Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Civil Discourse

Thank you for the lovely updates from art history, Rebecca and Lynsey. Now, please don't be discouraged.....You see, in case you have missed a big scandal in liberal arts and academics this past week: President Obama slammed art history with his quip in Wisconsin. See here. For the video, click here.

He said, “folks can make a lot more potentially with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art history degree. He made the comment while speaking in Wisconsin last Thursday to promote stronger job training programs.

Coming from a family of military and skilled manufacturing personnel, I understand what President Obama is attempting to do—construct the narrative of meaningful and well-paying professions that are possible outside of the academy. But, criticizing a discipline — and, yes, it's my discipline — is problematic. Such a comment overlooks any benefit from enhancing understanding about the focused topic—in this case, manufacturing. So much for civil discourse... 

Fortunately, the lead organization for artists and art historians has issued a statement in response to President Obama. The organization's president, Linda Downs, stated, "The College Art Association has great respect for President Obama’s initiative to provide all qualified students with an education that can lead to gainful employment. We support all measures that he, Congress, State Legislatures, and colleges and universities can do to increase the opportunities for higher education.
However, when these measures are made by cutting back on, denigrating, or eliminating humanities disciplines such as art history, then America’s future generations will be discouraged from taking advantage of the values, critical and decisive thinking, and creative problem solving offered by the humanities. It is worth remembering that many of the nation’s most important innovators, in fields including high technology, business, and even military service, have degrees in the humanities.
Humanities graduates play leading roles in corporations, engineering, international relations, government, and many other fields where their skills and creating thinking play a critical role. Let’s not forget that education across a broad spectrum is essential to develop the skills and imagination that will enable future generations to create and take advantage of new jobs and employment opportunities of all sorts."

Hear! Hear! And, allow me to add that while the President's comment was not entirely aimed at dissing my discipline, some comments online (and otherwise) are downright cruel. See below. Wow. Let's aim to be civil with our discourse, even that which takes place online.


Boris Zakic said...

pretty disappointing comments, to say the least: I'm confident our students can discern a legitimate call to action over any mean-spirited pandering -- thanks for sharing!

K. said...

I'm so glad you posted this. I ended up in grad school with a lot of people who had humanities degrees and now we are working with federal/state/local governments, nonprofits, chambers of commerce, etc.