Several years ago, I had a realization: conservatives don't care about education.
It's a generalization, I admit. And sounds outlandish. Yet for the past 60 years, conservatives have made crystal clear their utter disdain for education. Hoping to convince others.
It began in 1952. When Dwight Eisenhower ran for president against Adlai Stevenson, the contemptuous attack Republicans made was that Stevenson was "an egghead." Someone who was really -- smart. And you just can't trust those smart people.
In 1960, when Richard Nixon ran against John Kennedy, the Republican blast was that JFK was advised by his "Harvard Mafia." Smart people. So smart that they were dangerous. And you can't trust those smart people who go to good colleges.
When Richard Nixon was elected president in 1968, he hated those smart people who go to colleges so much that students made his Enemies List. And later his "get tough" policies on student dissent (including wanting the Secret Service to beat up protestors) resulted in Republican governor Jim Rhodes sending armed troops sent the campus of Kent State University -- and four "enemy" undergraduates were killed.
In 1988, George Bush claimed to be "the Education President" -- yet on an campaign stop in Los Angeles told a rally of service employees that not everyone had to go to college. A valid sentiment, certainly, but for a candidate supposedly promoting education, it leaked his true feelings.
And in 2000, George W. Bush failed to fund his "No Child Left Behind" education program.
It's continued for 60 years, as conservatives have demeaned public education, pounding away at the national consciousness that learning for the masses is a bad thing to be scorned and mistrusted.
There's an understandable -- and historic -- reason for this, of course, because the less educated the public is, the more it relies on authority figures, rather than question anything. And the more that education is disdained, the less that inconvenient facts will be believed.
And so, instead, we get an attitude that challenges any assertion of education with a contemptuous, "So, you think you're better than the rest of us??" - conditioning people to wear with pride that they know less. In all other areas of life, we want the best. We want more riches, more success, to be faster, stronger, cooler -- better at everything. Except, after 60 years of conservative pounding against education, not to be as smart as we and our children can be.
And while this conservative effort has been surreptitious over the past 60 years, it's finally released itself: open, unrelenting Republican attacks in Wisconsin against teachers -- teachers, for goodness sake! -- and a widespread Republican war against education.
In Florida, $3.3 billion has been cut from education over the next two years, almost 15% from the education budget to our children. While $1.6 billion has been given in corporate tax breaks.
Texas has proposed $9.8 billion in cuts in education assistance to school districts. (Bringing a loss of 100,000 jobs.)
Wisconsin cut $834 million from state aid to K-12 education over the next two years. That's 20% of the proposed cuts in the budget. And cuts to teacher pay and pensions.
We have always heard the praise that teaching is the most important job. That teachers are preparing our most precious resource, our children, for the future. How teachers are underpaid heroes. But from the other side of their hypocritical mouths, conservatives will slam teachers as lazy slackers with three months of vacation, overpaid plunderers of public pensions -- and for 60 years desensitize the public for stripping away public education.
And now, they couldn't be any more clear:
Last Wednesday in Iowa, three prospective Republican presidential candidates bluntly stated their condemnation of public education at a home schooling rally.
"The public school system now is a propaganda machine," said Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX). "And they condition them to believe in so much which is totally un-American." Like, apparently, the Pledge of Allegiance.
"It is not up to a bureaucrat to decide what is best for your children," insisted Michele Bachmann (R-MN), who home-schooled five children. "We know best." Except about U.S. history. Home teacher Bachman recently placed the cornerstone of the American Revolution - Lexington and Concord - in the wrong state.
"That's all we want," said Herman Cain, a prominent businessman testing a GOP presidential run. "For government to get out of the way so we can educate ourselves and our children the old-fashioned way." Note: "the old-fashioned way" included one teacher for six grades in one room, few women and minorities, and teaching math with an abacus.
But it was left to the event's host, Justin LaVan, to explain plainly how so many conservatives truly see education. "Talking about our Creator. Our rights that came from our Creator, acknowledging that and giving Him the glory." Of course, that's why God invented church. For educating children to succeed in a global community where others are learning science, history and geography, it's a disaster. If prayer worked in school, every kid would get straight-A's.
And in the end, that disaster is what conservatives have long wanted from education. No need to learn anything. No public education. Just private schools and home schooling. Which is the end of an educated nation.
Private schools limit education to those who can afford it. Home schooling limits education to families where one parent can afford to stay home. While hoping that the parent completed high school.
This is known as every child left behind.
But for conservatives, that's okay. The wealthy and privileged will get their children a great education. And the rest of America? You're on your own.
Public education is what helped make America the envy of the world. A nation of well-informed citizens. Leading the way in the space race, technology, finance, and medical advances.
But conservatives? They want to go back to "the old fashioned way." Like the Dark Ages. Where kings and the aristocracy ruled. And you peasants, obey thy overlord.
Make no mistake, this is nothing new. The attack against education is the drug that conservatives have been pushing through history.
UPDATED: Information on Kent State