Guess Why Lauren Boebert Really Doesn’t Like “Lesbian Dance Theory” Degrees

Last week was my first week of grad school. At 36, I decided to get a Masters in Appalachian Studies because I believe it will enrich my writing about the area where I live and allow me to better advocate for my neighbors and friends.

I think it’s a worthy and noble undertaking. Not Lauren Boebert. A clip of the high school dropout and Republican congresswoman complaining that student loan forgiveness will fund “Karen’s daughter’s degree in lesbian dance theory” went viral over the weekend. “Lesbian Dance Theory” is not, to my knowledge, a real program (although if it was, it would be super cool), but it is a popular right-wing discussion topic; Ben Shapiro was complain about it from 2016.

That it doesn’t exist, however, is not the point. ‘Lesbian Dance Theory’ is the perfect conservative whistle for everything they hate about education: it’s inclusive and promotes understanding of marginalized groups; it involves complex and nuanced sets of knowledge known as “theory”, which is a word they usually misinterpret (sometimes intentionally) to mean “guess”; and it is sometimes a discipline—like dancing—that is not immediately understood as useful to capitalism.

This is, of course, what Boebert’s comments are really about. She’s not mad that student loan forgiveness benefits the wealthy, because it won’t; the White House estimated that 90% of recipients earn less than $75,000 per year, and no one earning more than $125,000 a year ($250,000 per household) will benefit. Student loan debt relief will help working-class and middle-class Americans, most of whom graduated not from elite institutions, but from regional universities and community colleges.

When understood then as an attack on education rather than reckless spending, what Boebert, Shapiro and others on the right really mean becomes much clearer. Conservatives around the world are attacking education. In the UK, the Conservatives want remove funding for “low value” degrees which they believe do not contribute to the economy. Here in the United States, Republicans have opposed to expansion of Pell Grantsthat help low-income students afford a college education.

I got Pell grants myself, and that’s the only reason I could afford to go to college. Without them, I would not have had the educational and career opportunities that I had. I used my Pell Fellowships to get a degree in history with a minor in women’s studies — “Mickey Mouse degrees” according to conservatives, but programs that helped me make sense of our world and my place in it. this one and which, in turn, helped me become a successful freelance journalist. If that’s not a good return on investment, I don’t know what is.

The value of a diploma is not limited to the amount of money it produces for capitalism. Theater majors, music majors, creative writing majors – these are the people who make life worth living by producing art we all enjoy. How boring our world would be without people who know how to direct a musical, or produce an album, or edit the next great fantasy epic. I don’t want to live in a world without art – and I certainly don’t want to live in a world where art is the preserve of the rich, as gambling has become in the UK.

These degrees in arts, humanities and social sciences also open our eyes to where the crux of the problem lies. The Conservatives are attacking education at all levels because they see it as a threat to their hegemony. Even attending a regional college in Kentucky opened my eyes to injustices I had never seen before and introduced me to people from all walks of life.

I made my first Muslim friend, my first immigrant friend, and my first transgender friend in college. I discovered the deep roots of systemic racism in our country by studying the history of the civil rights movement. I learned to stand up for myself as a gay man by becoming president of our college’s gay-straight alliance and eventually vice-president of the student body. College took a sheltered, naive boy from Eastern Kentucky and turned him into a worldly, open-minded man.

The Conservatives cannot have that. That’s why they create academies of segregation after Brown v Board of Education. This is why they are currently ban books about and by LGBT people, Black people, and Jews in public schools and libraries. That’s why states like Florida have passed obnoxious and homophobic “don’t say gay” laws. That’s why the right has been busy attacking teachers and lobbying for charter schools to privatize K-12 education. And that’s why they’re going after student loan forgiveness now.

The right does not want you or your children to learn. They want you and your children to be indoctrinated. They seek to control curricula and vilify anyone who teaches anything that doesn’t toe the Republican Party line. By vilifying majors like the nonexistent “lesbian dance theory,” they tell us they know best what we should be studying, whose stories are to be told and learned, and what each individual should and shouldn’t know. .

You don’t need to think for yourself. Lauren Boebert will think for you.

This is not surprising considering that education tends to make people more progressive. This is not a conspiracy from the left. It’s just that public schools are already indoctrinating children with false information and incorrect or incomplete stories. Texas, by virtue of being such a large market for K-12 textbooks, has long controlled the national curriculum – and it has always skewed the right. College presents the first correction to this narrative that most of us have ever come across, and it may be eye-opening.

To borrow an expression from the alt-right, to learn the real history of this country – and even to hold it in my hands, as I have in the archives of Kentucky, Washington, D.C. and Mississippi – it is like being robbed of red. Nothing looks alike anymore. The same goes for meeting people from diverse backgrounds. It’s harder to demonize a group your friend or classmate belongs to, harder still to face the bigoted caricature of that group in your mind with the flesh-and-blood human in front of you. Education takes us out of our bubbles and in doing so expands our worldview, our hearts and our minds.

So when you hear Lauren Boebert or Ben Shapiro complaining about “lesbian dance theory,” know that it’s not really about lesbian dance theory. It’s not even about the university. After all, some of the smartest, most compassionate people I know have never set foot on a college campus.

It’s about access to information. Boebert’s brand of fanaticism can only survive if people remain ignorant. Arts, humanities and social science degrees are its natural enemy, as they illuminate the realities of the human condition and historical and social injustices.

The Conservatives cannot accept this, because if they did, their whole hateful and nefarious project would crumble. They know that. I know that. They just don’t want you to know.

Sharon D. Cole