It just may be that Gov. Pat McCrory learned a lesson himself recently when he opined large and loud about how a liberal arts education is not all it’s cracked up to be. Sometimes a good public thrashing is the best education of all.
The governor, clearly feeling his newly inaugurated oats, got into something of a “bash the ivy-covered walls” talk-fest on national radio with conservative host and former education secretary Bill Bennett, saying among other things how elitists in higher education have created a curriculum that does not lead to jobs — a situation he believes is broken and that he’s the man to fix it.
With Bennett facilitating the ranting, the governor said his plan was to change the way the state’s university system is funded so that it was geared toward careers more than academics. He went on to say he was having legislation drafted that would award funding to universities and community colleges “not based on butts in seats but on how many of those butts can get jobs.”
Well said, indeed, and spoken like a true sophomore — with apologies to real sophomores everywhere — so well-spoken that the quote and others have now made their way far and wide, raising ire and eyebrows and just plain embarrassment across academia and elsewhere.
Obscured behind the hyperbole of McCrory’s and Bennett’s talk show sound bites is the reasonable notion that higher education cannot ignore the need to help prepare its charges for an ever toughening workplace. But the brash suggestion that the state should not subsidize the study of certain liberal arts pursuits is much more soapbox bluster than thoughtful policy or even constructive criticism.
University of North Carolina President Tom Ross should be taken at his word when he says the system is committed to developing “the well-educated and skilled talent pool that North Carolina needs to compete and win.” This has long been the university’s tradition, and with reasonable and measured discourse with the state’s leadership, it will continue to adapt to the demands of today’s strained job market.
North Carolina, long admired for its system of higher education, expects and deserves far more from its governor than the kind of empty sloganeering heard. It’s time for such silly posturing to end and true governing, true leading, to begin. …