Education Reform Real Education

A Growing Number of Politicians Want to Cut Funding for Liberal Arts Education

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Yes, we are moving into the New Dark Ages of ignorance.


The New York Times reports today that a growing chorus of governors wants to increase STEM funding and cut funding for liberal arts.


When the Kentucky governor, Matt Bevin, suggested last month that students majoring in French literature should not receive state funding for their college education, he joined a growing number of elected officials who want to nudge students away from the humanities and toward more job-friendly subjects like electrical engineering.


Frustrated by soaring tuition costs, crushing student loan debt and a lack of skilled workers, particularly in science and technology, more and more states have adopted the idea of rewarding public colleges and universities for churning out students educated in fields seen as important to the economy.


When it comes to dividing the pot of money devoted to higher education, at least 15 states offer some type of bonus or premium for certain high-demand degrees, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.


“There will be more incentives to electrical engineers than French literature majors, there just will,” Mr. Bevin, a Republican, said after announcing his spending plan. “All the people in the world who want to study French literature can do so; they’re just not going to be subsidized by the taxpayers like engineers will be, for example.”


Or, as Gov. Patrick McCrory of North Carolina once put it, higher-education funding should not be “based on butts in seats, but on how many of those butts can get jobs.”


The outcry against the liberal arts is loudest among Republican politicians. Senator Marco Rubio, for example, has called for more welders and fewer philosophers. 


A while back, Governor Rick Scott said we don’t need more majors in anthropology (his own daughter majored in anthropology).


President Obama said we don’t need majors in art history. (At least, he apologized, but his instinct was to demean those who want to study art history and to shower praise on those getting work skills.)


Who are these guys? A decent society needs philosophers as much as it needs welders; it is good for welders to study philosophy. A decent society needs teachers and students and scholars of foreign languages, literature, art, history, the social sciences, and the humanities.


The new utilitarians are yahoos. H.L. Mencken called such shallow people the “booboisie.”


If you don’t know who you are, how you got here, why life is worth living, what kind of life is a good life, how to balance difficult choices, then you will indeed live a life that is nasty, brutish, and short.



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