Ron DeSantiscurrent governor of Florida who intends to become President of USA, has attempted to position himself as the key American warrior in the crusade against flesh wounds. And lately, higher education has become its most visible goal. He’s picked up a very public row with the college board over the board’s new Advanced Placement (AP) course in AfricanAmerican Studies — and in recent days has stepped up that attack by suggesting that Florida may no longer be offering courses in knowledge.
What’s going on here? It’s easy to get caught up in debates about allegations against specific courses or institutions, but these discussions lack basic context:
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Are all accusations about leftwing professors trying to indoctrinate students false? Probably not: America is a huge country, and it has to happen somewhere — despite specific accusations that it’s often crazy. At a meeting with the college board, Florida officials asked if the new AP course was “trying to advance thinking about black panthers.” Guys, the Black Panthers closed up shop when Ron DeSantis was a boy; When we say those words today, most people think we’re talking about Wakanda.
It is true that college faculty and academics are more likely to identify and vote for progressive Democratic Party than the general public. But that doesn’t necessarily demonstrate an anticonservative bias. Much of this certainly reflects selfselection: who chooses an academic career? For comparison: the police tend to Republican Partybut I think everyone agrees that it’s primarily about people who want to be a police officer.
Not long ago, most Americans from both parties believed that universities had a positive impact on America. However, since the rise of Trumpism, Republicans have become very negative on this. A recent poll shows that an overwhelming majority of Republicans agree that both college and high school professors are trying to “teach progressive advertising.”
But what actually happened here? Have American universities, which until 2015 a large majority of Republicans credited with having a positive influence, have suddenly become centers of leftist indoctrination? Has the same happened to high schools coordinated by local councils across the country?
What happened was that Trumpist politicians started spreading scary stories about education — specifically, by denouncing high schools for teaching critical race theory even when they don’t. And the right, too, have vastly expanded their definition of what counts as “progressive propaganda.”
So when someone claims that schools don’t actually teach critical race theory, the answer tends to be that they teach students who do, even if they don’t use the term. racism has long been a major force in the US and that its impact continues to this day. I don’t see how it would be possible to honestly teach American history without mentioning these facts but for a significant number of voters, teaching uncomfortable facts is really a form of progressive propaganda.
And if that’s your way of thinking, you see leftist indoctrination everywhere, not just in history and the social sciences. When a biology class explains the theory of evolution and why most scientists accept it or, for that matter, the theory of how vaccines work well, that’s more progressive propaganda.
And so, a large segment of the population the segment that DeSantis is courting has become generally hostile to higher education.
As an aside, it’s a wellknown fact that American politics is becoming increasingly polarized along educational lines, with the more educated supporting Democrats and the less educated supporting Republicans. This polarization is often presented as a symptom of democratic failure: Why can’t the party win over white workingclass voters? But it’s also fair to ask how Republicans managed to alienate educated voters who could benefit from tax cuts. And the growing Republican hostility to education is certainly part of that response.
The sad thing, however, is that this push against education comes at a time when a highly qualified workforce is becoming increasingly important to the economy. This is particularly evident when looking at US regional data: the percentage of a city’s population with a college degree is a powerful indicator of its current wealth and future growth.
This is not to say that higher education in the US is perfect. In general, we certainly fetishize the standard fouryear degree, which is not suitable for everyone, and grossly neglect forms of education such as apprenticeships and internships, which might be more useful for many people. But that’s a whole different story.
Right now it’s important to understand that people like DeSantis attack education not because it teaches progressive propaganda, but because it doesn’t support the ignorance they want to perpetuate./ TRANSLATION BY GUILHERME RUSSO