Coal ash, puppies, and iPads: McCrory rehashes tired talking points for Daily Tarheel

You can read the interview here.

The main points:

  • Employers can't find qualified candidates for jobs so the university system is broken. (Those darn kids can't read balance sheets and annual reports!)
  • He praises liberal arts degress, but says that current liberal arts degrees are useless and that universities have "forgotten the liberal arts part" and that "gender studies" won't help you find a job. (I guess the "liberal arts" part doesn't include anything having to do with women, racial minorities or gays and a "job" doesn't include becoming a professor, historian, or researcher in liberal arts.)
  • If taxpayers subsidize education, a priority should be areas where students are likely to get jobs. (By the way, jobs in engineering, computer science and business are the only ones that count.)
  • Universities are too liberal and forget that their money came from businessmen with money. (Of course, many of those businessmen got their money on the backs of NC's working poor, but who cares about them?)
  • He really wants to get rid of student debt! (Translation: He wants you to go out and get a "real job" so you can pay off your student debt instead of being a lazy hippie feminist queer welfare queen.)
  • He could care less about what they say in the newspapers about him. (But he's a "news junkie" and a "reading junkie". Sorry, Pat, but reading press releases from Duke Energy and memos from Art Pope don't count as "news" or "reading".)
  • He's doing a great job on education.

Oh, and they asked him what he learned today. Apparently Pat learned about coal ash and puppies.


The counter example

to claims that a liberal arts degree is a good and valuable thing (which we believe it is), is that Deputy Assistant Guvnor McIgnorant admits that he has a liberal arts degree.

In fact, in one exchange in the interview, he admits that he *IS* a liberal arts degree

In fact if anything, I think some of the liberal arts degrees — which I am — have forgotten the liberal arts part

I think he's forgotten the basic language skills part.

"I will have a priority on building relationships with the minority caucus. I want to put substance behind those campaign speeches." -- Thom Tillis, Nov. 5, 2014

Narrow Focus

In his defense, the Daily Tar Heel has is pretty bad at using quotes and Q&A format articles. They take the quotes verbatim in all the wrong ways. Human speech is never as clean as it is in writing. We mumble, repeat ourselves, and can be unclear when speaking off the cuff. Good journalists emphasize the message and not the format in these type of articles.

I'll do the Governor and see if I can't get to his big point.

The Governor believes in a liberal arts education that is broad-based. He thinks that an English program that comes with a broad exposure to a wide range of literature should also be paired with exposure to science, history, philosophy, language, and political science that provide a survey of civilization. This was what was considered a liberal arts education in the "good ole days". What he doesn't like are hyper-focused areas of studies that concentrate more on the narrow interests of individual professors. Yesterday the saying was "publish or perish", today its more like "specialize or perish". Think "Women's Studies 203: Second-Wave Feminist Movements in Post-Soviet Romania" vs "English 101". The value of this sort of course is in the critical thinking skills called upon, rather than the content, but it doesn't look like the critical thinking lessons are really happening. I've taught undergrads, its just not there.

That's the point he's been trying to get out. I'm not saying its right. It's just what he thinks the debate should actually be about. Now we can talk about it on the merits.

Broad strokes

Granted, I painted the views of the G'vnor in rather broad strokes for a bit of indignent comedy on my part. However, he seems to have the impression that something like Gender Studies is all about these professorial "specializations" that have no use in the "real world" as part of a general "liberal arts education".

Let's take a look at the course offerings for the Department of Women's and Gender Studies at UNC.

If you'll notice in the list, the course numberings give you a general sense of the type of student that might take the course. In the 100s and 200s, you've got general "Intro" courses on Gender Studies, Sexuality and Feminism that might be taken as an elective by someone not majoring in Gender Studies.

Perhaps the Gov would like to explain how it wouldn't be useful for someone in business to take a course on Gender Studies or Feminism to understand issues like the changing role of women in the workplace. Or, with the Intro to Sexuality course, how that wouldn't be useful to someone working towards a degree in nursing, healthcare, or education to understand the needs and perspectives of gay, lesbian or transexual individuals or to think about debates and discussions about things like sex education in schools or STD prevention.

How about WMST 340, "Leadership in Violence Prevention for Peer Educators", WMST 355 "Youth, Sexuality, and the Law"? A 300 level course might be for someone majoring in Gender Studies or an advanced student in another major. Does the Gov think this wouldn't be useful in the marketplace? Or what about WMST 388, "The International Politics of Sexual and Reproductive Health"?

Other courses offered there that concentrate on "Women in Opera" or "Women and Gender in Europe Since 1750" are cross-listed with other departments and are the kind of basic "survey" courses in art or literature that aren't uncommon options a typical student might use to fill out their credits to explore an area in more depth than something like "Intro to Music" or "Intro to Western Civ".

No, Governor McCrory, to anyone who has a kid in the UNC system or has bothered to look at the courses actually offered and how students might use them in building a broader liberal arts degree, comes off looking at best misinformed and, at worst, like a reactionary listening to too much Rush Limbaugh.

The types of courses he seems to be thinking about are really the provence of someone who is a Gender Studies or Literature major. And, no, you're not going to get a job with that right out of an undergraduate program with a degree like that. However, you would be prepared to attend a graduate studies program, probably at one of the big Ivy League or research universities, as a basis for a career in academia.

The dearth of jobs in academia for areas like Literature or Gender Studies is directly caused by politicians like McCrory that are calling the liberal arts "useless" and cutting faculty positions to the bone, creating a situation where the PhDs teaching our college students are cheap temps, living hand to mouth.

Would I encourage a young person to major in Gender Studies, African-American Studies or even something like Music, Art, or History? No. But not because I don't feel these areas are eseential to a Liberal Arts education, but because McCrory and his ilk are making sure there won't be a job for you someday at a public university, museum, or even a public health agency.

If you don't work for a Duke Energy, a Lenovo, a Tyson foods, a Rose's or a BB&T, you're pretty much invisible to McCrory. If you work teaching kids and young adults or providing education or services to the public, you don't exist.