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Protect the liberal arts majors from Gov. Scott

College Democrats at UCF

Published: Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Updated: Thursday, November 3, 2011 13:11

Listen up liberal arts majors, apparently your education isn't worth the scholarships you've earned or loans you've taken out. And liberal arts professors, apparently the skills and experience you've gained isn't worth teaching. That's the message Gov. Rick Scott has sent to thousands of students and professors recently while on a conservative talk radio show in Daytona Beach.

The major targeted the most? Anthropology — ironically the same degree Scott's daughter earned. Of the degree, Scott said, "It's a great degree if people want to get it, but we don't need them here." Well, I certainly hope Scott's daughter is leaving the state and making way for the job-creating world along with science, technology, engineering and math majors.

But I've got some news for Scott. According to Politifact, the National Science Foundation considers anthropology a part of STEM research. Specifically, anthropology falls under the letter "S" for a type of science called social science. Heard the term before? It's the study of varying aspects of human society. In fact, our own College of Sciences represents several of these social science majors, including anthropology and the subjects I'm studying: political science and sociology. According to the online encyclopedia Encarta, it can include not only those majors, but also history and economics.

And maybe Scott should study economics. If he did, he would probably realize that many of the skills gained through liberal arts degree programs actually help to create jobs. As the Sun Sentinel rightfully states, many entrepreneurs, some of Scott's favorite people, come from various educational backgrounds. Steve Jobs accredited his inspiration for designing the Macintosh desktop to a calligraphy course he sat in on. And as Jobs said himself, without that course, Mac and Windows would not have been the same systems we use every day.

Scott may also need to take another look at Florida's economy. In September, our state stood at 10.6 percent unemployment, with some 977,000 jobless workers. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, we have the fifth-highest unemployment in the nation.

And what's Scott's solution? Attack the liberal arts. "Is it a vital interest of the state to have more anthropologists? I don't think so."

Well, here's what I think, Scott. I think you're forgetting that each student is allowed to pursue whatever degree he or she wants, and that a healthy nation is one where each individual can seek his of her passion. I happen to be a fan of all STEM subjects. The knowledge gained through even casually studying some of the hard sciences, such as biology and physics, is invaluable, and I encourage everyone to do so.

But Scott has failed to realize that redirecting funding to STEM degrees is not going to employ the almost one million jobless workers in our state. What it will do is send the millions of tuition dollars toward liberal arts degrees to states that actually value students like me and my fellow social scientists. But then again, Scott did say, "We don't need them [anthropologists] here."

Well, I'll tell you who I don't want here: Scott. That's why I'm not only a liberal arts student, but I'm also a registered voter. And in 2014, I'm going to make sure Scott gets the message, and I urge all of my fellow STEM students to do the same.

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Tue Nov 8 2011 17:16
"This girls is terrible."

Your English is terrible.

Tue Nov 8 2011 11:42
I wish I could have my own personal blog where I rant on how horrible Governor Scott is. This girls is terrible. Get her off!
Sun Nov 6 2011 11:50
It's strange that he's targeting Anthropology. I mean I could understand cutting funding the Sociology, because everyone knows that Sociology is junk science. But Anthropology is an actual major.
Fri Nov 4 2011 00:47
@Fred - At no point did I state that liberal arts degrees are useless. In fact in an earlier comment I stated by belief that we as a society would lose a very valuable perspective if the world had no Anthropologists.

My argument isn't about the merit of the degree, but instead the impact of the degree on our local economy. You state that liberal arts degrees number among the most educated in the country. I agree. The reason they're educated more on average is because those disciplines, Anthropology for example, require graduate degrees in order to participate in credible research. You will be very hard pressed to find a well paying job (or any job, for that matter) with only a bachelors degree in Anthropology.

So in the end it all goes back to what the better investment is. Do you invest in someone who will, in a mere 4 years, be hired for a well paid job and contribute to a local economy? Or do you invest in someone who will need 8+ years in order to have that identical effect?

It's easy to sit back and argue the pathos appeal. Say that everyone is entitled to do whatever they want. Unfortunately, and I do mean unfortunately, we live in a world where that simply isn't the case. We're in hard economic times, global competition is as fierce as it has ever been, and if we want to succeed as a people then we need to put a priority on approaches which will strengthen the quality of life for everyone - not just liberal arts majors.

Think about this situation without the level of abstraction. You have $100.00 to invest in stocks. You can choose between a stock which you know has historically performed well and is expected to continue doing so (let's say Google), and one which has been trending downwards (say RIM). If you're looking to make the safe investment, chances are you're going to choose Google. But why? Certainly RIM is a good company? It contributed to a technological revolution in business and it employs thousands of individuals. These people have families, homes. Certainly they deserve your money too?

Like most Americans, you would understand that your $100 simply isn't enough to change the game. You understand that if RIM goes under hopefully these families can get jobs at more profitable companies. You know that if times were better, maybe you would be able to give more. Perhaps RIM would have even been performing better. But we are where we are, and you need to make the decision that's smartest in the long term.

Stocks and people are very different things. The principal of investment, however, is not. We have a finite amount of money to invest and it needs to be placed into the markets from which we will see the highest amount of return.

Thu Nov 3 2011 23:15
@Shane I thought I provided you with one already: Most people can't pay without this assistance. But, obviously, you don't care about that so I'll just say that, as a taxpayer as well, I have ZERO problem paying for someone's education if they choose a liberal arts degree (or STEM degree or WHATEVER). Who am I to decide whether or not the skills they pick up are useful to society or not? Pauly K is right that that these majors are some of the best educated in the country (and I'd like to add most creative and socially/globally aware as well). Clearly, you think these fields are useless. I don't and I think you're being narrow minded, so we'll just have to agree to disagree.
Thu Nov 3 2011 21:08
@Fred. Can you provide me a legitimate reason why I, as a tax payer, should fund your pursuit of a degree which provides absolutely nothing to the local economy?

A common misconception that my liberal peers seem to have is that the higher education system is a charity. It's not. The education system is a method by which we can keep our nation competitive and allow citizens the opportunity to prosper and flourish all-their-own. It's not there to fulfill the desire to enrich yourself intellectually.

There's a simple fact here. Individuals who graduate with STEM degrees get jobs and, on average, make significantly more. This not only benefits the individual, but their employment (and subsequent participation in the local economy) benefits everyone in the community. An individual who graduates in a liberal arts field has a very difficult time finding a job. This causes a rise on the already treacherous unemployment rate, and their use of social services drains already thinly stretched programs -- taking assistance away from those who actually need it.

If you want to major in the liberal arts by all means do so. That's your prerogative and your right. Just understand that, since you will not be contributing back to the local economy, you will have to bear your share of the burden.

Thu Nov 3 2011 11:18
It's such an incredibly cynical argument to say, "This isn't limiting people's choices! You can still pursue a degree in what you want, just don't expect me to pay for it unless it's engineering." If a person relies on financial aid and scholarships to go to school, they're not going to be able to pay for that Anthropology degree if the money is going to the Maths and Sciences. You're controlling what choices people make with their education by limiting their ability to pay for it.
Pauly K.
Thu Nov 3 2011 10:43
The fact is what Rick Scott is planning here is to get rid of Bright Futures for liberal arts, ignoring the fact that it was his tuition hikes that are making Bright Futures insolvent. He's doing what Republicans always do, take a working system, throwing it against the wall so that it breaks into a million pieces, then turning to the American people and say "oh man guys look its broken, I guess we need to cut off funding / privatize it!" It's absolutely ridiculous. This is the United States and our education system is terrible right now, to cut off funding to something because you feel like it might not be a growing industry (many studies show that liberal arts majors are the most educated and best workers out of college), isnt a good reason to destroy it.
Thu Nov 3 2011 10:33
Pursue whatever degree you want - that's your constitutionally guaranteed right! The slippery slope comes in to play when you start asking the state (us) to subsidize your choices. If the state is going to fund education, then they (we the people) will have a say in which skills are most necessary to a growing vibrant economy. The free market is a much better allocator then the state - would you pay $100K for the education if your job prospects were zilch after graduation? If you want the state to pay for everything, then you'll have to accept more state control of your decisions - simple.

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