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The Privatization of Controversy

May 19, 2015

I enjoyed this piece by my friend and colleague, Andrew Hartman. I disagree, however, with the thesis that is mostly represented in the title, “How Austerity Killed the Humanities.”

To me, it’s not so much austerity or conservatives that have been trying kill the humanities, but rather privatization.

The humanities have been reduced to a “subject” or discipline that has been, according to some, corrupted by lefties and radicals in public education institutions (whether higher or K-12). The current conservative and liberal solution is remove the study of “controversial” topics from those institutions. That means privatization. Controversy, in that narrative, is best handled at home (liked sex education).

This is why President Obama, conservatives, and liberals alike are fine with career and career “readiness” as the ruling criteria for their myopic version of “education.” If we can reduce controversy in education, they believe, then we’ll have centered the endeavor on a so-called objective “common” core that can be supported by all.

The mistake is to think that eliminating controversy is good for either democratic or republican philosophies of government. Teaching controversial subjects trains the mind to better navigate controversy later. Subjectivity can’t be eliminated if you believe in the uniqueness of individuals and individualism. Controversy can’t be privatized in a democracy. – TL

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