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From the Mind of a Progressive: the Republic War on College Education

by Gary Thompson

The Republican party seems to be engaged in an all-out war on college education. Understand, this means your college education. And, not only are they waging a war against you obtaining that education, but they appear to be engaged in a war against the very knowledge that a college education can provide.

Why do I say that? There is a two-part answer to that question. First, they (Republicans) do not like the truths that research by the scientific “elites,” top-level academicians and researchers in their field, show. Second, they do not like the effect an education has on the electorate. Both of these are very serious issues.

So, in order to address them effectively, I will discuss the first of these in this article. In following articles I will address the second as well as the effect this war will have on you.

Republicans find too many generally accepted, scientific facts to be inconvenient, annoying or interfering with their goals. Let’s start with some facts … real facts, not “alternative facts.”  The Oxford English Dictionaries defines a fact as: “a thing that is known or proved to be true.”

There is no such thing as an “alternative fact.” This is simply a euphemism for something that is not a fact, but is actually a lie. A lie is defined as: “an intentionally false statement.” Not coincidentally, it was Counselor to the U.S. President Kellyanne Conway who coined the phrase to explain why the President’s Press Secretary’s statements were not lies, but instead, “alternative facts.”

Getting back to the facts, Republicans have denied the results of scientific research for years. Let’s start with Representative Paul Broun, a Georgia Republican who sat on the U.S. House of Representatives Science Committee. In October 2012, he released a YouTube video in which he claimed evolution, the Big Bang theory and embryology as “lies straight from the pit of Hell.” He went on to say that, “as a scientist,” (Broun is a doctor) he has found data that shows the earth is no older than 9,000-years-old, and it was created in six days.

Mainstream scientific thought holds that the earth is 4.5 billion-years-old, give or take the odd millennia. Broun also says that theories regarding the origins of the universe and evolution represent “lies to try and keep me and all the folk that were taught that from understanding that they need a saviour.” Clearly, Broun doesn’t want science to inconveniently interfere with his religious beliefs. He is not alone.  

In January 2014, the Pew Research Center reported that the number of Republicans who believe that humans have always existed in their current form grew from 39 percent in 2009 to 48 percent in 2013. In the same period, the number of Democrats who believe this shrank from 30 percent to 27 percent.

Remember this gem from Missouri Republican Representative Todd Akin. Mr. Akin stated in 2012, “that in instances of legitimate rape, women’s bodies somehow block an unwanted pregnancy.” The science of how the mammalian reproductive system works did not conveniently mesh with his views on abortion.

But then, there is the big one – climate change. All those other inconveniences affect, in the big picture, a relatively small number of people, mostly Americans. Climate change denial has consequences that negatively impact the entire world. Let’s look at it.

According to Scientific American, Exxon was aware of climate change as early as 1977 (11 years before it became a public issue). This knowledge did not prevent the company, and the world’s largest oil and gas company, from spending decades refusing to publicly acknowledge climate change and even promoting climate misinformation. This is an approach many have likened to the lies spread by the tobacco industry regarding the health risks of smoking. Both industries were conscious that their products wouldn’t stay profitable once the world understood the risks, so much so that they used the same consultants to develop strategies on how to communicate with the public. 

That’s disturbing in itself, but let’s continue.

In June 2017 the NY Times reported that those divisions did not happen by themselves. Republican lawmakers were moved along by a campaign carefully crafted by fossil fuel industry players, most notably Charles D. and David H. Koch, the Kansas-based billionaires who run a chain of refineries (which can process 600,000 barrels of crude oil per day) as well as a subsidiary (4,000 miles of pipelines that move crude oil).

Charles Koch explained government rules that intended to slow climate change are “making people’s lives worse rather than better.” He argues that despite the costs, these efforts would make “very little difference in the future on what the temperature or the weather will be.”

Then, of course, there is fourteenth Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt. Recall my article from this publication, The Wolf Guarding the Hen House.

According to the NY Daily News,Scott Pruitt, Donald Trump’s pick to head the EPA, is a mouthpiece and a puppet of the fossil-fuel industry.” Mr. Pruit is “a former Oklahoma attorney general who built his career suing the E.P.A.” and whose LinkedIn profile still describes him as “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda.” Mr. Pruitt has made it clear his mission to be dismantling the agency’s policies — and even portions of the institution itself.

Since that article, there has been an update by the Washington Post. Over the course of 2017, the EPA declined to renew the terms of some advisers, including nine serving on the EPA’s 18-member Board of Scientific Counselors in an effort to make “a clean break with the last administration’s approach.”

Part of that break involved barring researchers with active EPA grants from serving as advisers because of potential conflicts of interest, a policy change EPA Chief Scott Pruitt announced in October.

But, the agency still permits industry experts to be on the panels. As a result, the percentage of industry-linked advisers on the EPA Science Advisory Board, which offers scientific and technical advice as the agency crafts environmental regulations, jumped from six to 23 percent. The EPA recruited academics and environmental regulators from conservative states to join the panel. 

Think about that one for a minute. All this denial culminated in June of 2017 when, according to CNN, “President Donald Trump proclaimed he was withdrawing the US from the Paris climate accord, a sweeping step that fulfills a campaign promise while acutely dampening global efforts to curb global warming.”

Clearly, Republicans do not want science to inconveniently interfere with the incredible profits of their patrons, the energy industry’s ruling donor class.  

Time Magazine tells us this: here in West Virginia, we have Don Blankenship running as a Republican (unsurprisingly) to replace Democrat Joe Manchin from West Virginia in the United States Senate. If you have forgotten who Don Blankenship is, according to The Hill, he was “CEO of Massey Energy Co. at the time of a 2010 disaster at its Upper Big Branch Mine [in Montcoal, Raleigh County West Virginia] that killed 29 [West Virginia coal] miners. He was later convicted [of charges of conspiracy to violate federal mine safety laws] stemming from the probe into the explosion.”

I have to believe that Mr. Blankenship has big plans that he would like to enact into law through the Senate that will be highly beneficial to regular West Virginians like you and me (insert sarcasm).

This is a reasonable explanation of one of the main reasons Republicans are waging a war on college; greed and self righteousness. It interferes financial superstructure with their religious beliefs. It puts these selfish interests ahead of what is good for most citizens of America and of the world.

In future articles, I will explore other reasons Republicans are waging a war on college education and what the direct effects of that war are, or will be, for you as a college student.

*The views expressed by the author of this article are not the opinions expressed by the Chronicle.

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