Gov. McCrory attacks liberal arts education

by Maayan Schechter – Campus Voice Editor – mschecht@unca.edu

North Carolina’s Republican Gov. Patrick McCrory recently attacked liberal arts education by promising part of his term will encompass ending majors within the UNC system that will not help students find jobs upon graduation.

On a national conservative radio program last week, McCrory spoke to radio host Bill Bennett, former education secretary under President Reagan, about how he would reform funding for public university education based not on whether certain classes were popular with students, but whether those classes helped students find jobs.

McCrory told Bennet he has already instructed his staff to develop legislation that would change how the state allocates money to its public universities and community colleges.

McCrory tried to make an example using UNC Chapel Hill’s women’s studies program. He said if a student chooses to major in gender studies, that’s OK, but go to a private school and take the course because he should not have to subsidize that degree if it will not get that student a job.

McCrory, a graduate of Catawba College, a liberal arts college located in Salisbury, N.C., appears to have forgotten his own successes since graduating from a liberal arts college with degrees in both education and political science. On the radio program, McCrory criticized philosophy degrees, which he believes his administration should not have to subsidize.

Liberal arts colleges are here for a reason. They serve the purpose of educating students in general classes such as the maths and sciences. But the liberal arts provide for a more well- rounded student by requiring courses a student might not take at a typical four-year university.

By attacking a liberal arts education in the gut, McCrory is making the point that college is only about finding a job and making money. While that is a major aspect and bonus of a college education, higher education encompasses exposure to cultures, religions, races, sexual orientations and genders that most students might not encounter. Colleges are set up to provide a student with more than just a day of reading from of a textbook.

McCrory’s inference that a liberal arts education deters one from finding a job runs parallel to the suggestion that teachers must teach to the tests used to gauge whether a state is meeting state or federally-mandated requirements. So why does McCrory want to exterminate certain departments when countries in Europe and Asia are reforming their education to fit a more liberal curriculum?

There are areas in which college education has flaws. Do we need more students majoring in studies such as computer sciences and engineering? Yes. But regardless of what major a student chooses to study for four or more years, that student still has a higher chance of getting a job and making a living salary by going to college in the first place. Many students who graduate from the liberal arts go into business, medicine and law. Others go into teaching, which can be practical if you want our country to succeed in thinking.

According to a graduation success chart developed by The Atlantic, there are currently 150 million people working or trying to find a job right now. People who do not go to college have an unemployment rate above the national average. Those who complete a four-year degree are more likely to find a job beyond college and earn a higher wage. Three out of five workers do not have a college degree in the U.S.

In fact, liberal arts colleges send the most students into graduate training, where most jobs are needed to spur economic growth. McCrory should have listed out direct data and statistical research that proved his unsubstantiated claim that an education from a liberal arts college does not guarantee one a job.

There is a much deeper message in regard to McCrory’s comments. McCrory’s comments suggest a limited view of what should constitute as higher education, which could have an effect on N.C. youth.  By telling state residents that higher education is only important if the major you choose to pick will get you a job, many students preparing to enter higher education rethink their career paths. His message tells students college is just there to perform one specific duty, and not be to confused.

Liberal arts teachers in state university systems and liberal arts graduates from state systems should help acquaint the governor with the benefits of liberal arts education and why it should not be held under the fields that McCrory feels are more important.

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