Wednesday, November 18, 2009

more doom

California faces a $21 billion deficit on top of an already slashed budget this year. First on the list of targets will be higher education.

Somehow, the fact that the state gets a 400% return on its investment in higher education hasn't appealed to supposedly fiscally prudent legislators from the party which claims to be fiscally prudent. Perhaps prison spending is somehow more lucrative? (Which it might be, if you or your friends have lots of money invested in private prison companies the state increasingly contracts with.)

In any case, I'm struck by this a new way this morning. This isn't just a matter of cynically cutting the higher ed budget to punish the more-often-Democratic-voting faculty and graduates of California's colleges. It's also not really a panic reaction to the low revenues.

The Master Plan for California higher education was nothing less than a trust among the citizens of California. It was a commitment to cooperate in support of the future of all of us. In a way, it expressed a moral commitment to lend mutual support to the aspirations of all.

What some have managed to do is so corrupt and distort public dialogue, that no one ever speaks of mutual cooperation or common good any longer (except for crazy academics, apparently). The entirety of political and social life has been reduced in this rhetoric to individual competition and consumption. Mutual regard, cooperative enterprise, social or political solidarity - hell, community - are values that have all but disappeared from public discourse.

I think that dismissing solidarity and cooperation as values and as forms of human social life is ignoring at least half of what human life is about.

The rhetoric that eliminates all consideration of these values calls upon us to treat one another with mutual contempt and suspicion, to disregard one another's humanity.

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