Turn on Fox News or AM talk radio any given day, and you’re bound to hear stories about radical professors from liberal universities brainwashing children with leftist, socialist ideology and imposing an anti-American worldview.
Stories about political correctness run amok, or liberal groups protesting speeches by conservative personalities, or professors denigrating or vilifying the United States, are regular fodder for opinion hosts like Tucker Carlson, on the aforementioned three letter news network.
Ivy League schools and universities from liberal, coastal states are the favorite targets, but colleges everywhere have increasingly found themselves in the crosshairs for conservatives who’ve spent decades constructing the narrative that pursuing a degree at an American university is the cause of our country’s problems, not their solutions.
All of that dedication to attacking higher education appears to be paying off in a horrifying though not altogether surprising way. According to a new study out by the Pew Research Center, “A majority of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents (58%) now say that colleges and universities have a negative effect on the country, up from 45% last year.”
Democrats, not surprisingly, had a very different view. According to the same Pew study, “most Democrats and Democratic leaners (72%) say colleges and universities have a positive effect, which is little changed from recent years.”
The Washington Post cited the pew study in a larger piece about the Republicans’ assault on higher education, creatively titled “Elitists, Crybabies, and Junky Degrees.” In it, investigative journalists Kevin Sullivan and Mary Jordan track the work of Frank Antenori, a former Green Beret and Arizona legislator at the forefront of the GOP’s increasingly aggressive campaign against our nation’s colleges and universities.
“Why does a kid go to a major university these days?” Antenori asked rhetorically. “A lot of Republicans would say they go there to get brainwashed and learn how to become activists and basically go out in the world and cause trouble.”
Sullivan and Jordan frame this growing anti-higher education position in the most charitable way the could, writing, “Though U.S. universities are envied around the world, [Antenori] and other conservatives want to reduce the flow of government cash to what they see as elitist, politically correct institutions that often fail to provide practical skills for the job market.”
The war on higher education has only intensified in the Trump era, and it’s bearing fruit among the president’s base, which was statistically the most undereducated block any candidate enjoyed in 2016.
The Atlantic published an in-depth report on the phenomenon, and characterized this new zealotry against our nation’s universities this way:
For the white middle class, a turn against college is a profound historical irony. The GI Bill was more responsible than almost any other law in fashioning the 20th century’s middle class. Many Trump voters feel left behind, or worry that their children will grow up poorer. It’s extremely unlikely that these families will personally benefit from a large tax cut for General Electric and Apple. What they could use, instead, is some extra money today, plus an education system that prepares their kids for a new career, in a field that isn’t in structural decline.
What’s ironic – even bordering on tragic – is that those same Trump voters who feel left behind elected a man who has no interest in fixing the problems with education.
You can read the entire Pew study here.