‘Starving the Beast’ Examines Anti-Higher Education Think Tanks

Hear “Take Two Movie Reviews” every Saturday and Sunday at  8:45 and 11:45 a.m. and 5:45 p.m., on 97.9 WHAV.

Hear “Take Two Movie Reviews” every Saturday and Sunday at 8:45 and 11:45 a.m. and 5:45 p.m., on 97.9 WHAV.

This week, the battle you didn’t know was being fought … or lost.

Since the 1980s the number of American think tanks has doubled with 31 percent having been created between 1981 and 1990 – that’s the Reagan and Bush administrations for those of you connecting dots. Not all think tanks are conservative, but enough exist to have laid the groundwork for director, writer, and editor Steve Mims’ Violet Crown produced documentary, “Starving the Beast.”

“Starving the Beast” examines the concerted effort of right wing intellectuals and politicians to wipe out affordable, publicly funded higher education as we have known it and as we have depended on it. Can’t afford Harvard, Stanford, or Princeton? Don’t worry. There are many fine state schools providing top notch education for a fraction of the cost … at least, there have been.

First, state legislators cut education spending. In response, state schools are forced to raise their tuitions completing the critical first volley in a push to …

•    muzzle liberal faculty;
•    hamper progressive university funded policy centers;
•    increase private financial entities’ access to student debt assignment and management;
•    and to transform these schools from teaching cross-disciplinary, creative critical thinking to teaching business friendly goal-oriented, market relevant ideals.

The film starts with a segment on LSU and then looks at Texas A&M, U. Wisconsin, Iowa State, the University of North Carolina, and the University of Virginia. Its portraits are moving and ably presented, and, though narrated, the film focuses on giving its interviewees (almost all male and all white) space to say what they’re going to say. Though I do wish “Starving the Beast” would’ve told us the alma maters of its talking heads. But since it didn’t, I will – LSU defunder, Governor Bobby Jindal, went to Brown University. LSU defender, James Carville, went to LSU.

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