Tuesday, June 29, 2021

FLA Gubernator DeSantis Resorts To Strong Arm State Law To Dictate University Education

 "This is the last gasp of a once powerful party that is intellectually impotent.   And when you have an intellectually impotent ideology or party it will cheat.  When you can't compete in the marketplace of ideas you fundamentally do what DeSantis is doing.  It is market protectionism.  It doesn't want to compete about learning about poverty, or the history of this nation, or global capitalism so it wants to cheat.  So it must endorse what is inconsistent with intellectualism."-   Prof.  Tressie McMillan Cotton, ALL In, June 23.

"There is a real thing Governor Ron DeSantis is putting his finger on:  People go into these colleges and come out liberals.  What's goin' on? Except his solution for it is a perfect example of the kind of cultish authoritarianism in the modern Republican party under Donald Trump. They have a political problem - how to attract college-educated voters  But the solution they come up with is to just take the sledge hammer of the state to the institution of higher education." - Chris Hayes, on ALL In,  June 23

"All liberal arts education is defined in consciously non-vocational terms.  It is not a preparation for this job or that, for one career rather than another.  It is a preparation for the job of living, which of course is not a job at all.   The variety of liberal arts education is enormous but all rest on the assumption that one important aim of undergraduate education is to afford the young who are its beneficiaries the opportunity to reflect on the curious and inspiring adventure of life before they have gone too far into it."  - Anthony Kronman,  'Education's End - Why Our Colleges and Universities Have Given Up On The Meaning Of Life."  (p. 41)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed several education-focused bills last week, including one to "protect"  what the state calls the “expression of diverse viewpoints” at state colleges and universities.  This will be by surveying students on how they feel their "freedoms"  are protected on campus.

Under HB 233, signed by DeSantis on June 22, the Florida Board of Education will now require Florida colleges to survey students every year and assess “the intellectual freedom and viewpoint diversity” at each institution.  Translation:  How much conservo crap are the colleges willing to allow to enable more young brains to become young Trumpers?

The FLA Board of Education  will also be required to select or create an "objective, nonpartisan and statistically valid survey"  for each institution to use, and determine the extent that competing ideas are presented to the college’s community. The survey will check how free students (i.e. young Reeps)  feel to express their own beliefs and viewpoints while on campus and in the classroom.

In addition, the new law adds the new term “shield” which, in this context, the state has defined as “to limit students,’ faculty members’ or staff members’ access to, or observation of, ideas and opinions that they may find uncomfortable, unwelcome, disagreeable, or offensive.”  

All sounds pretty tame and justifiable, right?  Wrong!  It's an authoritarian Reep Guv Nazi wannabe-  who fancies being the next Trump -  taking a sledge hammer to higher education in the state - as per Chris Hayes' quote at the top.  How?  By using the threat of budget cuts to those universities, colleges that don't  come out with the desired results in his mandated "surveys".     

Why?  Because he sees that too many leaving university now are the most left-leaning in a generation. (Only 26% leaving university in a recent AEI survey describe themselves as "conservative').  Instead of recognizing this as part and parcel of true critical thinking and being exposed to a wide spectrum of ideas, he sees it as indoctrination.   He also sees, is aware, that our politics is increasingly divided along the lines of education - and he doesn't like it.

Even when you control for other factors, like race, creed, income etc.people with higher levels of education are found to be more liberal.   Those with less education are more conservative,  This is why those who lean Republican say in polls that college is having a negative effect on the country, the percentage going from 37% (in 2015) to 59% in 2019.   This divide is particularly sharp among white people.   So mindful of all this Ronny DeSantis believes taking a sledge hammer to college studies in Florida can at least slow it down.  Of course, he's a fool.

Which explains his proposed survey to "seek out ideas and opinions they may find offensive".   Yeah, like critical race theory or basic Marxism - which might cause fragile young conservative brains to explode.  So these surveys will be a way to keep profs under control from contaminating too many susceptible minds, threatening their colleges with budget cuts if the don't adhere to state sanctioned twaddle in curricula -   specially in political and social science.

As per The Tampa Bay Times, June 22: "Budget cuts could take place if the colleges and universities are found to be indoctrinating their students".   Which, as Hayes put it, "might be the case if those surveys don't produce the right answers for DeSantis and his buddies."   In effect, it amounts to an outrageous abuse of state power by surveilling citizens' thoughts, learning. Threatening to punish them if they disclose the "wrong" views.  It sounds like attending to free speech but in fact is the very opposite of that, akin to book burnings in the Third Reich.   

As Hayes noted, DeSantis mask of B.S. fell off during one news conference,  showing his yen to suppress free speech. There we see DeSantis blabbering:

"I know a lot of parents, one of the things they worry about is you send a kid to university and are they basically gonna be indoctrinated. Are they actually gonna be taught to think for themselves, challenge assumptions and be critical thinkers and learners.  We obviously want out universities to be focused on critical thinking and academic rigor.  We do not want then  not hotbeds for stale ideology."   

Focused on critical thinking?   You semi-educated white ape.  Didn't you know that includes exposure to ideas, beliefs and yes, ideologies, outside of one's comfort zone?  Real critical thinking - not the middle mind vanilla substitute on offer from Ron "Goebbels"  DeSantis  - means being offered fora with radically different themes, ideas.  Like when Loyola's Jesuits invited atheist existentialist Jean Paul-Sartre to speak at Loyola in January, 1966, 

That exposure began my path to atheism- materialism and I can thank Loyola's Jesuits for it!

DeSantis, dope that he is, would probably call that indoctrination.  But  the Jesuits didn't indoctrinate.  They simply allowed an intellectual stage for diverse thought, and encouraged interested students to attend.  Obviously-  as Hayes noted-  DeSantis doesn't think it's indoctrination to teach kids that communism is bad, i.e. as a state mandate.  But in fact that amounts to capitalist indoctrination.

Blogger and professor Henry Giroux has noted:

"Many see higher education as "dangerous" because its facilities hold the potential to serve as laboratories for democracy where students learn to think critically. Teachers are threatening because they refuse to conflate education with training or treat schools as if they were car dealerships. Many educators have made it clear that they regard teaching for the test and defining accountability only in numerical terms as acts that dull the mind and kill the spirit of students. Such repressive requirements undermine the ability of teachers to be creative, engage with the communities in which they work and teach in order to make knowledge critical and transformative. The claim that we have too many bad teachers is too often a ruse to hide bad policies and to unleash assaults on public schools by corporate-driven ideologues and hedge fund managers who view schools strictly as investment opportunities for big profits."


"Neoliberal education is increasingly expressed in terms of austerity measures and market-driven ideologies that undermine any notion of the imagination, reduce faculty to an army of indentured labor and burden students with either a mind-numbing education or enormous crippling debt or both. 

If faculty and students do not resist this assault, they will no longer have any control over the conditions of their labor, and the institutions of public and higher education will further degenerate into a crude adjunct of the corporation and financial elite."

Which is exactly what the likes of Ron DeSantis really wants: marginalization of citizens' choices and life quality and control of their thoughts. Especially if there's a chance of creating more Reeps and Trumpies to help downgrade the national status into an even more degraded "adjunct" of the financial elites and white nationalist scum.  Especially, if their biggest 'wet dream' is consummated, and Trump somehow manages to get elected again in '24.

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