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Aug 30 2012

Wingnut Pol Wants to Control University Courses

A Christian right politician from Louisiana is hopping mad — ooh, I garontee — that the University of Louisiana is offering a minor program in LGBT studies. And he’s demanding that the university end the program on the pretext that it doesn’t prepare students for the “workforce.”

Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, is continuing his efforts to get the University of Louisiana at Lafayette to drop its lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender studies minor on grounds it isn’t consistent with the college’s mission to prepare young people for jobs.

“I want our young people prepared for workforce and the LGBT minor does not assist them toward that goal,” Landry said in a letter to the university’s president, Joseph Savoie. “Our neighbors and students should trust that the education dollars they spent at University of Louisiana at Lafayette will be used to further their careers, not a political agenda.”

Right. Because when academic departments make decisions about their own curriculum, that’s a political agenda; when politicians interfere with the operation of a public university, that’s not a political agenda. And of course, in Landry’s world, the “workforce” doesn’t include people who run advocacy organizations or history professors or anything like that; it only includes work done by Real Americans tm, like building stuff and working in factories (unless they belong to a Godless, communist union, of course).

But here’s the problem:

Savoie said that if the university were to bow to complaints by Landry and others, including Sen. David Vitter, R-La, it would risk losing its accreditation. To gain accreditation, Savoie said a college must show it doesn’t bow to political pressure in deciding what course offerings to provide students.

Accreditation is obviously the work of the devil.

31 comments

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  1. 1
    Nancy New, Queen of your Regulatory Nightmare

    Ooooh! Cool! I’m in Quality Management and Compliance–in charge of getting and maintaining our lab accreditation status! I’m doing the work of the devil!

  2. 2
    busterggi

    I’ll give you odds that this guy doesn’t oppose theology classes and is probably pushing for teaching creationism as science to boot.

  3. 3
    ashleybell

    I’m only saying this half jokingly: Maybe we could develop a system of accreditation for k-12…

  4. 4
    Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc

    Haha, oh wow, “I want our young people prepared for workforce” could be read in a variety of interesting ways. Literature course? Pfft, useless for the workforce. Electrical engineering? Nope, all that has been outsourced to China. Media studies? Well… maybe I can be flexible with that one. ;-)

  5. 5
    peicurmudgeon

    I wonder what education landry and his supporters have. Did they take any courses that weren’t directly related to their current employment?

  6. 6
    Akira MacKenzie

    In other words, education is only useful if it prepares us for our future careers as slaves to the capitalist system. Everything else is godless subversion.

  7. 7
    slc1

    Re peicurmudgeon @ #5

    According to Wikipedia, Mr. Landry has a BS degree from what was then Southwestern Louisiana State University, majoring in environmental sciences with a minor in biology and a JD degree from Loyola Un. New Orleans Law School. Of course, the Governor of Louisiana, creationist Booby Bobby Jindel, has a BS in biology from Brown, Un.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeff_Landry

  8. 8
    momkat

    It appears he has confused a university with a trade school.

  9. 9
    Chiroptera

    …it isn’t consistent with the college’s mission to prepare young people for jobs.

    If you think the mission of a liberal arts institution if higher education is to prepare people for jobs, you understand neither higher education nor the purpose of a liberal arts education.

    (In a sense, I guess, a good college education does prepare people for jobs; it shows prospective employers that the graduate is actually smart enough to pass a very wide variety of different subjects, and therefore might be smart enough for the job.)

  10. 10
    Moggie

    Aren’t politicians part of the “workforce”? Because they could sure benefit from LGBT studies.

  11. 11
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    Savoie said that if the university were to bow to complaints by Landry and others, including Sen. David Vitter, R-La

    Vitter’s just mad they’re not offering an elective course on diaper fetishes.

  12. 12
    Bronze Dog

    One thing I’d like to add: A good understanding of many topics outside of the work grind makes for intelligent, informed decisions when off the job, regarding non-work topics. Like deciding who to vote for.

  13. 13
    Chiroptera

    Bronze Dog, #12: A good understanding of many topics outside of the work grind makes for intelligent, informed decisions when off the job, regarding non-work topics. Like deciding who to vote for.

    So you’re saying that you understand why the Republicans are so upset?

  14. 14
    Bronze Dog

    So you’re saying that you understand why the Republicans are so upset?

    Exactly!

  15. 15
    heddle

    While he clearly has a ideological agenda, it is nonetheless true that people are looking more and more at the value of a college education. It began in earnest with the for-profit colleges. But there is no reason to suspect that the “real” colleges and universities will not come under the same kind of scrutiny–if it hasn’t already started. Expect a big push from legislatures everywhere (it has happened in my state, VA) to enhance/reward STEM program growth relative to the humanities. To hope for something different, if you are, is, at this time, tilting at windmills.

    Hairy Chris, blah blah blah etc

    Electrical engineering? Nope, all that has been outsourced to China.

    Um, no. EE hiring is projected to grow by 6% by US DoL.

  16. 16
    fredricmartin

    Well, in his dream world there aren’t any LBGT people in the workforce, they’re all “camping”.

  17. 17
    oranje

    One of the things of which I’m rather terrified is the Tea Party bunch, under the pretext of balancing the budget, trying to gut universities of all of those things they don’t like. Much of college doesn’t contain intellectual activity directly applicable to the “workforce.” It wasn’t designed as that. I wonder what the face of public higher education will be a decade from now.

  18. 18
    eric

    To add to Bronze Dog @12 and Chiroptera @13, IMO a liberal arts education also makes people more socially flexible and adaptable, able to switch jobs or careers when needed. IMO it makes people better able to handle novel situations and responsibilities. So it helps with social mobility. Probably another reason (some) conservatives dislike it. Can’t let our worker caste gain knowledge that might let them do a manager caste job. That would be chaos!

    I doubt Landry has any motive other than his own bigotry. But other, more general upper class opposition to liberal arts education may just be the equivalent to the often-panned “they’re taking our jobs! (tkn r jbs)”

  19. 19
    d cwilson

    Expect a big push from legislatures everywhere (it has happened in my state, VA) to enhance/reward STEM program growth relative to the humanities.

    Yes, because the last thing we want as a participatory democracy is people who understand the humanities, like history, economics, political science, etc.

    And I say this as someone in a STEM career.

  20. 20
    paul

    It would be prudent for a college or university to ask students majoring in less employable fields such as the arts and humanities to think about what they will do after graduation, and offer minor programs that might help them have something to look forward to besides student loan debt. I see that this LGBT studies program is a minor, not a major, so hopefully the students enrolled in it have a major such as education or child development that would allow them to put it to use.

  21. 21
    heddle

    d cwilson,

    Yes, because the last thing we want as a participatory democracy is people who understand the humanities, like history, economics, political science, etc.

    I don’t think this is primarily ideological. From what I’ve been told a big part of the push to STEM is in reaction to increasing complaints from parents who paid ~10^5$ and find that their son/daughter-graduate ends up unemployed or underemployed.

  22. 22
    simeamirans

    For reference, the University of Louisiana states its mission here:

    The fundamental mission of the System is to emphasize teaching, research, and community service to enhance the quality of life for the State’s citizens. Through this mission, students are afforded experiences to discover, create, transmit, and apply knowledge. The purpose of the System is to provide high quality education that is cost efficient to both students and taxpayers, enabling students to reach their highest potential.

    Enhanced quality of life, shared knowledge, reaching potential: not just getting a job.

  23. 23
    vmanis1

    I’m a retired university teacher in computer science, and I take exception to an implied “STEM is good, liberal arts is bad” attitude we often see. Certainly for computer scientists and software engineers at least, a substantial amount of liberal and fine arts is extremely valuable. For one thing, it helps students place the theory and technique they are learning into a wider context; for another, it gives students more options should they decide at the end of the undergrad program that the major subject isn’t what really excites them. (It used to happen surprisingly often, back before the dotcom collapse, in that many students were pressured to take CS when they really weren’t that interested in it.) For a third reason, 5 CS courses a semester, with no breathers, can be rather mind-numbing.

    (Disclaimer: I’m gay myself, and if I had it all to do over again, a CS degree with an LGBT studies minor would have been perfect for me.)

    I also think liberal arts students ought to be asked to take more math and science, but that’s a topic for a different discussion.

    On the subject of political control of university curricula, I used to read a lot of transcripts of students seeking advanced credit, including those from other countries. Most Communist countries had a required first-year course with a title something like `Foundations of Socialist Thought’; the goal was to learn to parrot slogans and not to make waves (e.g., by asking thoughtful questions). The Louisiana legislators might consider this model, with added diapers.

  24. 24
    Chiroptera

    The biggest threat to our system of higher education isn’t that kids are taking classes or studying majors that don’t prepare them for the workforce. As some people have already said or hinted, any class that is rigorous is going to teach and hone the critical thinking skills necessary for just about any job that requires a college degree; any major, if that program is kept rigorous, is going to show that the graduate has the wide variety of intellectual skills necessary to be able to learn and do a whole heck of a lot of careers.

    The main danger is the pressure that higher education is under to admit more and more underqualified students, and to pass and graduate more and more of them even if it means weakening the rigor in our courses and programs. Then we’re going to be handing more and more diplomas to students who barely have even a high school level of education.

    Wait until our state legislators find out that just having a lot of people with paper diplomas is no guarantee of a strong economy. On the other hand, that will still somehow be our educators’ fault. But I guess Landry is exactly this type of legislator.

  25. 25
    heddle

    Chiroptera

    The main danger is the pressure that higher education is under to admit more and more underqualified students, and to pass and graduate more and more of them even if it means weakening the rigor in our courses and programs.

    A related statistic that I find amazing, but which I will relate without editorial comment, is that in 1947 5% of adult Americans had a college degree. Today it is about 30%.

    Source WaPo.

  26. 26
    Ichthyic

    Haha, oh wow, “I want our young people prepared for workforce” could be read in a variety of interesting ways. Literature course? Pfft, useless for the workforce. Electrical engineering? Nope, all that has been outsourced to China. Media studies? Well… maybe I can be flexible with that one. ;-)

    Political Science?

    yeah, toss that worthless bafflegab.

    A related statistic that I find amazing, but which I will relate without editorial comment, is that in 1947 5% of adult Americans had a college degree. Today it is about 30%.

    the reason you can’t comment on it is that it is meaningless.

    please tell me even YOU understand the job market is different in 2012 than it was in 1947?

  27. 27
    heddle

    Ichthyic

    the reason you can’t comment on it is that it is meaningless.

    If you actually think that the datum that the 5% of the population who received a college degree in 1947 has grown to 30% is meaningless then you are not just a troll but an unbelievably clueless troll. But then, I already knew that.

  28. 28
    skinnercitycyclist

    No more football, I guess…..

  29. 29
    Nick Gotts

    While he clearly has a ideological agenda, it is nonetheless true that people are looking more and more at the value of a college education. – heddle

    That rather depends on what you mean by “value”. If you mean: expected increase in net income over your working life, that’s one thing, and yes, I think people on the whole, and politicians in particular, are putting more stress on that. If you take into account ability to understand what is going on in the world, and to appreciate and enjoy a broad range of cultural activities, that’s another, and I think the reverse is true.

  30. 30
    heddle

    KG #29,

    I don’t disagree. I love teaching at a liberal arts school and have helped to develop our core liberal learning curriculum. I am only saying that the push toward STEM* is not, in my experience, ideological. It is perceived, rightly or wrongly, to be pragmatic.

    ———-
    * Which in and of itself is, in my opinion, not bad– that is, I think it would be good for the country if the number of STEM majors increased relative to the humanities–but not at the expense of sacrificing a liberal arts education. I think 10 physics majors (who know how to read, write, and understand other cultures) for every 50 english majors (who know some elementary theoretical and laboratory science and math) is great, but somehow (according to my gut) not the optimal ratio.

  31. 31
    Nick Gotts

    heddle@30,

    At least in the UK, there is an ideology of pragmatism in this area: a belief, seldom justified by any argument more detailed than “We need to compete with China and India”, that higher education should be entirely focused on preparing students for “the jobs market”. Like you, I am inclined to welcome some shift towards STEM, because there is a pressing need for a broader understanding of these areas, and not just in those who will actually work in them: the level of understanding among the public, and among journalists and politicians, is execrable. But in STEM as much as elsewhere, higher education should not be narrowly focused on skills and knowledge of direct use in the workplace.

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