After years of slashing away at funding for public universities across the country, new programs focused on conservative thought are on the rise thanks to a Republican-controlled legislature eager to offer a corrective what they view as overwhelmingly liberal educations.
As The New York Times reported on Monday, Arizona’s GOP-controlled legislature is funding programs—dubbed “freedom schools” by some—directly from the state budget that push free-market and Western doctrine in Arizona’s public universities.
These programs include the University of Arizona’s Department of Political Economy and Moral Science and Arizona State University’s School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership. According to the Times, both programs fold in initiatives previously funded by the Koch brothers.
Arizona State’s school appropriated $7 million in order to hire conservative professors to teach courses like “Ideological Origins of Anglo-American Liberty: Four Modern Revolutions” and to purchase first editions of the Federalist Papers and Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations. In case there was any question as to where the impetus for these types of programs is coming from, last weekend the school hosted a conference titled, “Free Speech and Intellectual Diversity in Higher Education: Implications for American Society.”
So how many students are really dying to ogle the Federalist Papers? So far only around 50, according to the Times. To help increase enrollment, the school is literally paying students to take spring break trips to India as long as they are taking at least one of its courses.
This is public education bordering on dystopia. Think about what’s happening here: Wealthy private donors like the Koch brothers are funding free-market initiatives at universities that are then underwritten by conservative lawmakers—all while those same Republicans continue starving higher education to death. It’s worth emphasizing, yet again, that the real threat to campus free speech is not coming from the left. It’s coming from the right’s undue influence in universities across the country.