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.”