Education in a Conservative Age

It’s an open debate about the relatively liberality of the U.S. citizenry, although it’s become almost a cliche that the media sees us as a center-right culture when most surveys would probably define us as center-left. We’ve always has a very dramatic conservative cadre, and the progressives are probably a little too Gandhian and bookish to sell much soap.

Especially in recent years, then, with all of their talk of guns and violence and the caliphate— backed by policies that encourage and spread gun ownership if not violence– the right has had a high profile. It can be difficult to recall, amidst all of this sturm ang drang, just how much damage the conservative movement has really done, especially since Reagan. We’ve not reached the end of it, either.

Among all the talk of Reagan’s 100th birthday, I was surprised to see so little written about the legacy of his corrosive impact on education: the attack on organized labor; the attack on public funding; the shifting of costs from the collective to the individual. We get paid less than we should; our schools are broke; when we finish college we are more in debt than ever before.

It seems to harder and harder to even imagine something different. All of these things existed before Reagan and the modern conservative movement, of course, but his great legacy is that he made anti-democratic, small-minded ideas about education seem necessary if not heroic. This transmogrification has reached full fruition in the so-called Tea party’s call for “smaller government.”

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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