The first episode of the Independent Institute’s short film series, Love Gov, is light-hearted, but it mocks a problem that is more tragedy than comedy. Scott ‘Gov’ Govinski satirically mirrors, through his romance with the naïve Alexis, the often dysfunctional relationship between the government and higher education. (His “relationship” ironically could be met with a Title IX investigation in real life—he’s a creepy stalker, who latches onto Alexis without “affirmative consent!”)
Gov disregards concerns about the cost of student loans. “You’re getting a great deal here,” Gov says. He lists amenities like an Olympic-sized swimming pool and a “world class administration.” Gov himself is a 6th year senior. He isn’t alone. The national graduation rate is such a disgrace that it’s drawn the attention of the White House. Libby, Alexis’ much smarter friend, questions the value of a degree against skyrocketing tuition. She notes that colleges have no incentive to cut costs. She’s right. They don’t. That swimming pool Gov is excited about? It’s not fiction; Louisiana State University’s $85 million overhaul of recreation facilities-cum-lazy river is a testament to frivolous spending.
Gov’s response to sound philosophical and economic logic? “Don’t let information get in the way of learning.” Gov is nonchalant about encouraging Alexis to assume massive debt. “Education is priceless,” he says. Except it does have a price. $1.3 trillion in student debt has diminished the claim that student loans are “good debt.”
Gov’s final pitch? Nothing should come between Alexis and the education she desires. ACTA has repeatedly asserted the value of a rigorous college education, but that’s different from a grab-bag of disconnected and frivolous courses. Desire isn’t the same as need, when speaking of education. Undergraduates need a solid liberal arts curriculum, not classes like “Wasting Time on the Internet,” or “Zombies in Popular Media.” Gov emphatically expresses his care for Alexis, but doesn’t mention academics once.
The Independent Institute cleverly expressed a situation many students and recent graduates find themselves in today, and neatly displayed many of higher ed’s self-inflicted wounds.
ACTA grades schools on the value of their core curricula. If we graded films we would give Love Gov an “A”…
- “A” for the anger the truth will arouse in viewers for whom this story is too familiar.
- “A” for Gov’s attitude of indifference toward students and taxpayers.
And most importantly,
- “A” for the absence of academic excellence in so many higher education policy discussions.