Now they hate Universities: Trumpie anti-Intellectualism infects GOP

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

A new Pew poll finds that 58% of Republicans now say that colleges and universities have a negative impact on the United States.

But this finding is a very recent development. In 2015, 54% of Republicans held that colleges and universities have a positive influence on the US.

What changed?

Trump became the GOP standard bearer and began attacking the news media and the findings of university scientists concerning climate change.

Trump’s new budget, by the way, dramatically cuts cost sharing for university research, i.e. it offloads office and other costs off onto the universities, which will have a negative impact on the US in the area of scientific discovery. Personally, I can’t imagine that people don’t know that American universities are incubators of important findings that improve people’s health, cure their diseases, and improve their lives.

Aside from the marked dumbing-down of the Republican Party since he began running for president, the other way you can tell that this is a Trump effect is that 72% of Democrats say colleges are a positive, and this statistic is unchanged in recent years.

The good news is that this new bout of anti-intellectualism is almost certainly a flash in the pan.

Thinking poorly of universities and colleges is the sign of someone who wants to pull the wool over people’s eyes. A college education teaches people to think analytically and to question the stories we are fed.

You can tell a reality-based political leader such as Thomas Jefferson, since he founded the University of Virginia and thought that schooling for critical thinking was essential to producing democratic citizens.

As I wrote in Truthdig a few years ago, in an essay that looks more and more prescient,

“In 1786, Jefferson wrote from Europe to a friend:

“Preach, my dear Sir, a crusade against ignorance; establish and improve the law for educating the common people. Let our countrymen know that the people alone can protect us against these evils [of tyranny], and that the tax which will be paid for this purpose is not more than the thousandth part of what will be paid to kings, priests and nobles who will rise up among us if we leave the people in ignorance.”

That is, Jefferson believed that the alternative to publicly funded education was the rise of an oppressive oligarchy that would manipulate the ignorant majority…

Not only is a more rigid class structure implied by the decline of public support for state universities, but more fixed race boundaries are, as well. State universities are the most important vehicle for minority students in attaining a degree. While 800,000 minority students attend public universities, fewer than 200,000 can be found on private campuses. If the state universities become as expensive as the privates, the impact on minorities could be severe.


Related video:

The Young Turks: “Republicans: College Is Ruining America”

30 Responses

  1. gee the American economy could be in trouble. If those republicans don’t like universities how do they think scientists and doctors will come about? wave a little wand. How do they think NASA is staffed? those guys running the military and those fighter jets and those floating airports all have university grads running them. How do they think Silicon Valley is going to be staffed. Here is an idea, oh right they don’t want any people of colour coming into the country. As I’ve suggested before if things keep going the way they are the U.S.A. will be the basket case of the western hemisphere.

    The jobs of the future will require educations which will not be provided in the world by the Betsy deVos types and with Betsy deVos types a lot of people will no longer qualify for entrance to a university unless they went to private school. That will then create an even greater underclass in the U.S.A. than the currently have. Once the under class becomes the majority and they buy into the NRA bull tweet, they’ll have a real war going in the U.S.A.

    of course with any luck Donnie, Donald, Ivanka, Steve, etc. will all go to jail and life might improve in the U.S.A.

    • The plan may be to drag us back into feudalism, complete with apprenticeships or indentured servitude and the power that gives to entrenched professionals to control who advances in society. It means all education will be controlled by employers.

      Here is a passage from the near-future novel I’m working on, where a right-wing businessman gives a speech to kids at a Renaissance Fest explaining its importance:

      “Our Medieval forefathers had the right idea about education. A few children trapped in families infested by ghetto welfare pathologies might have talent for technical functions. They can earn their training – and get exposed to real leadership in the bargain – simply by indenturing themselves to our most productive achievers. America made a great error getting away from that. That’s why the school I represent is phasing out charity scholarships, and so are Reverend Danforth’s. You will see many soon follow.”

      We’ve been moving to the Right all these years with some kind of end game in mind.

    • I’m a Trump voter (actually, an anti-Clinton voter). The survey didn’t include me.

      I am an ex-Marine infantry officer (highest rank Captain, Veitnam era), Member of Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi, Phi Eta Sigma, graduated undergraduate school in the sciences with Highest Honors from a world renowned public university, completed the research activities and defended my thesis successfully for a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from a well-regarded medical school in just three years (give or take a few weeks) was invited to join MENSA (but don’t particularly like dweeds), am a successful small business man and family man and am approaching retirement age with money in the bank and a solid marriage.

      The Left oversimplifies those who support the GOP and Trump for its own propaganda purposes. It irritates folks like me to be called deplorable. In response, I loaded up my vehicle with conservative voters who didn’t have transportation to the polls on election day and made a veritable taxi service all day that day until the polls closed.

      The left, with it’s Bill Maher-type elitism, is only hurting itself because it’s galvanizing conservatives to lean far more right than we would otherwise. You’ll pay for all this in 2018 and beyond.

      Besides, recent studies have shown that your ridiculous stereotype of Trump voters who carried the day in the 2016 election and who continue to trounce the left’s candidates in subsequent elections is just that, ridiculously in error. link to

      • So, you’re a smart person who voted for a catastrophically narcissistic man-child who thinks China invented global warming, who denigrates women, and doesn’t appear to have much, if any curiousity about science, the products of science, or how the world works — got it. — if voting for less health care, less education, environmental degradation and general despoiling of the planet is your educated choice, you deserve what you get. Many of us didn’t and don’t.

      • It irritates folks like you to be called deplorable, so you smear bourgeois liberals as Communists and Nazis. And now you’ve put a treasonous gangster in the White House so that he could guarantee it stays White forever, no matter the destruction he causes.

        link to

        Will you be irritated all the way unto ethnic cleansing and civil war?

  2. This finding is rather odd to say the least. You don’t say who conducted this poll and why. Further, you don’t tell us what the question was that the pollsters asked. More importantly, who did the pollsters ask? Was this poll aimed just at party members or was it a random poll asked of the public in general. If so, one has to assume part of the question was asking about the political persuasion of the individual who might not have been frank about their own politics. I simply ask these questions because I would have thought the Republicans would have been most anxious for their off spring to go to university, so why would they denigrate this much sought after right of passage for their own children?

    • with due respect, I did say that Pew conducted the poll, and put in a hyperlink so that you can go to their page. Page 2 gives the methodology you asked about.

    • They’re giving up on being able to afford to get their kids to college. But they have to tell themselves it’s for the best, that the colleges won’t make them better off or that the colleges are actually evil. And their leaders and media priests have been denouncing universities for years for the crime of “political correctness”, for encouraging equal rights for women and minorities. The huge victories that LGBTQ have won in this decade may have triggered this hostility which suddenly appears after 2015.

      • An even stronger driver of anti-intellectualism in rural Red America is that the cities and universities of urban Blue America rob Red America of its best and brightest young people.

        • Religion teaches that the past was better than the sinful present.

          Universities not run by neo-Confederate cranks teach that the past was pretty Goddamn awful, and that the elites had mechanisms that allowed them to exploit others. Worse, they teach that America was not different than other societies in these problems, that we are not an exception to the processes of inequality and imperialism.

          Really, the White masses started to turn against science when the scientists stopped telling them what they wanted to hear about themselves – that Whites are genetically superior, that life will perpetually keep getting better with no tradeoffs – and started telling them what they didn’t want to hear – that the weapons their taxes pay for are absurdly dangerous, that the corporations produce their goodies by poisoning their environment, that there are always tradeoffs.

    • The universities will be privatized, football and all. The rightwing movement will tell their followers that the new schools will be reformed and purged of subversive elements. I suggested that “State” will be replaced by “Sovereign” in their names, like Louisiana Sovereign University. “Sovereign” is a code word for both the religious right and the militia movement.

  3. Critical thinking leads to questioning of ideology and of religious tenants. This is not to be tolerated by those who identify with today’s right. I am not at all surprised by this finding, nor do I think it is a recent phenomena.

    Its well known that “reality has a liberal bias”, and in today’s hyper-partisan culture, throwing the baby out with the bathwater is the preferred approach.

  4. In much of the Western world an oppressive oligarchy manipulates a majority anyway notwithstanding universal education. Besides, what Jefferson wrote was a highly fashionable notion In Europe at the time he wrote it, I imagine from France when he was the US representative, and where so many of the US founding notions derived; Jean-Jack Rousseau (Émile, ou De l’éducation) and others had taken up the the study of education with great seriousness. But those were formative years for the US, and Jefferson’s ideas contained significant philosophical and idealistic elements. Furthermore, ‘Education’ meant something quite different from the curricula of today. Education is simply not producing what Jefferson and Rousseau etc. foresaw it ahould. Instead, if it has a purpose, it is to provide qualifications for future rodents in the commercial rat race that benefits the oppressive oligarchy. A negative impact is questionable but less so perhaps than an absence of any positive impact. Leaving idealism aside, anything that has a positive impact on a nation’s people should be leaving them more content in their brief time on this Earth, and feeling more secure; if it doesn’t then it is not unreasonable see the impact as negative. The concept of Education needs re-thinking. But that won’t happen. The best thing for a young person today might be to acquire basic skills and then follow the nose through the literature of the world, most now accessible on the Internet. Do that with assiduity and I’d bet what is sought will fall like Newton’s apple. Those who know how to think, need no teachers Ghandi

    • Is it ironic, then, that Gandhi went to university to get his degrees?

      “Those who know how to think, need no teachers Gandhi”

    • Nobody is born knowing how to think with a reflective, civil, and critical approach.

      There is much more to respond, but, how is a person to learn a foreign language without a teacher? A lot gets lost in translation.

      • One problem I have encountered is a curious notion that the only way to learn is to follow some course of instruction with single minded dedication. It’s an attitude instilled, I imagine by the educational system, probably because its main objective is to get students through examinations for their CVs and the reputation of the college. I have a friend doing the excellent online Cambridge University Latin course link to He has made really good progress but he will not step outside the course. He won’t explore Latin literature, even simple stuff like Nepos. In some strange way he seems to feel it might contaminate his study. His own schooling may not have given him Latin but it instilled something else I find it quite frightening, like it being dangerous to learn something without being taught it. No one should underestimate the hidden purposes of national education. As for learning other languages, there are innumerable online courses, then you need go to the country and stay a while, read local papers; shopping and love making are also excellent aids.

    • Oppressive oligarchies are not overthrown by the uneducated, the ignorant, or those who simply read free literature on the Internet.

    • I agree. Unlike long in the past, when the humanities were the heart of universities, science and technology have taken over. Our modern culture generally has been taken over by philosophical materism and an excessive preoccupation with science. Philosophers in the academy should be critically thinking about our societies current beliefs, but they do not. All the non-technical disiplines have been weakened and altered. Philosophy and religion do not play the role they once did in universities, and this may have left a lot of people unsatisfied

      • All for liberal arts, obviously, but I doubt your observations would stand up to statistical reality. Last I knew, the US produced 10 lawyers for every engineer. We have a crisis in finding school math teachers. Americans aren’t doing enough science.

        • There is a very valid reason most USA K12 schools are having a hard time finding all types of teachers, but especially STEM teachers.

          Labor markets are the ultimate “free market” in that the item a business is “renting” (employing) walks out the door every day and can choose to never come back if the conditions are not good. Silicon valley figured this out real quick which is why the wages for engineers are so high.

          BUT . . .

          Americans want two directly opposite things:

          – Super high quality education, and

          – Super low cost education.

          It is IMPOSSIBLE to have both.

          Teachers are not just mechanically spewing information but are transferring knowledge, therefore they have had to prepare for a minimum of 2 years. But that preparation also prepares them to be an asset in many other parts of the economy, meaning that K12 schools are competing with many other companies that value their employees much more highly and burden them with a lot less BS.

          While non-college educated people are having a terrible time finding work, college educated people are often in short supply and can find work with little problem.

          Quite simply, if Americans want quality education, they are going to have to raise taxes and pay teachers more and burden them with a lot less BS. For example, hire social workers to handle the social problems in schools instead of asking the teachers to do it and try to transfer knowledge. Yes this will mean twice as many people working in the schools, but education will be much better.

  5. The only conclusion that can be reached from the Pew poll is the fact – 58% of Republicans are DEFECTIVE.

  6. 800,000 versus 200,000 is meaningless without knowing how many public school students and how many private school students there are in total.

  7. Universities are ECONOMIC ENGINES.

    While post high school education (community colleges, trade school and universities) also helps people learn how to think, one real practical effect is increased economic activity around the school.

    Some of this economic activity comes from businesses providing services for the students (beer & pizza) and staff (copying, etc).

    BUT . . .

    A significant amount of new economic activity comes from new businesses started by students and/or staff that is generated from new knowledge they have acquired. That is businesses based on academic research. This can be huge.

    BYU-Idaho is a great example of this. In 2001 the LDS church converted a small 2-year school with about 7,000 students into the third campus for BYU system. The new campus has the same high quality academic standards that the other two campuses have had for over 100 years. The student population is now about 20,000. Since 2001 there has been a huge increase in economic activity surrounding Rexburg, ID. Some of this was due to the increase in number of students and staff, BUT there has also been a large increase in new businesses that are result of academic ideas.

    UC Merced (the newest University of California campus) is following a similar pattern.

    One of the reasons the SF Bay Area is an economic powerhouse is that it has over 10 major universities, many world-class.

    – Stanford University
    – Santa Clara University
    – University of California – Berkeley
    – University of California – San Francisco
    – California State University – San Jose (SJ State)
    – California State University – East Bay (Hayward)
    – California State University – San Francisco (SF State)
    – California State University – Sonoma (Sonoma state)
    – Mills College
    – St Marys College

    And the list goes on . . .

    Basically, republicans appear to not understand the VALUE of universities but seem fearful that humans will learn to think and run away from republican ideas that have been documented to be failures.

  8. I wonder how many of those who believe higher education is a positive thing have left the GOP, at least temporarily. In other words, is it a shift in what GOPers believe, or a shift in who identifies with the current GOP? I haven’t seen any attempt to break this out discussed re any of these recent polls.

  9. I don’t think that there has ever been a time since the 1960’s when the Republi-conservatives have not looked askance at our institutions of higher learning, especially when it comes to admissions policy. Just as their current fierce attempts to obliterate “Obamacare” are 100 percent aimed at denying medical care to the descendants of the slaves from Africa, in the barely concealed hope that that will contribute to them dying off or at least becoming less of a reliable voting bloc that is opposed to the Repubs’ always indecent policies, so have the Repubs consistently tried to put a chokehold on universities (see, for example, the career of a guy named David Horowitz), mainly because, among other inconveniences, those universities have those pesky things called history departments, and the Republicons each day have more and more obscenities to answer for in the history books of the future.

    Colleges are hated by the T. Rump lovers because they, the colleges, are much more productive than the churches, the military, the U.S. Congress, or any other organizations in furnishing the opposition that has the best chance of at least slowing down the drift toward outright fascism that is the wet dream of U.S. conservatives everywhere. In their eyes this kind of resistance needs to be put to an end right now!

    Colleges have the data, the real scoop on everything, unlike the fans of the dolt that the more questionable half of the white population has allowed to occupy the Oval Office and who gives all the appearance of having not read a book of any kind all the way through since he was in the 6th grade.

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