Tea Party Higher education in NC

Obviously, our governor here has well-learned how to pander to the right wing, but I really hope he’s not dumb enough to actually pursue the breathtakingly asinine view on higher education he discussed on right-wing talk-radio earlier this week.  From the N&O:

UPDATED: Gov. Pat McCrory said he would propose legislation to overhaul the way higher education is funded in North Carolina, putting the emphasis on job creation not liberal arts and taking specific aim at the state’s flagship university.

“I think some of the educational elite have taken over our education where we are offering courses that have no chance of getting people jobs,” McCrory told conservative talk show host Bill Bennett, the former education secretary for President Ronald Reagan, during an interview Tuesday morning. (Listen to the audio here.

McCrory echoed a crack the radio show host made at gender studies courses at UNC-Chapel Hill, a top tier public university. “That’s a subsidized course,” McCrory said, picking up the argument. “If you want to take gender studies that’s fine, go to a private school and take it. But I don’t want to subsidize that if that’s not going to get someone a job.”

The Republican governor said he instructed his staff Monday to draft legislation that would change how much state money universities and community colleges receive “not based on how many butts in seats but how many of those butts can get jobs.”

I hope I don’t have to explain what an absolutely moronic view of higher education this is.  As one of my FB friends said, it’s as if he wants to turn higher education into Devry Tech.   I saw this on a friend’s status, which I thought was perfect:

From Lisa Levenstein, a UNC Greensboro associate professor of history: “McCrory’s assumption that a college liberal arts education will not prepare students for employment reflects a profound misunderstanding of the 21st century labor market. Today’s eighteen year olds can no longer predict their long-range career trajectories. Most of them will switch jobs every 4 to 6 years, assuming 5-7 positions over their lifetimes. A liberal arts education with its emphasis on highly-transferable critical thinking skills and effective writing and speaking is ideal preparation for this rapidly-changing workforce.”

Another friend linked to this great Op-Ed by my friend and colleague, Mark Nance, that actually ran last October, but really needs to make its way to the governor’s desk.  It’s a really excellent piece, but only the conclusion makes sense as an excerpt:

Aligning our universities with the needs of industry sounds good and I applaud UNC system President Tom Ross for starting the conversation. But if producing “what business needs” means shifting from a broad education to a narrow training, we risk shifting our economy away from one that is driven by creativity and radical innovation. We may produce graduates that today’s businesses need, but we may stop producing the graduates that tomorrow’s businesses need. If we do that, we will stop producing tomorrow’s businesses.

In this jobs-focused time, we surely want to avoid that strategy.

And finally, to belabor the obvious, it’s a real shame that McCrory does seem to think that knowing how to learn, how to think critically, or write effectively, are valuable job skills.  Of course, these are all things I do in my dreaded Gender & Politics course.  And I daresay, when it comes to critical and creative thinking  my students typically get as much or more out of this class than any I teach.  And as for the content  I daresay understanding the dynamics of gender in contemporary society and politics can be quite useful for almost any job, even one on an assembly line (the type, it seems, Mr. McCrory might prefer).

One of my more conservative-oriented students came by yesterday to discuss this and said, “but doesn’t McCrory have a point that…”  I cut him off.  Yes, there are absolutely ways we should think about reforming higher education and what the role of state universities should be in this, but Pat McCrory has shown himself to be completely and utterly lacking credibility on the issue, so any serious conversation should start elsewhere.

I wonder how many of the Democrats and genuine Independents who voted for McCrory realized they were getting a Tea Party radical.  Ugh.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

One Response to Tea Party Higher education in NC

  1. itchy says:

    I liked the column in the N&O today that compared McCrory’s stance to communism/socialism: The state must prepare our citizens for labor.

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