Phi Beta Cons

Clearing the Air

North Carolina has been having a tendentious debate over “STEM” subjects versus “liberal arts” eduation. This started last winter when Governor Pat McCrory made some not-too-well-thought-out comments that University funding shouldn’t be based on the “butts in seats, but how many of those butts can get jobs.”

His words gave an opening for university faculty members to claim that the new governor (Republican) was opposed to liberal arts. (Actually, he made something of a swipe at gender studies, not exactly traditional liberal arts.) One UNC-Chapel Hill professor said huffily that the governor “was not elected to decide what has intellectual value and what does not.”

Anyway, this practical-vs.-intellectual theme continues. It led a UNC-Chapel Hill undergraduate to ask a loaded question of a UNC Board of Governors member. She noted that an employer survey indicated that employers value communications skills over technical ones: “Considering how the Board of Governor seems to prefer teaching STEM majors, or technical skills, how do you feel about these statistics?”

She happened to contact a BOG member who knew a thing or two about surveys, business, and logic. His reply was published by the Pope Center.

Jane S. Shaw — Jane S. Shaw retired as president of the John W. Pope Center for Higher Education Policy in 2015. Before joining the Pope Center in 2006, Shaw spent 22 years in ...

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