The School Crusades


Even if you avoid social media (or, like me has cut way back on doomscrolling), it’s hard to avoid the news about Republican politicians blaming public education and teachers for just about every societal evil they can think of.

The centerpiece of this battle, of course, is Florida, where the governor seemingly wants to tear apart both K12 schools and colleges in his quest to stomp out “wokeness”, whatever that is.

And a writer in a recent edition of The Atlantic Daily newsletter says that’s fine.  “Florida Has a Right to Destroy its Universities”.

Elections have consequences. If the people of Florida, through their electoral choices, want to wreck one of their own colleges, it is within the state’s legitimate power to do so. In fact, Florida could decide tomorrow to amend its own constitution and abolish state universities entirely. There’s no national right to a college education, and if Florida wants to unleash a battalion of Guy Montags on its own state colleges and their libraries—well, that’s up to the voters.

He goes on to stipulate that “many colleges do silly things and have silly professors saying silly things”. But a few intellectual oddballs is not what is upsetting right-wing politicians. 

Something has changed on the American right, which is now seized with a hostility toward higher education that is driven by cultural resentment, and not by “critical race theory” or any of the other terms that most Americans don’t even understand. College among conservatives has become a kind of shorthand for identifying with all kinds of populist grievances, a ploy used even by Republicans with Ivy League educations as a means of cozying up to its non-college-educated and resentful base.

Once upon a not-so-long-ago time, representatives on both sides of the political aisle glorified college. The magic bachelors degree from a name school was something they wanted for all children, but especially their own. Now, however, being “well-educated” or an “expert” is an insult to be flung at your opponents.

As for Florida having the right to destroy its universities, I might agree with the writer, who also doesn’t live in that state, if it wasn’t for a couple of factors.

First, a school, at any level, is not just a building. It is a community made up mostly of kids who are caught in the middle of this game. They are the ones who will be getting an incomplete education if they are denied the right to explore and challenge difficult topics. Public universities are one of the few places in society where a learner can find a healthy mixture of people and ideas from all over the map.

Second, this kind of crap doesn’t stop at the state border. The governor in our state won his election by vilifying teachers and public schools, convincing enough voters that they were “grabbing red-blooded American kids and replacing them with Woke Communist Pod People”. It’s a template for stupidity being repeated at all levels of government.

Anyway, Florida is going to continue down this path, which will probably not destroy their schools as much as it will make them mediocre. The very talented educators and students will opt to go somewhere else if they can, leaving behind those who can’t and the governor’s acolytes.

For me, I’m not a fan of either Disney parks or beaches. But I am “woke”. I think.

The photo shows the K12 public school on Tangier Island, Virginia. The community works very hard to keep the school open and above the water that is rapidly rising to cover their land. I wonder whether the rabid supporters of the previous president (and probably the Florida governor), the vast majority on the island, agree with the vilification of public education he’s pushing.

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