Governor McCrory recently set off a firestorm with his controversial remarks about the value of a liberal arts education. In essence, he said that the primary purpose of education is to prepare students for work. Many have taken umbrage with the governor's views simply because they don't agree with his ideas on this issue. Not surprisingly, and under pressure, he has recanted part of his message, saying that education has more than just a vocational purpose.
Some people are upset with the governor for being too pragmatic and putting little value in a liberal arts education; one that is not focused on supporting the state's employment needs. My concern with the governor's comment has little to do with his philosophical position; obviously, he has a right to his opinions. In essence, I am more worried about the message that our governor is sending to the public school students of our state. For instance, how should a high school history teacher respond to a 16 or 17 year old who argues that he did not study for the history test because the subject will be of no value to him when he seeks to obtain his CDL license and a career as a truck driver.
There is more to this issue than the money our state spends to support public institutions that offer academic degrees in subjects such as dance education, philosophy, or even our governor's own political science. In essence, it has to do with how we define the purpose of education. Thomas Jefferson once said that "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be." His contemporary, Benjamin Franklin, said, during a time of nation building, that, "An investment in knowledge pays the best interest." We may not agree on what kind of education is best for our children but let's not discourage them from learning simply because we have narrow practical interests.