like many others across the state — because of state-mandated property tax caps. The school corporation is short $18 million a year because of the caps, she said.

    So, assuming that state law changes that barred the pay-for-service buses (seems likely at this point), it sounds like privatized school buses are coming to the state of Indiana! At least to the poorer counties without a substantial property-tax base. Maybe they could get some of the high-school seniors to drive the buses. That might find some support in the legislature (it’s worth a try!).

    Barring that, hopefully at least some of the kids will be able to take public transportation as a cheaper alternative to the pay-for-service privatized service. Hopefully.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 25, 2015, 9:37 am
  7. The College Board just revised the standards for the US advanced placement history exam. Why the revisions? Because Republican National Committee and groups of right-wing activists demanded it. It turns out the characterization of Ronald Reagan’s Cold War rhetoric as, at times, “bellicose” was somehow inaccurate:

    TPM News
    Reagan No Longer ‘Bellicose’ In Revised AP US History Standards

    By Caitlin MacNeal
    Published July 30, 2015, 2:18 PM EDT

    After about a year of criticism from conservatives targeting the College Board’s “revisionist” course framework for the advanced placement U.S. history exam, the company on Thursday released new revisions to the course standards to address certain complaints.

    The College Board described the new standards in a Thursday statement as “a clearer and more balanced approach to the teaching of American history.” After constant concern from critics over the AP U.S. History standards, the College Board said it took public feedback into account when drafting this latest revision. The College Board attempted to address those concerns by making statements in the standards “clearer and more historically precise, and less open to misinterpretation or perceptions of imbalance,” according to the statement.

    In addition to attempting to address broad concerns about imbalance, the College Board also added a few terms that critics complained were lacking from the new framework, such as the names of some Founding Fathers. And the company eliminated some controversial words and softened the tone of the framework, according to Jon Butler, historian who consulted for College Board as they revised the framework in 2015.

    For example, the 2014 framework, which was released in 2012, described former President Ronald Reagan as using “bellicose rhetoric.” And the new 2015 version eliminates the word “bellicose,” Butler told TPM on Thursday.

    “That language has been eliminated. It never should have been in there in the first place, and it certainly shouldn’t have been in the framework as a statement of fact,” according to Butler.

    Butler said the word “bellicose” as used to describe Reagan was one of the most common complaints, particularly from conservatives. The revised framework now says, “Reagan asserted U.S. opposition to communism through speeches, diplomatic efforts, limited military interventions, and a buildup of nuclear and conventional weapons.”

    Aside from complaints about particular descriptions or key words, perhaps one of the biggest complaints about the 2014 framework, particularly from conservatives, was that the standards were too negative and lacked an emphasis on “American exceptionalism.”

    The Republican National Committee, as well as school boards and legislators in numerous states, including Oklahoma, Georgia and Colorado, decried the 2014 framework as “radically revisionist” and “consistently negative.”

    Newsweek reported that the new 2015 standards emphasize American exceptionalism with a new section on the topic.

    The phrase “American exceptionalism” appears once in the new framework as part of a section on “American and National Identity.” But according to Butler, the revisions do not do much to address concerns about “American exceptionalism.”

    “I don’t think there’s that much difference between [the two frameworks] on this particular question,” he said. “The framework has an emphasis on ‘American exceptionalism’ that it’s always had, and I would reject the criticism that it never did have it.”

    As for the criticism that the standards taught an overly negative version of American history, Butler said that certain difficult issues simply need to be taught.

    “We can’t go into a high school classroom or a college classroom and offer a history that only discusses the glories of American history,” he said. “Discussing them is not negative. Discussing them is enlightening. Discussing them is informative. Discussing them helps us understand why we might still have some problems today.”

    TPM reached out to Larry Krieger, one of the leading critics of the previous AP U.S. history standards, for a comment on the revisions, but has not yet received a response.

    America’s young minds are once again safe to learn about American exceptionalism without any “revisionist” bellicose rhetoric about how Saint Ronnie used bellicose rhetoric. Phew!

    So are the conservative activists satisfied? The Kochs are presumably pleased. And Larry Krieger, one of the leading activists in this fight, sure sounds pleased. And why shouldn’t he be pleased? According to Krieger, the College Board asked Krieger to review the changes:

    TPM Livewire
    Critic Who Helped Launch AP History Controversy Satisfied With Revisions

    By Caitlin MacNeal
    Published July 31, 2015, 11:35 AM EDT

    After more than a year of campaigning against the 2014 AP U.S. History standards released by the College Board, retired history teacher Larry Krieger is finally satisfied with the company’s revisions to the course framework, which he had deemed too negative.

    “The overall presentation is more balanced and measured,” Krieger told TPM on Friday, adding that he felt the College Board “did indeed listen to the criticism and have addressed most of the major areas of concern.”

    The company on Thursday released revisions to the standards which will take effect in 2015. The College Board says it accepted public feedback, which it used to update the standards. The new framework is “clearer and more historically precise, and less open to misinterpretation or perceptions of imbalance,” according to a statement from the College Board on Thursday.

    Krieger said that Trevor Packer, who oversees the AP courses at College Board, called him on Wednesday to review the changes the company has made to the standards.

    “I wrote a rather lengthy topic-by-topic analysis of the framework, and he pointed out that was an important document in their revision,” Kreiger told TPM about his conversation with Packer.

    With his criticism of the exam, Krieger sparked a conservative movement against the 2014 version of the AP U.S. History standards. The Republican National Committee condemned the framework as a “radically revisionist view of American history that emphasizes negative aspects of our nation’s history while omitting or minimizing positive aspects.” And legislators and schools boards in numerous states followed suit in opposing the standards.

    “The first document, I would say, was an aberration,” Krieger told TPM on Friday. “It went to far. I think they’re back in line.”

    Other critics have been satiated by the new revisions as well. Peter Wood, the president of the National Association of Scholars, a group that criticized the standards, told the Washington Post that the 2015 revisions are “definitely better than 2014 in a number of ways.” And writers for National Review described the revisions as “scrupulously fair-minded.”

    It sounds like everyone is quite please with all the changes. At least, everyone is pleased who was freaked out by all the “progressive indoctrination” of the earlier version of the curriculum is pleased.

    Yay. Now America’s children are free to not learn about things like the history of corporate opposition to any sort of environmental protections and get a nice fair and balanced education instead. And the rest of us got to learn fun facts like how the Republicans don’t want their icons to be associated with “bellicose rhetoric”. Who knew?

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | August 2, 2015, 11:14 am
  8. Guess what South Dakota just removed from its high school history curriculum: early American history, where “early” appears to include anything that happened during the Civil War or earlier:

    Early American History could be a thing of the past

    By: Tess Hedrick
    Updated: Wed 8:09 PM, Aug 26, 2015

    Women’s suffrage and the abolition of slavery — we learned about these important American issues in high school history class.

    Monday, the South Dakota Board of Education approved new guidelines that do no require high schools to teach U.S. history beginning next year.

    Some college history professors are against the social studies requirement saying history has the chance to repeat itself if students are not taught early American history.

    “I don’t like it. My name is actually on the college professor’s list that opposed them,” said Michael Mullin, Augustana history professor.

    Professor Mullin has been teaching for 27 years. He says students who take a college history course such as ‘American History Before 1877’ will be overwhelmed.

    “What we’re going to get is students who don’t differentiate, say, Abraham Lincoln’s time period from George Washington’s time period from the Puritans. And it will get lumped together and we’ll wonder why

    Only time will tell if this change will help or hurt students.

    “What we’re going to get is students who don’t differentiate, say, Abraham Lincoln’s time period from George Washington’s time period from the Puritans. And it will get lumped together and we’ll wonder why”

    In other words, in South Dakota, the following situation might actually get substantially worse:

    The Wire
    Americans vs. Basic Historical Knowledge

    Max Fisher
    Jun 3, 2010 4:17PM ET

    With the founder-citing, Constitution-loving, 18th-century-dress-wearing Tea Party movement in full swing, presumably Americans are more interested than ever in early American history and the Constitution. But a recent survey attempting to gauge American knowledge of U.S. history produced some discouraging results. Yahoo News’ Chris Lehmann sums up the key points.

    • More Americans could identify Michael Jackson as the composer of “Beat It” and “Billie Jean” than could identify the Bill of Rights as a body of amendments to the Constitution.

    • More than 50 percent of respondents attributed the quote “From each according to his ability to each according to his needs” to either Thomas Paine, George Washington or President Obama. The quote is from Karl Marx, author of “The Communist Manifesto.”

    • More than a third did not know the century in which the American Revolution took place, and half of respondents believed that either the Civil War, the Emancipation Proclamation or the War of 1812 occurred before the American Revolution.

    • With a political movement now claiming the mantle of the Revolutionary-era Tea Party, more than half of respondents misidentified the outcome of the 18th-century agitation as a repeal of taxes, rather than as a key mobilization of popular resistance to British colonial rule.

    • A third mistakenly believed that the Bill of Rights does not guarantee a right to a trial by jury, while 40 percent mistakenly thought that it did secure the right to vote.

    • More than half misidentified the system of government established in the Constitution as a direct democracy, rather than a republic-a question that must be answered correctly by immigrants qualifying for U.S. citizenship.

    Lehmann notes what may be the most telling statistic: “Before the test, 89 percent of respondents expressed confidence they could pass it; 83 percent went on to fail.” Outside the Beltway’s Doug Mataconis shrugs it off. “I’m not at all certain that this means much of anything for the political system, though, because the people who are unable to identify the basic facts of American history are also unlikely to be the ones lining up at the polling place at six in the morning to cast a ballot.”

    “Before the test, 89 percent of respondents expressed confidence they could pass it; 83 percent went on to fail.”
    That was testing on adults, and now South Dakota is going to let us find out how much worse Americans’ knowledge of their own history can get. It’s kind of exciting. But don’t just thank South Dakota for turning its kids into civic ignorance guinea pigs. There are other state-wide experiments in mass miseducation underway, like, of course, Texas:

    The Washington Post
    Morning Mix
    ‘Workers’ or slaves? Textbook maker backtracks after mother’s online complaint

    By Yanan Wang
    October 5 at 5:05 AM

    Mothers of teenagers are used to getting frustrating text messages, but the one that Roni Dean-Burren received from her 15-year-old son last week wasn’t about alcohol, dating or money for the movies.

    It was about history.

    Her son, Coby, had sent her a photo of a colorful page in his ninth-grade McGraw-Hill World Geography textbook. In a section titled “Patterns of Immigration,” a speech bubble pointing to a U.S. map read: “The Atlantic Slave Trade between the 1500s and 1800s brought millions of workers from Africa to the southern United States to work on agricultural plantations.”

    “We was real hard workers wasn’t we,” Coby retorted in a subsequent text.

    The image alarmed Dean-Burren, who was an English teacher for 11 years at the Pearland, Tex., public high school that her son attends. Now a doctoral candidate in the University of Houston’s Language Arts program, she has spent much of her life thinking about the power and dangers of nuanced language. The motive behind the textbook’s choice of words seemed clear.

    “This is erasure,” Dean-Burren said in an interview with The Washington Post. “This is revisionist history — retelling the story however the winners would like it told.”

    In calling slaves “workers” and their move to the United States “immigration,” she noted in viral Facebook posts Wednesday and Thursday, the textbook suggests not only that her African American ancestors arrived on the continent willingly, but also that they were compensated for their labor.

    McGraw-Hill Education sought to redress these implied untruths in a Facebook announcement Friday. While the geography program “meets the learning objectives of the course,” the publishing company’s statement said, a close review of the content revealed that “our language in that caption did not adequately convey that Africans were both forced into migration and to labor against their will as slaves.”

    “We believe we can do better,” it continues. “To communicate these facts more clearly, we will update this caption to describe the arrival of African slaves in the U.S. as a forced migration and emphasize that their work was done as slave labor.”

    The changes will be made in the textbook’s digital version and included in its next run.

    While McGraw-Hill’s action came swiftly, it was after tens of thousands of people had already expressed their outrage on social media. By the time Dean-Burren received news of the company’s response, her video contemplating the textbook’s impact had garnered half a million views.

    Dean-Burren has mixed feelings about the outcome. “On a surface level, ‘yay,’” she said. “I understand that McGraw-Hill is a textbook giant, so thumbs up for listening.”

    On the other hand, few students use the digital version, and as her son’s textbook is brand new (copyright year 2016), another print version likely won’t come out for another ten years, Dean-Burren said.

    She called on McGraw-Hill to rise to its own professed standard: “I know they can do better. They can send out a supplement. They can recall those books. Regardless of whether you’re left-leaning or right-leaning, you know that’s not really the story of slavery.”

    Referencing her use of #BlackLivesMatter on Facebook, Dean-Burren added, “Minimizing slavery in any way is a way of saying those black lives, those black bodies, that black pain didn’t matter enough to give it a full description.”

    The educational publisher has been criticized for its Texas materials before. McGraw-Hill was one of a handful of textbook providers that came under fire after the Texas State Board of Education adopted new standards for its social studies curriculum in 2010 — a policy that educators derided for interfering with accurate history instruction.

    A Washington Post article published after the changes received preliminary approval noted that a lesson plan devised under the proposed mandate “plays down the role of Thomas Jefferson among the founding fathers, questions the separation of church and state, and claims that the U.S. government was infiltrated by Communists during the Cold War.”

    While the changes were only made to books sold in Texas, some feared that the state’s large market would make the revised texts instant bestsellers, thereby encouraging other school districts to follow suit.

    As recently as last year, scholars reviewing textbooks based on the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills guidelines found a number of historical misrepresentations, among them several in McGraw-Hill’s proposed textbooks. These issues included declaring that a Muslim garb hinders women’s rights, palliating the inequalities African Americans faced under Jim Crow and representing slavery as only a secondary cause of the Civil War.

    Most of the textbooks found to be problematic were nevertheless approved.

    “Most of the textbooks found to be problematic were nevertheless approved

    What a fun trend in American education. And when there actually is a correction, it might not actually get corrected in print for another decade:

    Dean-Burren has mixed feelings about the outcome. “On a surface level, ‘yay,’” she said. “I understand that McGraw-Hill is a textbook giant, so thumbs up for listening.”

    On the other hand, few students use the digital version, and as her son’s textbook is brand new (copyright year 2016), another print version likely won’t come out for another ten years, Dean-Burren said.

    It all raises the question of which kids are getting a better education: the Texas kids that learn about how “workers” from Africa “immigrated” to the United States as part of the slave trade, or the South Dakotan kid that doesn’t doesn’t even get that level of exposure to historical ‘facts’. It’s a tough call. Mass ignorance of history and current event is a danger to society, there’s no doubt about that. But it could be worse…

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 5, 2015, 1:29 pm
  9. So is this some sort of ‘Trump effect’? The culmination of years of demonization by the GOP? Some sort of stupidity synergy? Who knows, but according to a new poll, support for higher education by Republican voters has plummeted over the past couple years and now only 1 in 3 Republicans think colleges are a positive force for America:

    The Huffington Post

    The Majority Of Republicans Think Colleges Are Bad For The U.S., Poll Shows
    Their opinions have shifted dramatically in just two years.

    By Mollie Reilly
    07/10/2017 12:54 pm ET

    More than half of the Republicans surveyed for a Pew Research Center poll released Monday say colleges and universities are hurting the country, a drastic shift from how the same group viewed such institutions two years ago.

    Fifty-eight percent of Republicans say colleges have a negative effect on the nation, according to the survey, which also polled respondents on institutions like churches, banks, the media and labor unions. Thirty-six percent of GOP survey participants say colleges are having a positive impact on the U.S.

    Those numbers represent a dramatic change from 2015, when 54 percent of Republicans said they had a positive view of colleges. And although younger Republicans tend to have more favorable views of colleges than their older counterparts, the number of Republicans under 50 years old who view college positively has dropped 21 points since 2015.

    Those shifts comes amid several high-profile controversies over freedom of speech on campuses across the country, including protests earlier this year at the University of California, Berkeley after scheduled appearances by conservative commentators Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos were canceled. Conservative critics have said these incidents are silencing opposing ideas, while some people who disagree with inviting polarizing figures to campus say the safety concerns in these cases outweigh the importance of free speech.

    The vast majority Democrats, meanwhile, say colleges are helping the nation: 72 percent say they think higher education is having a positive effect, versus 19 percent who say such institutions are hurting the country.

    Overall, 55 percent of those polled say they hold a positive view of colleges.


    “The Majority Of Republicans Think Colleges Are Bad For The U.S., Poll Shows” by Mollie Reilly; The Huffington Post; 07/10/2017

    “Fifty-eight percent of Republicans say colleges have a negative effect on the nation, according to the survey, which also polled respondents on institutions like churches, banks, the media and labor unions. Thirty-six percent of GOP survey participants say colleges are having a positive impact on the U.S.

    After a precipitous drop over the last two years, just 36 percent of Republicans have a positive view of colleges. And that drop has been even more precipitous for younger Republicans:

    Those numbers represent a dramatic change from 2015, when 54 percent of Republicans said they had a positive view of colleges. And although younger Republicans tend to have more favorable views of colleges than their older counterparts, the number of Republicans under 50 years old who view college positively has dropped 21 points since 2015.

    Well that doesn’t bode well for the future. And it’s important to point out that the period of this large drop in support just happens to coincide with the Obama administration policies designed to address one of the key valid criticisms of US colleges: the prevalence of predatory for-profit ‘diploma mills’ that were major generators of student debt and useless degrees. That whole sector of the US higher education industry was facing serious obstacles following new Obama-era regulations in recent years and that’s the period of time when we saw this massive drop off in conservative support for American colleges.

    So was the large drop off in conservative support for college due, in part, to new restrictions on predatory diploma mills? That’s pretty unlikely, which raises the question of where conservative support for colleges is going to go after the Trump administration lifts all those restrictions on predatory for-profit colleges? Are we going to see an even bigger drop on conservative support or will the renewed profitability of the diploma mill industry actually increase support? It’s an unpleasant question to have to ask, but that’s one of the positive things about college: it encourages people to ask unpleasant questions facing society and hopefully provide society some insightful answers. Including very complicated questions that aren’t driven by the profit-motive and might take years to ask and answer .

    So if anyone is considering pursuing a degree in an area that involves writing a thesis on, say, public opinion and education policy, a thesis examining the impact of the lifting of rules barring predatory colleges on public support for colleges in general would probably be a pretty good thesis topic.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 11, 2017, 8:08 pm

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