For East Lansing

The thing that does not belong

A student found this on the floor in my classroom a couple of weeks ago and gave it to me. I reported it to campus police, but as I told the officer, I had no reason to suspect a crime had been committed, so there was nothing for anybody to do. I was told I could dispose of it, but I haven’t yet, and this morning I’m sitting at my desk in my office on campus, staring at it and wondering how it is we just keep going about our business.

Book, bullet

Some of the business I’m going about is teaching, and some of that teaching is about the university itself, and that teaching has me thinking about what it means to find a shell casing on the floor of your classroom. We’re talking about Chris Newfield’s Unmaking the Public University tomorrow in my academic novel/Critical University Studies grad seminar. It is a detailed, thorough examination of how the promise of public higher education, made after World War II with the GI Bill and subsequent corrections of its inequities, has been broken over decades by the Right, which would rather not allow education to remake society to be more fair and more just, thank you very much. And they are still at it, pushing bills straight off of the Christopher Rufo Anti-Education Legislation Assembly Line through committees and onto state house floors, bills that would further break the promises of public higher education and public primary and secondary education. And they’re doing this not only through their hold on the purse strings and their waving of the bible but by failing to protect schools from violence.

1967 letter from Reagan to the chancellor of San Francisco State College

This isn’t simply a list of things I’m mad about (for one thing, it would be much longer). The people in power in red states are unmaking the public university–unmaking public education at all levels–because they just don’t value education. The Right is actively working to destroy the public schools and has been defunding and attacking higher education since before Reagan ran for Governor on it. Between “school choice,” faith-based and anti-antiracist attacks on curriculum, and the demonizing of teachers and school boards, the Right is winning its war on K-12 public education. Between defunding, faith-based and anti-antiracist attacks on curriculum, and the demonizing of professors and activist students, it’s winning its war on public higher education. In its failure to confront gun violence–in what can only be seen as its active enabling of widespread access to firearms and hostility to any curbs on what no constitutional scholar worth a shit pretends is an inalienable right–the Right is winning its war on education at all levels. If it’s not safe to go to school anymore, the only equal access left is to guns.

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