Thursday, February 05, 2015

Fidel Castro Would Approve of Walker and McCrory

With the gubernatorial attacks on higher education, especially by governors in Wisconsin and North Carolina, something has nagged me. I felt like I had heard or read about the same message before. Today it finally clicked--the answer is Fidel Castro. All three distrust intellectuals and ideas, and want universities to focus only on workers.

Let's take two very recent examples.

Governor Scott Walker apparently redrafted the mission of the University of Wisconsin (later claiming that it was a drafting error).

In that draft of the governor's budget, gone from state code was the commandment that the university “search for truth.” Gone was the exhortation to “improve the human condition.” Gone was the charge to “extend knowledge and its application beyond the boundaries of its campuses.” 
Instead, Walker, a Republican, inserted a new benediction: “meet the state’s workforce needs.”

Meanwhile, in the State of the State message yesterday, Governor Pat McCrory had this to say about higher education in North Carolina.

We are leveraging the advantage provided by our public and private research universities through our Innovation to Jobs initiative that we just presented to the UNC Board of Governors. It's designed to convert more of our research dollars into products and services that are patented and introduced into the marketplace. 

Finally, here is Fidel Castro, speaking in 1972:

University studies are spreading throughout the country. The time will come when each one of the principal industries will be an extension of the university. In other words, we are taking the university to the street. We are combining studies and work in the entire educational system," and "we do not want to form intellectuals, simply intellectuals; we want to form revolutionaries with technical ability. We must combine study with work.

Moving universities away from ideas and toward a narrow conception of work is a fundamental part of developing Communism. Universities normally abound in ideas, but you don't see controversy in universities in Cuba, the Soviet Union, etc. Ideas challenge authority and bolster democracy. "Products" and "technical ability" do the opposite.

It's so odd to see this somehow go full circle, as avowed free marketeers and an avowed Marxist come to complete agreement.


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