Santorum warns of higher ed ‘indoctrination’

Updated
 
Santorum's recent speech at an "indoctrination mill."
Santorum's recent speech at an "indoctrination mill."
Associated Press

When Rick Santorum argued recently against public education, he was largely referring to K-through-12 public schools. As it turns out, though, the Republican presidential hopeful doesn’t like higher ed, either, insisting the other day that President Obama only wants to help young people go to college so they can undergo “indoctrination.”

On the president’s efforts to boost college attendance, Santorum said, “I understand why Barack Obama wants to send every kid to college, because of their indoctrination mills, absolutely … The indoctrination that is going on at the university level is a harm to our country.”

He claimed that “62 percent of kids who go into college with a faith commitment leave without it,” but declined to cite a source for the figure. And he floated the idea of requiring that universities that receive public funds have “intellectual diversity” on campus.

Santorum added that Obama’s efforts to help young people afford college tuition makes the president a “snob.”

This doesn’t exactly come as a surprise, and not only because Santorum revels in anti-intellectualism as a matter of course. In 2008, the former senator argued that Satan had succeeded in his attacks on academia, so it stands to reason the conservative politician would have some concerns about higher ed in the United States.

That said, even by Santorum standards, this is pretty nutty. As Kevin Drum put it, “It’s commonplace for movement conservatives to believe that universities are dens of depravity and radical left indoctrination. So far, so normal. But as far as I know, most of them don’t believe that efforts to get more kids into college are motivated by a desire to destroy their faith. That’s a step beyond even normal wingnut land.”

Quite right. My larger concern is the trajectory of Santorum’s rhetoric: if access to college degrees is itself a culture-war issue, and Republicans start arguing en masse that policymakers need not prioritize higher ed as a national value, the consequences for the country and the economy could prove to be significant.

Matt Yglesias explained this morning, “[T]he fact is that America has historically been the richest country on the planet because we’ve invested in being the best-educated country on the planet. In recent decades, we’ve seen the pace of educational progress slow down markedly. The high school dropout rate is too high. Far too many students who enter college don’t complete it. People disagree quite vigorously about what it is we can do to decrease the high school dropout rate and increase the share of high school graduates who are well-prepared to obtain additional schooling. That’s a good thing. A little disagreement is healthy. But the emergence of a block of people so driven by resentment of college professors that they want to abandon the goal of improving American education is a disturbing trend.”

Incidentally, if Santorum believes publicly-funded universities may need to start requiring “intellectual diversity” on campus, how in the world would that work? And what about students whose ideologies change during their academic careers?

Santorum warns of higher ed 'indoctrination'

Updated