A Marxist Solution to Student Debt Surfaces in North Carolina
When Gov. Pat McCrory (R-N.C.) called into Bill Bennett's radio show—former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities and Secretary of Education under President Reagan and President Bush's "drug czar" — he professed a sincere concern for college graduates who are "moving back in with their parents after they graduate with debt." But then he proceeded to bash liberal arts degrees and blame the students themselves for choosing those degrees.
For a politician who is leading a Republican revolution in the Tar Heel State, his comments actually came off radically Marxist: viewing education as a tool for training workers to fulfill a role in the economic machine, rather than igniting creativity and innovation.
"Frankly, if you want to take gender studies, that's fine. Go to a private school and take it," McCrory told Bennett on the radio show. "But I don't want to subsidize that if it's not going to get someone a job."
McCrory railed against "educational elites" and courses that he said don't lead to jobs. Then he doubled down on the rhetoric by promising future legislation that will shift the higher education funding in North Carolina to a model, "not based on how many butts in seats but how many of those butts can get jobs.”
That policy recommendation seemed ambitious for someone who has only been in office for one month.
"I think he got carried away of being in the moment on talk radio," Rob Schofield, policy director for NC Policy Watch, told Campus Progress. "I don't think he's thought this out, but then again his budget director is Art Pope, a wealthy guy who funds the conservative movement in North Carolina, including a group whose mission is to dismantle higher education." NC Policy Watch is a nonpartisan organization that works to change the way elected officials debate issues relating to social, political and economic justice in North Carolina.
It's unclear what McCrory's potential legislation might look like, but a similar effort underway in in Florida spearheaded by Gov. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) could provide an example. Of course, it's worth pointing out that students were getting diverse liberal arts educations long before the current economic troubles. So while it might be more difficult to get a job in our current economic environment with a degree in philosophy, many make a strong argument that the education is not the underlying problem.
In an age of mounting student debt, it's sad that the political solution in North Carolina, Florida and potentially other state to follow, is not to make college more affordable, but to pick and choose what degrees are valuable.
"Our constitution in North Carolina says that higher education is to 'remain as free as practicable'," Schofield told Campus Progress. "And this idea that the solution to college debt is to not go to college is crazy, we need to be moving back toward making college free."
Michael Cooper Jr. is a reporter for Campus Progress.