Mr. Desert used to try to temper my claim that the GOP led attacks on public education were designed to further the divide between the rich and everyone else, that Republicans elected to office were deliberately defunding public education in order to legislate economic inequality and squash social mobility for generations to come. But he stopped doing so a number of years ago because the evidence was so overwhelming.
Their plan is clear: keep public schools underfunded and allow them to crumble and thereby hamper the future economic security of those passing through the U.S. educational system. Meanwhile, help the ultra-rich and powerful continue to build their wealth via tax breaks while ensuring the middle and working classes fall further behind.
But economic inequality is not their only motivation. Staying in office is the other. As anyone who teaches or values education knows, education broadens an individual’s experiences and teaches that life is not full of the black-and-white certainties associated with the authoritarian Republican worldview. When one is able to question those claims, their supposed logic falls apart.
A study by Gordon Hodson and Michael Busseri from Brock University in Ontario Canada, published on January 5, 2012, shows that individuals who endorse social conservatism have greater cognitive rigidity, and that those who endorse right-wing ideologies are more fearful and anxious that out-groups will cause social disintegration of moral standards and traditions. Convince the voters that public education is leading their kids astray, is teaching them to have sex, to question America’s exceptionalism, to eschew religion, to mingle with others who do not share their beliefs, and so on. Make public education the enemy while shifting the use of tax dollars to fund prisons and you have the perfect recipe for creating a labor force that sacrifices itself for your benefit.
Need further evidence? Eidelman et al show that “Low-Effort Thought Promotes Political Conservatism” (PDF), and that when effortful, deliberate thought is disengaged, endorsement of conservative ideology increases.
What this study and those before it suggest is not necessarily that all liberals are geniuses and all conservatives are ignorant. Rather it is that for those who lack a cognitive ability to grasp complexities of our world, strict-right wing ideologies may be more appealing.
So destroy public education and you ensure those who cannot afford private education will be less able to understand that life is not full of black-and-white certainties, will vote against their best interests, and will remain impoverished thinkers and earners.
An informed electorate is essential to good democratic practice. Citizens need to know who or what they are choosing and why, and that’s why Republicans hate public education.