Building Education for the Commons
Wisconsin’s conservative governor, Scott Walker, a man who doesn’t himself possess a college degree, has launched a new assault against public education in his state proposing a $300 million dollar cut to the university system. In the process he has tried to single-handedly, like a tyrant, redefine what education is by literally cutting out the idea that education is a search for “truth” and is a “shared public good.” Here are Walker’s edits, which as you can see, remove the search for truth in education. If you are a student of history you will recognize that when political leaders go to war against people seeking truth, the political rulers fear what truth will bring. In other words, Walker’s erasing ‘truth’ comes dangerously close to dictatorial politics when the truth is only what the political leader says it is.
Here’s a good overview story of the situation via Truth-Out.org.
Although this should come to us as no surprise, it does clearly signal the continual direction in which public education is going in the United States and elsewhere. That is why it is not an overstatement to say that colleges and universities have nearly completely been reduced to mere training grounds in which the corporate elite are able to vet students whom they (the corporate workforce) deem obedient and lucky enough to be employable. In other words, higher education is close to becoming a process of purifying the ideology of a neoliberal corporate outlook such that for a young adults to even be employable they must accept the dogma that they are wholly dependent on the “graces” of the ruling elite in order to become employable. Seemingly gone are the days of the virtue of possessing a degree in which the individual citizen becomes conscious of a wider world, the dangers of power, and a deeper understanding of history and the fragility of democracy.
DEMOCRACY IS NOT A GIVEN, WE MUST FIGHT FOR IT!
This neoliberal plan to turn all things public into a playground for the top 1% and force the rest of us to obey their power at the cost of sacrificing a democratic process whereby the people decide (and not the rich class alone) is sadly becoming the new state of things the world over.
Where and when did this trend start? Neoliberalism began many decades ago, but it’s implementation into the United States and the United Kingdom started in earnest in the 1980s with the Reagan and Thatcher administration who broke the workers’ unions and started gutting public education. Soon even basic things like water wasn’t considered “public” and more and more only accessible to through a consumerist capitalist model.
Margaret Thatcher’s slogan, “There is no alternative” (TINA) was a declaration of war that installed the horrors of neoliberal policies that have eroded and systematically undermined democratic and public-based projects for more than 30 years now. For Thatcher and Reagan believed that capitalism was the only option and no other options could be considered. But this tyrannical dogmatism would quickly result in anti-democratic measures.
The global financial crisis of 2008 exposed these neoliberal policies that have paved the way for the rise of an untouchable oligarchical class whose top 80 members now possess more wealth than the bottom half of the world’s population. It is now abundantly clear that neoliberalism has accelerated radical inequality and at the same time forced the world to conform to their unquestionable, anti-democratic policies, lest even greater disasters befall us.
Faced with no alternative (TINA), in 2011 a new series of insurrections began to emerge from the Occupy movement to Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen, to Spain, Ireland, and Greece. The recent historic victory of Syriza brings forth the message that citizens must decide their own future and thus the reassertion of the primacy of democratic politics takes place again in the world. But this isn’t just a romantic dream of “democracy” no we must understand that democracy itself has been under attack by the ruling elites and the puppet politicians who have sold democracy out to the corporations and financial industries. So it will take engaging in a war to try to revitalize democracy again. It is possible.
The Global Center for Advanced Studies, as a school begins within the space of these new forms of democratic movements that seek to circumvent the gutting of public education (or education for the commons) by neoliberal forces run by such actors as the finance industry (student loan debt now over 1.2 trillion dollars), the Koch Brothers, Bill Gates and other billionaires who are lobbying to turn public education into job-training centers for the wealthy class. Administrators within universities should therefore be seen as the enforcers of these undemocratic, neoliberal policies even while many of them pedal “progressive” agendas none of which are about class-analysis; indeed class-analysis has been forgotten almost entirely within the academy from the 80s on. In place of class-analysis many seemingly progressive agendas within the academy have emerged, from multiculturalism to studies driven by identity politics, which has further fractured the left into ghettos that fail to unite under a common cause.
The Global Center for Advanced Studies is committed to fighting for academic freedom and speaking the truth to our world.
The politicians who are carving out public services like water and education are dangerously close to selling out democracy. It is our job to reverse this trend, and we must do this in concert with developing alternative organizational zones of resistance. We believe education, employment, health care, water, food and shelter are not rewards for obeying a narrow anti-democratic ideology. In regards to education it should be about training to become full participants in a democracy run by the people for the people and not by the 1% for the 1%.
Education is about emancipation above all.
To join us and be part of our movement that seeks to unite a global democratic front in terms of education activism register here.
Creston Davis, Founder and Director