Butts and Jobs

On a national radio program Tuesday morning, [North Carolina Governor, Patrick] McCrory, who goes by Pat, said he would push legislation to base funding for the state’s public colleges and universities on post-graduate employment rather than enrollment.

“I’m looking at legislation right now – in fact, I just instructed my staff yesterday to go ahead and develop legislation – which would change the basic formula in how education money is given out to our universities and our community colleges,” McCrory told radio host Bill Bennett, who was education secretary under President Reagan. “It’s not based on butts in seats but on how many of those butts can get jobs.”

The Republican governor also called into question the value of publicly supporting liberal arts majors after the host made a joke about gender studies courses at UNC-Chapel Hill. “If you want to take gender studies that’s fine, go to a private school and take it,” McCrory told the radio host. “But I don’t want to subsidize that if that’s not going to get someone a job.”

Another Liberal Arts Critic,” Kevin Kiley

The right-wing political agenda for U.S. higher education makes a certain amount of sense. It’s rooted in facilitating profits– usually for the largest corporations– and in a kind of irrational market religion that is almost laughably self-serving. That is, it serves the selves that have the money, and dam the rest of us if we cannot keep up. It’s a game with rigged rules.

In other ways, the right-wing’s agenda is a little mysterious, if not cryptic. Even if we accept the (overly simple) notion that the right always champions individualism (and the left collectivism), it seems strange that the right endorses standardized testing. What could be less individualized? Of course, the mystery is largely solved when you consider that standardized tests can be so easily mass-marketed and sold at great profit rates.

Individual instruction, of course, is a different matter, rooted less in modern production and more in older craft models. (Don’t even think about the unions that arose out of the crafts.) Even more mysterious, in some ways, is the right’s homophobia and sexism. It’s easy to understand McCrory’s dislike if not hatred of universities: he thinks academia is a communist stronghold, and more importantly, far too interdependent of the discipline of the market.

There are profits, in other words, trapped in those public schools. Why does he see gender studies as the epitome of useless humanities research areas? Nothing could be sillier, in his view, than trying to understand gender; except, maybe, trying to teach students your understanding of gender (read: women and queers). Somehow, underneath the macho market talk of “buts that can find jobs” is a very basic kind of sexual insecurity and anxiety.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and Smarthinking.com. I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol] writinginthewild.com

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