On the Right Wing Conquest of Research and Education

Last night in the GOP debate, Marco Rubio commented that “Welders make more money than philosophers. We need more welders and less [sic] philosophers.” Apart from the fact that they don’t, Rubio’s comment strikes me as another manifestation of an ongoing conservative campaign to take over education and research and employ it in the service of their own right wing interests. Far be it from me to discourage anyone at all from pursuing or promoting vocational training (I myself have a vocational degree in massage therapy), but promotion of that kind of schooling in no way, shape, or form requires the denigration, marginalization, or mocking of traditional higher education. When I see such denigration, it usually occurs as part of a broader rhetorical campaign against liberalism, since higher education tends more toward liberal values. I believe Rubio’s comment fits into that campaign.

One manifestation of this broader campaign is the ongoing corporatization of the American university. Bloated administrative costs, non-academic leadership, and business modeling increasingly characterize higher education where conservative powers hold sway. Scott Walker’s horrific gutting of the Wisconsin university system (to the tune of $250 million) in the interest of giving $250 million to literal billionaires so they could build a new basketball stadium comes screaming to mind. (He also advocates for the elimination of tenure.)

More recently, Timothy Wolfe resigned under pressure as president of the Missouri state university system after almost four years at the helm. One of his first actions when he came on board was to shut down the University of Missouri Press, which catalyzed enough blowback to force him to reinstate it after only a few months. The few hundred thousand he was trying to save paled in comparison to the $200 million expansion of sports facilities he oversaw. (Ironic that it was those unpaid athletes that forced him out for his marked insensitivity to their concerns with the racially charged atmosphere on campus.)

A Missouri state Senator who is calling for the firing of two professors in Missouri who took part in protests on campus in response to Wolfe’s resignation also happens to be trying to force a PhD student to abandon her dissertation on abortion, since, he insists, state-funded schools shouldn’t be paying for research that might promote elective abortions. Yeah, you read that right. State universities shouldn’t allow research that might give empirical support to values to which politicians stand opposed.

Shocking, but also familiar. For years now the US Congress has refused to fund CDC scientists to conduct research into gun violence. Some presume to overlay the thinnest veneer of concern for having people studying “disease” having anything to do with guns, but several supporters of this research ban have been pretty explicit about the reasoning behind it: they don’t want any facts to come to light that might undermine Second Amendment rights (well, their misinterpretation of those rights, anyway). The CDC’s appropriations bill has this wording in it:

None of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.

Facts and research scare the right wing, and the solution they’re coming up with is to take advantage of concerns with higher education so it can be overhauled and more easily controlled and manipulated. No more tenure, fewer humanities departments, direct government oversight, etc., etc., etc.


10 responses to “On the Right Wing Conquest of Research and Education

  • lostresearchers

    I have to disagree with you here. First, it is only proper that the Conservatives cut back on education. We are in a time of debt and need to cut back on that debt a bit. Second, they are in the majority at this time. They have the right to wield that when they run the House and Senate.

    • Daniel O. McClellan

      I would suggest we find other places to cut spending (like our phenomenally bloated military), and not treat education like some kind of luxury that can be set aside when it’s not needed. It is right wing economic mishandling that has us in this position anyway.

    • Howard Pepper

      Lostresearchers, I see numerous valid points in Daniel’s article here. And I agree that education is probably (“probably” because I’ve not checked actual numbers) not a dept. through which to gain much toward either a balanced federal budget or national debt… even if the Ed. Dept. were eliminated entirely. Daniel is right to suggest military spending particularly. That is where much more can be gained without us making ourselves vulnerable to invasion, nor any more vulnerable than we already are to terrorist attacks. (The massive Homeland Security apparatus wastes waaaay more money than it should and is a fat bureaucracy that I never hear mentioned for cut-backs but should be!)

      And that especially when one looks even superficially (and in-depth scientific analysis exists, apart from “official” reports) and understands this: The clear science of physics demonstrates, with virtually zero “margin of error”, that none of the THREE steel-frame WTC towers that fell on 9-11 could have done so without some kind of controlled explosive demolition. THAT is the kind of money manipulation that we need to get into rectifying.

      • Howard Pepper

        In my just-above comment, one thing could have been better worded: re. the 3 WTC towers’ collapse, it is not a theoretical case re. what was possible or not. Rather, photographic evidence (supported by several other lines of evidence) shows clearly that the WAY in which and the speed at which they fell, particularly Bldg. 7, could not be the result of structural damage plus fire. Absolutely could not! The science is conclusive.

      • lostresearchers

        I will not argue about whether the military should be decreased or not. Are 9/11 “truthers” the kind of people that listen to academic consensus? Academic consensus appears to agree with the government story. Not the 9/11 truthers story. My point is this: Should academia be given money from the government if it agrees with the party line of government?

      • Howard Pepper

        Lostresearchers… There are no more indented “reply” options. So, as to consensus and 9/11 “truthers” you may well be right. But that is beside my point, and may support yours. I should have added this link: http://www.ae911truth.org/. I spend almost no time following who is making what point re. 9/11 and who is on what “side”. But I have spend considerable time in the past, particularly examining the hard evidences (via aspects of science very heavily, and otherwise supported also) brought forth mainly by this large group of architects and structural engineers (above link). And it DOES implicate massive amounts of money.

    • Bowman Walton

      Lostresearcher is wrong about US Federal debt. Just ignore the mistaken premise.

      Ceteris paribus, a far higher ratio of debt to GDP than this one has characterized economies producing more jobs, profits, and value. If there is an ideal debt level based on those criteria, we are very far below it. Moreover the Treasury is paying near the historic low on new debt because the world’s investors are lending at a discount, having few options for a comparably safe return. Smart patriotic Americans should be replacing our national infrastructure of roads, power grid, water supply, etc, and might also invest in a leaner, more agile, more modern military, not on the cheap but doing it right. And soon we will. Frontrunning candidates for President in both parties have proposed these expenditures. The evidence for all this has been clear for several years and the national conversation– in the past guided by business entertainers, kept “experts,” etc– has finally caught up to it.

      Since 2008, debtwhining not grounded in evidence, like inflation hysteria throughout a period of 1-2% inflation, has done serious damage to this and other economies. As a consequence, hundreds of millions have suffered, from the poor who cannot find work to business people unable to expand and innovate in a demand-starved economy. Considering the stakes for those Jesus charged us to help, those of us who are real Christians will want to be able to truthfully tell our Judge that in this life we treated public affairs– even economic affairs– not as a major league sport in which we backed a favorite team for the fun of it, but in a serious, evidence-supported manner. Those who are poor stewards in this life will not get another chance from Him in the world to come. If you don’t believe that, you don’t believe Him.

      • lostresearchers

        There are non-LDS Christians who believe non-trinitarian ideas mean that LDS do not believe in Him. Your beliefs are similar in stating that those who are poor stewards do not believe. Our sins can be forgiven through belief in Jesus (John 3:16). It does not require proper stewardship or trinitarian values.

  • lostresearchers

    Further, your comment says a US Senator is trying to stop the PhD student. The article says it is only a Missouri Senator. Not a US one.

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