That GOP War On Education

It isn’t just public education that the GOP disdains–it’s also higher education. 

According to the Republicans attacking institutions of higher education, the fact that educated Americans overwhelmingly vote Blue these days is proof positive that colleges and universities are practicing “indoctrination,” turning conservative teenagers into liberal, “woke” young voters.

I thought about that GOP article of faith when I came across this July article from the New Republic, about the upcoming national convention of college Republicans, which–according to the report– is “excitedly welcoming vicious antisemite and racist Nick Fuentes as a headliner.” These are college students who somehow managed to escape that pervasive indoctrination.

The event is being hosted later this month by College Republicans United, a group that, according to its website, has been committed to “spreading America First across college campuses since January 2018.” Among its “values” are planks like “opposition to immigration and multiculturalism.”

Fuentes–the speaker they were “thrilled” to announce– has previously been banned from social media for his violent rhetoric denouncing people of color, women, Jews, immigrants, LGBTQ people, Covid-19, and much more. He’s  definitely not “woke.”

He has also proudly said he’s “just like Hitler” (whom he has also called “a pedophile … also really fucking cool”), and that “Catholic monarchy, and just war, and crusades, and inquisitions” are much better than democracy.

Fuentes will be joined by Jake Chansley, known as the QAnon Shaman,  who will also speak at the event. And the article notes that the official Republican Parties in three Arizona counties (Pima, Maricopa, and Yavapai) are backing the event.

It occurred to me, reading this, that the majority of college students who identify as progressive may be reacting against those in their midst who subscribe to–and celebrate!–the positions held by Fuentes and Chansley, rather than falling under the influence of their professors.

That said, I think it is fair to say that a sound education introduces students to the reality of ambiguity–to a recognition that the world is not black and white, that the issues they will face are complex and fact-sensitive and that people of good will can come to different conclusions about them. People who understand that complexity are far less likely to cling to the perceived verities of an ideology or the comforts offered by tribalism than people who are terrified by shades of gray. 

Ironically, what Republicans really hate about higher education is the lack of indoctrination–the widening of perspectives and the less rigid understandings that flow from a broadened world-view.

Meanwhile, however, the GOP’s war on education continues to inflict casualties: in Florida, it has led to a significant brain drain.

With the start of the 2023-24 academic year only six weeks away, senior officials at New College of Florida (NCF) made a startling announcement in mid-July: 36 of the small honors college’s approximately 100 full-time teaching positions were vacant. The provost, Bradley Thiessen, described the number of faculty openings as “ridiculously high”, and the disclosure was the latest evidence of a brain drain afflicting colleges and universities throughout the Sunshine state.

Andrew Gothard is the state-level president of the United Faculty of Florida ; he predicts a loss of between 20 and 30% of faculty members at some universities during the upcoming academic year. That would be a “marked increase in annual turnover rates that traditionally have stood at 10% or less.”

Data shows more people continue to move into Florida than are leaving, but those raw numbers don’t reflect the ages, identities or skills of those coming in and going out. It isn’t just faculty. News outlets report that immigrant laborers have left in droves, in response to DeSantis’ anti-immigrant laws, creating problems for owners of bars, restaurants and orange orchards, among others.

A recent article focusing upon the five worst states to work & live in began by noting that there are nearly twice as many job openings nationwide as there are workers available to fill them, making states with few educated workers unattractive to potential employers. It had this to say about Florida: “Rated strictly on Life, Health and Inclusion, the Sunshine State can be a dreary place.” In 2023, it gave the state a Life, Health & Inclusion Score of 129 out of 350 points–a grade of  D.

(Not that Indiana has any bragging rights: we scored 113 out of 350 points, for a grade of D-. Our universities are still functioning properly, but the students they educate mostly go elsewhere. According to a study by Ball State, the state’s disdain for education at all levels has made Indiana “ill-equipped to keep up” thanks to a less educated workforce.)

Remember that old bumper sticker about the expense of education? (“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”)  The GOP version should read: “Education endangers  Republicans. Support ignorance.”


  1. Actually, Ms. Kennedy, the bumper sticker I favor is one I saw in D.C. which read, “If You Don’t Want to Think, Vote Republican”. And that was back in the 80’s. Nothing’s changed.

  2. It’s almost as if Republicans are projecting their own bigotry on those they oppose. And the GOP REQUIRES indoctrination in order to keep their sheep moving in the same direction. It shouldn’t surprise anyone with a brain that these college “Republicans” are following the most extreme dogma now that the orange hairball has removed the door from their closet.

    Remember when Reagan the Puppet tried to get rid of the Department of Education? That was in 1980-something. Now, why in the world of Friedman economics would he want to do that? Oh. Right. The numbers back then said the same thing about educated people voting for Democrats.

    Well, Republicans have only one goal: Win Elections. Governing for the other 70% of the people? Not so much. They’d rather burn down the country and the Constitution than actually govern. The choice is simple.

  3. Not only do college students get exposed to a lot of new ideas, they get exposed to a lot of new _people_. The social bubble they may have grown up within can be expanded greatly by this experience. Once they understand that some of their prejudices and biases are unfounded, it’s a relatively small step to wondering about _all_ of them.

    And conservatives _really_ don’t want them doing that. If you truly believe in an actual hell, for example, then of course this prospect is terrifying. The souls of the children are at stake.

  4. I watched the local council meeting last night, and a Republican from the audience rambled on incoherently for 5 minutes. She was against a local climate plan but went nowhere near proving her point. She was a Fox News watcher and had been easily manipulated to believe anything about climate change was bogus. Her rationale why was utter nonsense.

    The population must be dumbed down for predatory capitalism to work for the masses. For trickle-down policies to work, the masses must believe that more money in the hands of oligarchs means more income for the masses. It will happen by pure osmosis.

    Educated people can see right through the babble from Fox News and tweets from the GOP on social media. Republican officials post nonsense, and it gets attacked.

    I wonder what the Republican stance is on remote higher learning. Since there is no social component, is it more accepted?

    As for Ball State, it is a Koch-approved conservative school with plenty of right-wing BOTs and Prez. Their business college is mostly all right-wingers who are members of Indiana Policy Review.

  5. Meanwhile, here in sunny southwest Florida, the children will be offered the a better form of indoctrination by way of “Prager University” videos that would be laughable, if they weren’t so dangerous. Who’s indoctrinating whom?

  6. Some wild animals turn extremely vicious when they their lives are in danger. Republicans have been fighting for their survival for the past few decades and they become more vicious with each election. They are slaves to the oligarchs that put them into office and will say and do whatever they must in order to survive. Their intention was never to actually represent and govern for the best interests of the people or our country. Personal power and self-preservation is all they care about.

  7. “An educated consumer ….”
    Education has been the bane of the powerful going back, at least, to St. Augustine, who urged that the general public not be educated. Sen. Rand Paul had been urging the ending of the Dep’t of Education long ago. Using a brain is different than having one.
    And, yes, the GOP has long known it can not survive on a level playing field.
    I’m in Floirididia, too, old and retired, but will start to work as a school crossing guard this week, looking out for the well being of young students in my own way. Too bad that I can not stem the tide of idiocy in our legislature.

  8. Peggy, The Prager U videos are really clever, well staged, and insidious. They seem so reasonable and for a young person with little world experience, when they subtly take a dive into the deep end of the cess pit, they never notice.

    Today’s Republicans have evolved past that to out and out declaring a war on education. To be educated is to be Woke. Public schools are just part of the deep state and need to be replaced.

  9. You know what they say, “every republican accusation is a confession”.

    I’ve attended my fair share of colleges in both Ohio and Indiana and I’ve never noticed any teachers that were particularly political during class. The constant complaint about indoctrination seems like A) the aforementioned confession and B) a desperate attempt to explain why many people don’t like the GOP much.

    You know how it is, if 100% of people don’t adore the GOP – it’s obviously a plot. It must be hard to live with that kind of paranoia.

  10. By far, the fastest growing political organization on US college campuses is Turning Point USA with a claimed over 100,000 members and also now organizing at the high school level. They are gaining significant recognition in the MAGA-ecosystem. There is nothing on the other side to compare – know the enemy:

  11. It seems clear that culture-driven Republicans and “main-street” Republicans may be parting ways. Here in Indiana, the state Chamber of Commerce–not your garden-variety leftist organization–just called for state policy makers to up the ante on education, saying that Indiana is “a lap or two behind” other states in education and workforce development. See and

    What’s increasingly clear is that anti-education culture warriors are backward looking: they are intent on recreating a world of their imagination where white, straight, Christian males dominated and others (women, people of color, and people of other sexual orientations, etc.) hid or cowered in fear, or simply did not exist. They are willing to degrade education across the board in service of white supremacy. Will the business world continue to link arms with an element that makes making money increasingly difficult?

  12. Peggy — I Googled Prager U and watched a couple of videos. OMG!!! What brunch of white bread sound bites! And one of the speakers said she was tired of “sound bites” ! A case of – I would laugh except that I wanted to gag.

    I will remind readers of my experience in 1984, as a teacher then, the “new” South Carolina K-12 educational push in August was “HOTS” – Higher Order Thinking Skills. By January of that school year HOTS was no more because a group of fundamentalists preachers in the state created a stink and told legislators they didn’t want children learning to think for themselves.

    It never ends.

  13. Lester – thanks – I checked it out. Looks interesting. Let’s hope “moms for Liberty” don’t get a hold of it! 🙂

  14. Case in point > I have a grand daughter who graduated from Ball State, took a Master’s at the University of Alabama (Birmingham), and is now gainfully employed in Atlanta. She was apparently immune to the right wing Nazi-lovers found these days on college campuses as she is a liberal Democrat and left Indiana for the increasingly progressive city of Atlanta. Her experience is at odds with Todd’s description of how Ball State’s graduates turn right, i.e., she turned left. Perhaps Todd as an attentive local resident is right and she is an exception to the rule he has observed.
    She did, predictably, leave the state, and is part of the brain drain the Hoosier state is experiencing with its prehistoric super majority elected by Fox watchers. To do > outnumber the Foxers every November when voting – no exceptions.

  15. Voting as a cure for what ails this state is only an effective tool when there are contested seats. A friend told me a few years ago that when she went to the polls, there was only one contest with two parties represented on her local ballot.
    Gerrymander and subversive groups like Moms for Liberty who send lots of money and time spreading bigotry, most of which are lies, make it very difficult to convince anyone to run against the bigot machine.
    I doubt there will be much change in our local and state representation in 2024. Consider that Couch has announced that she is courting Greg Pence for her running mate as Governor. How very sad for us all if she ever gains office again.

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