Most Republicans Think Colleges Hurt America. So What Happens Now?
A shocking new poll by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center shows that a striking split has emerged between Democrats and Republicans.
In the past two years, Republicans perception of colleges and universities has grown substantially more hostile. 58% now say they feel that higher education is negatively affecting the direction of the country.
You can see from the above graphic that the collapse was both dramatic and sudden, and that it began in the middle of 2015 - around the time President Trump announced his candidacy.
Personally, I find it hard to accept that as a coincidence, since he ran an inflammatory campaign based on defying facts, attacking educated 'elites', and revelling in ignorance. Decades of angry talk radio have finally succeeded in incubating a golden age of anti-intellectualism.
But merely pointing fingers won't lead to an understanding of the problem, and you can't treat an undiagnosed disease. Why do Republicans feel this way? What can be done to change their minds? The worst part of the answer is - they're mistrust of colleges kind of makes sense.
A lot of people have theorized as to why 58% of Republicans have come to feel that education is a negative force in society. Is it the skyrocketing cost of a degree? Is it the fact that a higher level of schooling correlates with growing up to be a Democrat? Is it just part of the general fad of despising all things 'coastal' and 'elite'?
All of these factors may serve as partial answers, but none seems sufficient in and of itself.
Here's another way of looking at the problem: since at least the early 1960s, conservative commentators have been selling suspicion of academia to their audiences. The universities are full of liberals who want to inculcate your children with their decadent values, even as they charge you $50,000 a year for the privilege.
And you know something? They're right.
A 2016 study of over 7,243 humanities professors found that 3,623 were registered Democrats. How many were registered as Republicans? A mere 314. Overall, the donkeys outnumber the elephants by 11.5-1. In history departments, that ratio is a staggering 33.5-1.
What we're seeing is just the culmination of a decades-long process. Conservatism has been separated, and has separated itself from the university over the last 50 years. That's a problem if you want to live in a society with a diversity of serious opinions (otherwise known as 'a democracy').
Republicans themselves must shoulder the blame for their recurrent rejection of facts, but the way liberals treat dissenters on college campuses helps nothing.
Instances of free speech suppression on campuses only play into the narrative that, First Amendment notwithstanding, some people are simply not welcome to express their views.
It's not just avowed racists and provocateurs like Richard B. Spencer or Milo Yiannopoulos who have been shouted down or disinvited either. The list of people who haven't been allowed to speak includes lefties, righties, and independents.
If colleges want to repair their relationship with Republicans, and they should, they must be willing guarantee everyone the right to speak, even if the content of that speech is deplorable.
If Republicans want to repair their relationship with colleges, and they should, they must be prepared to subject their speech to the criticism of those who don't agree.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments.
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