In the column, Kennedy quotes sources reporting that Republican Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker
Kennedy makes the argument that the pursuit of higher education should be about the search for knowledge, not for the purpose of training people for jobs. She concludes her piece saying:
had wanted to insert language in the budget stating the [University of Wisconsin's] mission was “to meet the state’s workforce needs.” He wanted to remove language saying UW’s mission is to “extend knowledge and its application beyond the boundaries
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker
of its campus” and to “serve and stimulate society.” He also wanted to remove the statement “Basic to every purpose of the system is the search for truth
Scott Walker is emblematic of the anti-intellectualism that is so rampant on the American Right. He is one of the (far too many) shallow and ambitious politicians who think education and job training are synonymous, that scholarly research and "search for the truth" are elitist non-essentials, and that humans don't need to know anything that isn't immediately useful for obtaining gainful employment. They'd have handed Socrates that cup of hemlock without thinking twice.
After all, if people are allowed to search for truth, they’ll ask inconvenient questions. They’ll challenge the martinets. They might even see themselves as citizens rather than obedient consumers.Ironically Kennedy's approach to argument smacks of anti-intellectualism. Instead of assuming that Governor Walker simply has an alternative view of the purpose of education and arguing why that position is wrong, she instead attacks what she assumes are the motivation for Walker's position...that he hates knowledge.
I actually have a great deal of empathy for Kennedy's position that higher education should be about the quest for knowledge. I taught political science as an adjunct instructor at IUPUI at the University of Indianapolis for over 20 years. Kennedy is a professor of Law and Policy at IUPUI and has been an adjunct professor of political science. We both have law degrees and worked as lawyers. I loved the knowledge that my college and law school education provided me and thought at times of returning to get an MBA or doctorate in history. When I taught, I felt good educating people about how our political system and government really works. Most of my students were not majoring in political science, but I feel what I taught them enriched their lives and made them better citizens. Ex-students have told me that I did just that.
Unfortunately, the intellectual world that Kennedy and I would like to live in, the one which values education simply for the knowledge received, is not the real world that the young adults of today face. Many of these kids (I'm old enough now that I can call young adults in their teens and 20's "kids") are amassing enormous, often six figure, student loan debt to obtain college and advanced degrees. What education they choose will probably be the most important investment they ever make.
The job market of today is not one where you meet personally with an employer and you can impress that person with your well-rounded knowledge. Rather today's job market involves applying to virtually every employment opportunity on line. The employer puts the inevitable hundreds of resumes that will be received for any decent paying position through an automated screening process. An applicant who doesn't have the right degree with the right major is eliminated from consideration. Those who have advanced degrees beyond the education requested by the employer are eliminated as being overqualified. The remaining ten applicants or so are the only ones the employer considers to interview. It is an impersonal process that is brutally efficient and terribly unfair for those who did what Kennedy suggests in pursuing education as a "search for knowledge" instead of a means to employment.
No, Sheila, in today's job market it is essential that colleges and universities focus on educating people for jobs in the workforce. Governor Walker is absolutely right.