NC Governor McCrory Questions College Courses

Back to May 2013 Ed Reporter

NC Governor McCrory
Questions College Courses

North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory said on a radio show in January, “I think some of the educational elite have taken over our education.” He decried colleges “where we are offering courses that have no chance of getting people jobs.” He stated what is obvious to many, but was pilloried by some in the press and by some educators. In the face of massive unemployment rates among new college graduates, unprecedented student loan debt and default, and complaints by employers that graduates are unready to join the workforce, critics wonder what would be wrong with course subsidization having some tie to future job attainment. This is not to say that all courses must be tied to the job market, but some feel that cost justification for some areas of study may be warranted.

The University of North Carolina (UNC) Chapel Hill student newspaper, The Tar Heel, expressed fears that McCrory is not an “education governor” and that he threatens North Carolina’s education “legacy.” The newspaper decried his statement that the state can’t keep “simply spending more money on a broken system.” (01-28-13) Yet, by all indications, McCrory is indeed an “education governor.” 56% of his proposed 2013-15 state budget, $11 billion, is slated for education. His proposed budget is also fiscally responsible; it authorizes no new debt and proposes no state tax increases.

Ready for Jobs?

McCrory’s concerns stem from high unemployment rates in North Carolina and the fact that employers there can’t find qualified workers to fill open jobs. McCrory said on former U.S. Education Secretary Bill Bennett’s radio show, “I’m going to adjust my education curriculum to what business and commerce need to get our kids jobs, as opposed to moving back in with their parents after they graduate with debt.”

Editors of the Raleigh News Observer said, “The governor would be wise to consider that the UNC system has produced a well-educated work force over many generations and represents an investment that delivers big returns to the state in many ways. The system is working. The governor should not succumb to political opportunists who want us to believe it isn’t.” (01-30-13)

But is higher education “working”? A report by the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) that was “meant to bolster support for institutions that emphasize the liberal arts in the face of criticism” acknowledges the failures in current education. The AAC&U report found:

More than 40% of employers already don’t think colleges are teaching students what they need to know to succeed. A third say graduates aren’t even qualified for entry-level work, and more than half say new hires with college degrees don’t have the skills they need to ultimately be promoted.

A full 93% of the 318 corporate leaders questioned for the AAC&U report indicated that “a demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than a job candidate’s undergraduate major.” (Hechinger Report, 04-29-13)

It isn’t just that students graduate without qualifications for entry-level jobs. Some are indoctrinated into a victim vs. society mentality that makes them unable to think clearly enough to adapt to the world outside of college. Thus their education actually has a negative impact on their ability to enter the workforce. Many graduates are also unable to express themselves well, either verbally or in writing.

Women’s Studies at UNC Chapel Hill

During the radio interview, Gov. McCrory called particular attention to gender studies programs as an area that may require job-based funding. Critics of “identity studies” courses say they indoctrinate students, rather than educate them. Inherent to all women’s studies classes is a politicized curriculum, advocation of political action, and a basis in grievance. A review of the Spring 2013 UNC Chapel Hill (UNC-CH) Department of Women’s and Gender Studies course catalog confirms this. A UNC-CH freshman seminar titled “Plantation Lullabies” is described: “Focuses on power, politics, and representation as expressed through the plantation paradigm. . . . We will also consider how our own identities (sexual, racial, gender, national, and class) influence our reactions and relationships with various texts and our environment.”

The class “Moral and Philosophical Issues of Gender in Society seeks to answer the questions: How do we distinguish between genders and how is this related to the oppression of women by men? How is sexism related to other forms of oppression, including homophobia and speciesism?” This class seems to encourage young women to hate men for perceived biases that cause them to endure a rough life in America. The fact that women go to college in larger numbers than men do and get more advanced degrees than men do is ignored by those pushing this indoctrination on students.

Implications of higher education’s failure to educate go beyond North Carolina. As Jane Shaw, president of the Pope Center of Higher Education said, “For many students, college is a smorgasbord of easy courses chosen for the lack of academic rigor. There is no serious ‘core curriculum.’ . . . When students can get a minor in ‘Social and Economic Justice’ without ever taking a course in the economics department, it’s hardly surprising that businesses aren’t lining up to hire them.” (Wall Street Journal, 02-04-13)

UNC President Tom Ross responded to McCrory’s criticism saying, “The University’s value to North Carolina should not be measured by jobs filled alone.” Most would agree with that assessment. But when students’ area of study closes their minds and dulls their intellect, particularly when it comes to taxpayer-funded education, some differentiation between what will lead to jobs, what is edifying for personal growth, and what is simply dwelling on negativity and victimhood may be judicious.