Wednesday, July 26, 2017

59% of Millennials Have At Least Some College, But…

Some of the rising negative perception of colleges and unversities sits on the steps of the institutions of higher learning themselves. Like limiting or cancelling talks and presentations from right wing speakers on their campuses. These universities appropriately claim that they are just stemming the often-violent protests that accompany such talks, but in a world where free speech and the First Amendment are under attack, this reality is ill-conceived. Even though risk cannot be completely eliminated, a two-pronged pushback against potential violent protestors has to be mounted. Education: emphasize the importance of the First Amendment as a two-way street and the negative impact on public financing for the institution itself. After all, universities are about learning about ideas, whether you like them or not. Enforcement: Unfortunately, right wing speakers simply require more police protection at some universities. Give it to them!
The harsh reality in the United States: our support for solid education and our comparative test scores on basics (reading, science and math) are plunging. For those of us who live in large, usually left-of-center, urban centers, the negative reactions to “liberal educated elites” are merely distant echoes that can be read about in detached articles in their mainstream media. But the number of PhDs in governmental agencies – from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of the Interior to the Department of Education, Department of Health and Human Services or the Department of Energy – who have the power of influence in policy-making has been reduced by staggering numbers. Evangelical zeal combined with corporate greed have resulted in a diminution of the importance of science and basic environmental realities and an increase in religious and archaic and largely disproven “free-market” rhetoric (where on earth are markets truly free? Anywhere?) have replaced hard statistics and brutal facts as the basis for federal policy. The budget cuts to education are, however, also very real.
Like the death of the Age of Reason shortly after the French Revolution in 1789, populism has elected a president, and too many Americans are overwhelmed with new negative life-changing realities that they believe only adherence to their perception of “God’s mandate” can save them. Primary and secondary education has to move back to religious-values, and colleges – the hotbed of liberal thinking – must be brought to heel. The passionate belief that “God will take care of us” overrides personal responsibility just as biblical mandates have morphed in a menu of choices that we can select at will… reject if inconvenient. But… here it comes… Ever get a nagging feeling that some of that negativity this conservative group is feeling against the “liberal elites” just might be justified?
Wall Street’s misplaced pseudo-religious belief is that anything that regulates business or imposes hard dollar costs on making money, particular taxes and environmental/financial honesty requirements, has to be bad. That belief system – believing that Donald Trump is great for business – is what is driving the stock market to new heights. One solid trade war, one eruption of a major war from someone’s pulling the wrong trigger or a simple waking up to the fact that an unpredictable/destabilized domestic political scene is really bad for business… and boom, down it all falls, stocks first… land values next. The euro is already beginning to rise against the dollar… or haven’t you been watching? Wall Street is whipping up the flames that ignite social conservatives… but what are those nasty liberal elites doing to bring down the volume of massive disharmony? Little or nothing?
Back to the original mission of this blog. Why do conservatives increasingly think of college and universities as the “newfound enemy,” when our future rather dramatically depends on present and future generation’s mastery of complexities that can only be understood through higher education? That their children would be thrust into the continuing downward spiral of earning power towards poverty without that educational reverse thruster. Bottom line, there is a rather dramatic correlation between liberal thought and increases levels of high education. So as the children of these terrified adults go to college, they learn that those sacred beliefs held by their parents just might be an advanced form of denial… that change not only cannot be stopped but it usually swallows and digests those most dedicated to stopping it. What are we missing? And, liberal elites, we are indeed missing a lot.
Writing for the July 23rd Los Angeles Times, Fredrik deBoer (an academic at City University of New York and a member of the Professional Staff Congress of CUNY, PhD English from Purdue University) explains further: “Only 36% of Republicans, according to the Pew Research Center, believe colleges and universities have a positive effect on the way things are going in the country, versus 58% who say they have a negative effect. Among Democrats, those figures are 72% and 19%, respectively. That finding represents a crisis.
“For it to be a crisis does not depend on you having any conservative sympathies. For this to be a crisis requires only that you recognize that the GOP is one of two major political parties in American life, and that Republicans’ lack of faith in higher education will have practical consequences.
“Further, it helps if you recognize that, in the present era, Republicans dominate American governance, with control of the House, Senate, presidency and crucially for our purposes, a significant majority of the country’s statehouses and governor’s mansions. They also have built a machine for state-level political elections that ensures that they will likely control many state legislatures for years to come.
“As an academic, I am increasingly convinced that a mass defunding of public higher education is coming to an unprecedented degree and at an unprecedented scale. People enjoy telling me that this has already occurred — that state support of our public universities has already declined precipitously. But things can always get worse, much worse.
“And given the endless controversies on college campuses in which conservative speakers get shut out and conservative students feel silenced, the public relations work is being done for the enemies of public education by those within the institutions themselves.
“Who’s to blame for the fact that so few Republicans see the value in universities? The conservative media must accept some responsibility for encouraging its audiences to doubt expertise; so must those in the mainstream media who amplify every leftist kerfuffle on campus and make it seem as though trigger warnings are now at the center of college life.
“But academics are at fault, too, because we’ve pushed mainstream conservatism out of our institutions. Sociologists Neil Gross and Solon Simmons have found that about half of professors identify as liberal, versus only 14% who identify as Republican. (At the time of their study, in 2006, only a fifth of American adults described themselves as liberal.)
“In ‘What’s Liberal About the Liberal Arts?’ Michael Berube describes and defends a philosophy of non-coercion and intellectual pluralism that isn’t just an intellectual curiosity, but an actual ethos that he and other professors live by. I grew up believing that most professors lived by that ethos. I don’t anymore. And when I suggest it’s a problem that academics are so overwhelmingly liberal, I get astonished reactions. ‘You actually think conservatives should feel welcome on campus?’
“In my network of professional academics, almost no one recognizes that our lopsided liberalism presents a threat to academia itself. Many would reply to the Pew Research Center’s findings with glee. They would tell you that they don’t want the support of Republicans. My fellow academics won’t grapple with the simple, pragmatic realities of political power and how it threatens vulnerable institutions whose funding is in doubt. That’s because there is no professional or social incentive in the academy to think strategically or to engage with the world beyond campus.
“Instead, all of the incentives point toward affirming one’s position in the aristocracy of the academy. There are no repercussions to ignoring how the university and its departments function in our broader society, at least not in the humanities and, for the most part, not in the social sciences either.” What!!!! You mean we should listen a lot more… even folks we really do not agree with?! Talk to them?! Invite them to teach and speak to us?! Actually take time to hear the other side?! What happened to good old fashion polarization? Casting the first stone? Sitting in judgment of others? Isn’t that the new America? Shouldn’t we just get used to it? Someone has to take the first steps. Or….
I’m Peter Dekom, and just take a really long look at what American society has become to see if recent trends to divide us are in fact what’s best for us all?

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