This past Wednesday, CNN contributor and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com LC Granderson called attention to a disturbing move on the part of Florida Governor Rick Scott and Texas Governor Rick Perry to interfere with college curriculums.
The two conservatives introduced plans to have state institutions charge less for degrees in science, technology, engineering, and math.. Scott’s opinion on the subject is highlighted by a quote of his from 2011, in which he stated, “We’re spending a lot of money on education, and when you look at the results, it’s not great. Do you want to use your tax money to educate more people who can’t get jobs in anthropology? I don’t.”
While the suggestion of making education more affordable sounds excellent in principle, the idea of imposing fiscal incentives that are not inclusive of all disciplines threatens to drive students away from the humanities. At best, the governors’ proposal comes off as a misguided effort to improve America’s performance in fields that feature an emphasis on mathematics. Considering that American students’ performance on comparable math tests is less than ideal when placed against the backdrop of the international community, I cannot help but feel that their plans are politically-motivated attempts to generate concrete statistics to try to show that they are actively involved in America’s return to competitiveness on the international stage.
What these politicians seem to be ignoring (or at the very least, devaluing) is a kind of education that is more difficult to quantify on a standardized test. Enticing students and their parents with discount education in fields that are often perceived as having more marketable degrees means that some students may be facing unfair pressure to pursue the foundation of a “practical” future instead of following their personal interests and dreams.
One could incorrectly argue that a foundation in science will guarantee employment, but in doing so, we are selling ourselves short. By aiming for what we may perceive as the largest pool of potential employment, we are shifting from an impetus of inspiration to one of practicality. The America of the past did not become great by trying to catch up to the world, but rather surpass it.
Driving the youth away from the humanities means depriving the nation of a different dimension of thinking and depriving a generation of important skills in writing and critical thought. Our greatness comes from our imagination, ingenuity, and a collective inspiration - not from looking over our shoulder to see what Canada wrote for their answer on the exam.