Presently we see results of neo-liberal policies in education, including higher education and universities having budgets cut, with research, course content and study choices manipulated through favouring STEM over liberal arts of humanities.
One does not think it’s a coincidence that seemingly disparate issues and groups, whether focused upon climate science denial, low taxes, immigration restrictions or white nationalism seem influenced by underlying ideology of radical right libertarians joined at the hip with eugenics, wanting to influence education, research and student outcomes.
Excerpts from Inside Story Australia:
Rodney Tiffen 17 JUNE 2020
‘Calls for universities to reduce their reliance on international students ignore the incentives created by successive governments
‘It’s a long time — forty-five years in fact — since government funding of tertiary education peaked in Australia at 1.5 per cent of GDP. These days, the government contributes 0.8 per cent, or just over half that proportion. Back in 1975, around 277,000 students were enrolled in higher education; by 2016, the number had increased fivefold to 1.46 million.
Those figures capture the essential story of Australian universities over the past forty-five years: massive growth combined with declining public investment.
The suddenness of the Coronavirus pandemic has hit Australian universities very hard, but the acuteness of their problems has been greatly exacerbated by trends that have been building for decades. The federal government has offered much less support to universities than to other deeply affected parts of the economy, and many conservative commentators have used this as yet another occasion to criticise the sector.
Backbench Liberal senator James Paterson (graduate of the Koch affiliated IPA), for instance, says that “universities have not done themselves many favours in recent years,” as if reacting to the diminishing level of public support, especially from his own party, has not been a central driver of the strategies for survival universities have had to adopt.
Over the period 1989 to 2017, domestic student enrolments more than doubled, according to former Melbourne University vice-chancellor Glyn Davis, yet the federal government’s contribution to operating costs rose only by a third. Between 1995 and 2005, when OECD governments increased their contributions to tertiary education by an average of 49.4 per cent after inflation, the Howard government provided no real increase at all.
As Glyn Davis wrote before the pandemic, “By withdrawing public funding, government has deeded Australia a university system that relies heavily on the families of Asia. If our neighbours tire of cross-subsidising Australian students, the number of local places would shrink rapidly.”
The pandemic has thrown university budgets into chaos. No other sector so badly affected by the coronavirus has been treated with so little sympathy, let alone tangible support. It seems the government’s cultural antipathy to universities overrides all else…..‘
There has been an ever present battle over universities and education, not just in Australia on funding, nor recently but in the past e.g. Milton Friedman in 1955 essay “The role of government in education” for the minds and wiring of students.
In some places it is normal for fringe right wing parties new to a governing coalition to request seemingly unrelated portfolios of defence, home affairs, and education….. Control of the latter gives control over curriculum content and the hidden curriculum; Jane Mayer describes (in ‘Dark Money’, as does MacLean ‘Democracy in Chains) the machinations going on in US (and further) by radical right libertarian donors to not just change what people think, but how they think… (or not).
Over generations there has been a move to more liberal student versus teacher and authority centred learning, both overtly and via the hidden curriculum.
‘Hence the curriculum is based on freedom, discovery, experience and creativity, as opposed to engaging with a pre-existing body of knowledge to which the teacher is an authoritative and wise guide.‘
(Liberals, Libertarians and Educational Theory – Lindsay Paterson, 2008)
MacLean (like Mayer) has also upset the libertarians:
‘Stealth Attack on Liberal Scholar? Historian alleges coordinated criticism of her latest book, which is critical of radical right, from many who have received Koch funding.
Collusion, alternative facts, shadowy billionaires: the words sound ripped from the political headlines, but they also describe the controversy surrounding Duke University historian Nancy MacLean’s new book, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America (Viking)….
…..Some nevertheless say they worry that swarm-style attacks on progressive scholars’ works — especially in an era of online harassment of professors and plummeting public trust in academe — could become a new normal. MacLean, they say, is the victim of just such an effort.‘
But taking advantage of student centred or liberal approaches can go both ways. Such antipathy towards the humanities and scholarship does not preclude the likes of Kochs promoting their own ideology through funding academic schools’ programs or research, think tanks and lobbying MPs to promote their ideology e.g. George Mason University, many GOP politicians and think tanks (globally) affiliated through their Atlas Network, e.g. IPA Institute of Public Affairs in Australia promotes climate change denialism. (from Crikey Australia).
One does not think it’s a coincidence that seemingly disparate issues and groups, whether climate science denial, low taxes, immigration restrictions or white nationalism seem influenced by underlying ideology of radical right libertarians joined at the hip with eugenics, wanting to influence education, research and student outcomes, into the future…..
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