Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Republican War on Higher Education: Abraham Lincoln Weeps

Most Americans think Abraham Lincoln was one of our greatest President because he led the country through our Civil War, and still was able to call for "malice toward none, compassion for all," as the war drew to a close. I'm not sure how many Americans realize that even while waging war against the destructive conservatives of his day (you know, the conservatives who would rather tear apart the Union than change or threaten the institution of slavery and the ideas of race supremacy), Lincoln also implemented far-reaching economic policies that basically created the modern United States. Indeed, history professor at the University of Louisville Leonard P. Curry entitled his 1968 book, Blueprint for Modern America: Nonmilitary Legislation of the First Civil War Congress. Among the programs Lincoln and the 37th Congress created are the transcontinental-railroads, the Homestead Act to open the West to settlement, a new tax system, a protective tariff designed to protect American workers and manufacturers. In the next Congress (which Curry does not discuss) the Department of Agriculture was created, to help spread and institutionalize the advance of agricultural science and technology. Anyone who has seen old copies of USDA Farmers' Bulletins knows how effective the USDA was in getting new knowledge disseminated among the nations farmers.

But perhaps the most important new economic program was the Morrill Land-Grant College Act, which created the backbone of most state university systems.

One final note: most of these programs were really not new ideas; but it was only after the conservatives in Congress withdrew as their states seceded - taking their parliamentary obstructionism with them - that the rest of the country was able to actually get enabling legislation passed.

The Republican War on Higher Education: Abraham Lincoln Weeps

by Dr Bud

Across the country Republican governors have announced major cuts to higher education budgets that will significantly alter issues of access to quality public education and excellence in what those programs can offer. Yesterday Graham Spanier, the President Penn State University, had this
to say about the 52.8% cut announced by Governor Tom Corbett:
"Abraham Lincoln is weeping today," [Spanier said], a reference to the Morrill Act of 1862. The act, signed by then-President Lincoln, fostered the creation of land-grant institutions -- including Penn State -- to expand the availability to higher education for the non-elite.
Now state funds make up about eight percent of the Penn State budget, having declined steadily from nearly 37 percent as recently as 1970. Under Corbett's budget proposal, introduced Tuesday, state support would fall to about four percent of the university budget.
According to Penn State-supplied numbers, the proposal would mean a decline of $182 million from current state funding levels for the university.
Pennsylvania is not alone.

Similar massive cuts to state-assisted higher education have been announced by an overwhelming cadre of gung-ho Republicans and a few feckless faux Democrats in Florida, Louisiana, Nevada, Arizona, California, Utah, Colorado, Missouri, Georgia, and Texas. Plans to cut budgets are still being formulated in other states, but the pattern—indeed, the Republican template—is already clear. By the end of the next fiscal year, universities in many states will be forced to consider privatizing their flagships in addition to seeing programs and faculty at other state-assisted schools terminated.
States used to gladly support universities and colleges because leaders on both sides of the aisle recognized that a well-educated workforce is in the best economic and social interests of all of us. That progressive narrative changed with the election, and re-election of Ronald Reagan, who began a conservative propaganda campaign based on three key ideas: that big government is bad for everyone because it is big; that regulation is bad for business because it regulates; and that taxes are an evil invention created by liberals in order to (a) get their hands on our hard-earned money, so that (b) they can redistribute wealth to those who don’t deserve it.
Since Reagan’s message fired a shot across the collective university bow, there has not been a single president from either party who was brave enough to call bullshit on these three ideas for fear of alienating an increasingly fearful and ignorant electorate.
Read more.


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