Wednesday, January 30, 2013

North Carolina Governor Pat McCroy's Narrow View of Purpose of Education

New North Carolina governor, Pat McCroy, recently made clear his stance and philosophy regarding education. He simply sees little value in a liberal arts education. Economic interests are central to his views on education, at the exclusion of all else.

"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," stated Governor McCroy when speaking about his desire to transform higher education in this state. (Here's the Charlotte Observer article)

This statement by McCroy betrays his beliefs about the fundamental purposes of education. One can't but help wonder whether he sees education as only a means to economic interest. Of course, there is some merit in the idea of college leading to a higher paying job. After all, who does not want to a good job after spending four years time and hard-won money obtaining a college degree? But, and this is important, let's not dangerously venture too far in that direction either. The true danger in McCroy's views on education is taking a too narrow view of education's purpose, a view that lacks a vision and eye to the future.

Education's goals should include economic interests, but it should also include wider interests as well. Things like furthering human potential, bettering oneself, and expanding our horizons should equally be important. Perhaps education's goal should be simply to better ourselves as human beings, and that is not measured solely by our economic contributions. Those are measured by our greater contributions to the world around us. Seeing education as more than a pathway to a job as these goals do, means seeing all of education's potential.

Governor McCroy specifically knocks the gender studies progam at UNC in his statement, which he clearly sees as a waste of taxpayer money. But I think his statement and views are quite dangerous. We don't have to agree with all that is taught in universities and colleges, but who is omniscient enough to start making the decisions on what degree programs should be cut and what should be kept? Traveling down that road is quite slippery and could lead us to a university system that is quite capable of feeding the economic interests, but is incapable of producing people who can see beyond their own selfish economic interests.

In the end, I can only hope that many, many college graduates let Governor McCroy know that we do not want he suggests, which is to turn our university system into just a servant to economic interests alone. Higher education should not be turned into a factory that churns out workers for business and industry. It should also provide graduates who have a much larger vision for themselves and the world. 

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