Demoralization Eats the Soul

I’ve been away from the blog for some time – apologies. I’ve been busy, or lazy, or consumed with angst at the state of the country/world, or working on the upcoming elections, or all of the above.  In any case, I remain deeply concerned about the state of higher education, with partisan divisions regarding the value of a college education as wide, if not wider, than ever. A recent FiveThirtyEight poll revealed that more than 80% of likely Republican voters believe that “Most college professors teach liberal propaganda.” (Only 17% of Democrats agreed.) As one respondent from Pennsylvania noted, “My daughter went to college as a staunch Republican and she came out a liberal Democrat.”

But no, this is not another tirade about the ugly cynicism of politicians who have found that hammering higher education (along with immigrant bashing) is their ticket into the culture wars dance. After all, targeting professors and student activists has been a staple of Republican campaigns since Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. “The professors are the enemy,” Nixon proclaimed, a refrain picked up in the current electoral cycle by JD Vance, running for Senate in my state of Ohio. Speaking as the everyman taxpayer when running for governor in California in 1966,  Reagan questioned “why some instructors were able to use the classrooms to indoctrinate and propagandize [our] children against the traditional values of a free society in this country.”

There is more than a little irony in the fact that in the current Congress, every senator and 95%  of House members, from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Boston University) to Marjorie Taylor Greene (University of Georgia) has been “indoctrinated” by these institutions so contemptuous of the “traditional values” of American capitalism. As Kelly Grotke recently wrote, “Most [higher education] institutions are run along similar lines as their peer institutions—which is why so many of us who have worked in or proximate to higher education find it grimly comic when the conservative media depict colleges and universities as bastions of illiberal un-American radicalism. Our universities and colleges are also places where people are trained in concepts and practices that normalize the financialization of society and are often governed by administrations and trustees who contribute to this shift, especially as governing boards have become increasingly dominated by financial, business, and legal professions.”

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