Rick Scott, Governor of Florida has proposed that the state cut funding to liberal arts and social sciences programs (anthropology, psychology, English, history, arts, etc.) at institutions of higher education and in turn, provide those funds to STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) programs. While it is important to have strong science and math programs, destroying social sciences is not the way to accomplish such a task. (By the way, anthropology is arguably a STEM degree). He has directly asserted that liberal arts programs are useless and do not provide jobs, a point on which he is incorrect. Liberal arts degree-holders are essential to the Florida economy. They work in diverse fields such as forensics, education, intelligence, public health, crime investigation, law, politics, military, government, business, etc. Governor Scott has disparaged the education of millions and has demonstrated disturbing hostility toward higher education. Further, he is jeopardizing the future of Florida's already teetering economy.
Let me make this clear: NO ONE is arguing against increased funding for STEM programs. The argument here is against the destruction of every other discipline to accomplish that.
I spent nearly nine years as a linguist in the U.S. Navy. I served in strategic and tactical theaters at home and abroad. I saw firsthand the absolute necessity of linguistic, historical, and cultural understanding in very complicated situations. I came home to study anthropology and now find myself in the biggest fight of my life - or I should say OUR lives. The potential long-term educational and economic damage is sufficiently disturbing.
Innovation and scientific discovery do not happen in a vacuum. To create the problem-solvers of tomorrow we need to maintain a well-rounded curriculum. The issue with low graduation rates in STEM programs need to be addressed at the K-12 level, not through attacks on higher education. Additionally, decisions on which departments receive increased or decreased funding should reside with those professionals qualified to make those determinations.
Commercializing education does not work.
Some questions we need to ask ourselves:
- What happens to the thousands of students currently majoring in liberal arts if their degree programs go away? Will they be forced to start over? How will that affect graduation and in turn, employment?
- What happens to Florida scholarships and grants? Do students not receive them if they choose liberal arts? Do they go away completely? UPDATE: The Florida Chamber of Commerce is looking to link Bright Futures scholarships to STEM. See news story in petition updates.
- What sort of precedent will this set if we allow our government to financially strong-arm academia into serving partisan interests?
- What happens to the credibility of Florida universities? Will we drive the top minds (faculty and students) out of our state? (I believe the answer is yes and they will take their taxes and economic activity elsewhere)
- What happens to Florida universities' accreditation if we fail to provide the appropriate curriculum?
- How will STEM majors fulfill core requirements when classes are not offered?
Florida universities are not vocational schools. Their task is to teach students to think critically and to provide a well-rounded education, which absolutely involves the liberal arts. No government has the right to tell an individual what their chosen career should be nor does it have the right to qualify one discipline as superior to another. From the National Science Foundation (nsf.gov):
"No single factor is more important to the intellectual and economic progress of society, and to the enhanced well-being of its citizens, than the continuous acquisition of new knowledge."
Please do not allow these measures to pass.
From the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics:
"Surveys by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE)
show that most hiring managers care more about a job candidate’s skills
than they do about a college major. And the skills employers say they want
most in a candidate, such as communication and critical thinking, are pre-
cisely those for which liberal arts students are known."
"Anthropologists and archaeologists, the largest specialty, is expected to grow by 28 percent [from 2008 - 2018], driven by growth in the management, scientific, and technical consulting services industry. Anthropologists who work as consultants will be needed to apply their analytical skills and knowledge to problems ranging from economic development to forensics. A growing number of anthropologists also will be needed in specific segments of the Federal Government, such as the U.S. Department of Defense, to assess the regional customs and values—or “cultural terrain”—of a particular society in specific parts of the world. Employment growth of archaeologists will be driven by higher levels of overall construction, including large-scale transportation projects and upgrades to the Nation’s infrastructure. As construction projects increase, more archaeologists will be needed to ensure that Federal laws related to the preservation of archaeological and historical sites and artifacts are met."
Enjoy this tidbit of irony:
University of South Florida Anthropological Research Entitled, "Understanding Factors that Sustain Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Career Pathways (STEM)"
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: An Update on State Budget Cuts:
From Feb. 2011
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