Monday, July 20, 2015

Correcting Some Misconceptions About Higher-Ed in California

I received the following from a slightly distressed reader in response to a recent post about higher education in California.  Worried that my frustrated correspondent might be expressing views shared by other readers, I thought I would provide his comments (with the profanity ‘bleeped’), and my response below.  This didn’t seem the time or place to address the misconceptions about President Obama’s future political ambitions, so I let that particular expression of ignorance slide.  (For those interested in learning more about the political economy of the UC, here is an old post that might be of interest: http://californiamwananchi.blogspot.com/2014/04/the-political-economy-of-university-of.html)
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“While an advanced educational institution could greatly benefit the north state's "community" of which republicans contribute positively your arguments an assertions show your partisan ignorance of reality and make you completely un credible.
“you write " for know-nothing, anti-communitarian Republicans to serve the region so poorly if they were also charged with looking after such a vital and vibrant institution."
“Know NOTHING? Anti community? A blatant lie. And in case you were born too recently the financially failing institutions that are the UC campuses are simply breeding grounds for group think liberalism to which you obviously and ignorantly subscribe to. You are quite obviously devoid of critical thinking skills and swayed by emotive illogical rhetoric based on hyperbole to the detriment of real broad based understanding.
“Liberalism and democratic control over education has led to the US dropping in rank continuously for decades. It is the fault of liberal democrats who cater to union thuggery where merit is last and tenure reigns supreme. As such we get shitty teachers who never get fired and new blood that get fired first. Tenure is for lazy assholes. Meritocracy is the  way and liberal democrats want nothing to do with any kind of meritocracy because it eliminates victimhood as a political basis for engendering votes. Liberal democrats blindly support the very practices that make our kids less capable while continuously advocating policy that rewards failure. There is a trillion plus in student debt because of liberals and over 60% will default. Another nice addition to the 18 trillion and counting of debt that obozo tripled in 6 years
“SO WAKE THE F*** UP A**HOLE> THE FACTS SAY IT IS YOU LIBERAL MORONS THAT HAVE F***** THE EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM AS YOU HAVE BEEN IN CONTROL FOR DECADES. YOU LIBERAL TWITS ARE THE "KNOW NOTHINGS" WHO REPEAT FAILURE HOPING FOR SUCESS. MORE MONEY, MORE DEBT, WORSE RESULTS< REPEAT REPEAT REPEAT. YOU ARE ANTI COMMUNITY BECAUSE YOU LIBS WONT LET PEOPLE BE AS THEY WISH. YOU FORCIBLY ENGINEER YOUR MYOPIC VIEW OF COMMUNITY AND THE RESULTS ARE GHETTOS AND SLUMS
“LOOK AT EVERY LIBERAL CONTROLLED STATE AND CITY AND YOU WILL SEE DEBT DESPAIR INCREASING CRIME AND ECONOMIC RUIN FOR THE POOR AND MIDDLE CLASS. CHICAGO< DETROIT< BALTIMORE ETC ALL CONTROLLED BY LIBERALS
“THE MIDDLE CLASS AND POOR HAVE BEEN LIED TO BY OUR AFFIRMATIVE ACTION MISTAKE< THE PATHOLOGICAL LYING FAILURE AND TREASONOUS COWARD>
“OBOZO SHOULD RUN FOR CALIPH< HE ACTUALLY QUALIFIED. MAYBE YOU CAN GO WITH”
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Dear XXXX,
Many thanks for your thoughtful e-mail and commitment to civic discourse...always much appreciated.
I thought I'd just offer a couple of correctives.
The fortunes of UC began to suffer reversals when Ronald Reagan became Governor.  He actually campaigned against UC, tried to sell off its collection of historic books, accused faculty and students of being anti-American (because they questioned the Vietnam War, segregation, and other ills of that era), and fired its visionary Chancellor who had helped to build the system into a globally-recognized system of higher education.  Reagan encouraged his Republican colleagues--previously well-dispoed to UC--to engage in vapid anti-intellectualism.  He cut funding at a time when UC was being asked by the state to take more students, and introduced tuition.  
His successor, Jerry Brown, continued the trend of treating UC and the research it does--research in the social and human sciences, in biology, medicine, engineering, computer science...nothing to do with partisan politics--as an elitist indulgence.  You can see that in his dismissiveness of its mission today (in stark contrast to his father, who was one of UC's greatest supporters).
The passage of Prop 13--whereby one generation of voters rigged the tax system and political structure so that it would become incredibly difficult for future generations to raise taxes, although cutting them is easy--and a series of other initiatives which have tied the hands of voters and given the Republican Party control over the state even though it wins a small minority of seats in the state legislature, has ensured that funding for UC has continued to fall even as its research projects have expanded, the state's population has exploded, and its student body has grown.  Tuition has risen precipitately, from being free in 1970 to somewhere on the order of $15,000 today.  
This has nothing to do with "liberalism and democratic control over education", and has nothing to do with "union thuggery".  Tenure protects faculty from being fired because they do research that politicians or administrators don't like.  It has to do with ensuring people's job security.  The student debt you cite has to do with right-wing politicians refusing to fund our public institutions, which has meant the transfer of responsibility for their support from the community as a whole to those individual students and their parents...that sounds pretty anti-community to me.  If I’m not mistaken, much of our debt as a nation has a little something to do with the obscenely expensive war in Iraq that one George W Bush put on the national credit card.
Thanks again for your thoughtful comments, and I appreciate how you really toned it down after your e-mail about immigration.
Best wishes,

Jeff Schauer

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