Walker Opposed to Public Service As Well as Public Servants

Most of you probably read about Scott Walker trying to amend the mission statement of the University of Wisconsin to substitute a hammer-headed focus on giving business the trained workers they want instead of some liberal bushwa about the “search for truth.” That this effort accompanied Walker’s proposals to reduce funding for the state’s university system by 13% gave it more than symbolic significance.

But another deletion in the UW mission statement proposed by Walker–removing “public service” as an integral function–caught our eye here at WaMo, as Daniel Luzer explains at College Guide:

Here at the Monthly, we maintain that public service is one of the most important components of higher education in America. We perform our annual college ranking based on the importance of public service and what colleges and their graduates “give back” to the country.

Part of the idea of the universities existing for public service actually comes from the state. The Wisconsin Idea is the Progressive Era principle “that the university should improve people’s lives beyond the classroom. It spans UW-Madison’s teaching, research, outreach and public service.” This helped define the mission of other universities and influence decades of legislation at the state and federal levels.

As Luzer notes, Walker backed down on the mission statement changes, even denying responsibility for them (as opposed to an anonymous “someone”). But it does give you an idea of the scope of the guy’s vision, in which higher education, like state government generally, exists to service the “job-creators” of the private sector.

[T]his is a man with intense political ambitions, and it appears this was what he (or “someone”) really wanted to do, remove public service and the search for truth from the purpose of higher education.

We’ve been warned, America.

Indeed we have.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.