Krugman on the Right-Wing Assault on Education: "Ignorance is Strength"
In his latest piece, Paul Krugman explains how America's support for education made the United States exceptional, but now, when American education is in such trouble, Republicans are aiming to destroy affordable schooling. Why? Because education threatens their ideology.
Krugman explains the sad state of American education today, where budget cuts have driven a 12 percent fall in state suport for higher education over the past five years, even as the number of students increases:
One result has been soaring fees. Inflation-adjusted tuition at public four-year colleges has risen by more than 70 percent over the past decade. So good luck on finding that college “that has a little lower price.”
Another result is that cash-strapped educational institutions have been cutting back in areas that are expensive to teach — which also happen to be precisely the areas the economy needs. For example, public colleges in a number of states, including Florida and Texas, have eliminated entire departments in engineering and computer science.
The damage these changes will inflict — both to our nation’s economic prospects and to the fading American dream of equal opportunity — should be obvious. So why are Republicans so eager to trash higher education?
Krugman says ignorance strengthens the conservative argument:
It’s not hard to see what’s driving Mr. Santorum’s wing of the party. His specific claim that college attendance undermines faith is, it turns out, false. But he’s right to feel that our higher education system isn’t friendly ground for current conservative ideology. And it’s not just liberal-arts professors: among scientists, self-identified Democrats outnumber self-identified Republicans nine to one.
I guess Mr. Santorum would see this as evidence of a liberal conspiracy. Others might suggest that scientists find it hard to support a party in which denial of climate change has become a political litmus test, and denial of the theory of evolution is well on its way to similar status.
Krugman goes on to explain that people like Mitt Romney do not have a stake in educating the masses:
After all, over the past 30 years, there has been a stunning disconnect between huge income gains at the top and the struggles of ordinary workers. You can make the case that the self-interest of America’s elite is best served by making sure that this disconnect continues, which means keeping taxes on high incomes low at all costs, never mind the consequences in terms of poor infrastructure and an undertrained work force.
And if underfunding public education leaves many children of the less affluent shut out from upward mobility, well, did you really believe that stuff about creating equality of opportunity?
So whenever you hear Republicans say that they are the party of traditional values, bear in mind that they have actually made a radical break with America’s tradition of valuing education. And they have made this break because they believe that what you don’t know can’t hurt them.
Read the full post here.