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Echoes and Mirrors» Blog Archive » Schoooool

Schoooool

Eroding our intellectual infrastructure

The University of Florida has reached that point. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has been told to cut 10% from its budget. Since the biggest chunk of any university’s budget is salaries, that means a lot of people are going on the chopping block — and the administration has decided to simply get rid of entire departments wholesale, including geology. Think about it: a college of science that simply cuts off and throws away an entire discipline. Is that really a place that is supporting science and education? The partitions we set up with these labels are entirely arbitrary, and we are all interdependent. My own discipline of biology is dead without mathematics, chemistry, and physics, and yes, geology is part of the environment we want our students to know. Now it’s true that if all we aimed to do was churn out pre-meds, we could dispense with geology; heck, we could toss out all those ecologists, too, and hone ourselves down to nothing but a service department for instruction in physiology and anatomy.

But we wouldn’t be a university anymore. We’d be a trade school.

And how many students would really complain? They see a BA as a 4-year certification of smartiness.

It’s not just Florida, either — your state is blithely gutting its system of higher education, too. Minnesota, for instance, has cut investment in higher ed by 28% between 2000 and 2007, while raising tuition 68% over the same period. We haven’t been given less to do, either — our workload increases while salaries fail to keep up with inflation. This is happening everywhere. We are all Florida.

Georgia charged us an extra $75 this semester to cover rising costs. The tuition goes up every year, but is locked in on your initial year as a student. Entering freshmen for 2009-2010 will pay a couple hundred dollars more than me, I think. Also, the way I understand it is that my university hires a lot of professors on contract, especially the art/music and many of those that teach night classes (many of whom also have second jobs, sadly).

Another part of the problem is…you. Why do you keep electing cretins to your legislatures who despise the “intellectual elite”, who think being smart is a sin, who are so short-sighted that they care nothing for investing in strengthening the country in ways that take ten or more years to pay off? Stop it! Your representatives should be people who value education enough to commit to at least maintaining the current meager level of funding, but instead we get chains of ignoramuses who want to demolish the universities…and simultaneously want to control them to support their favorite ideological nonsense, via “academic freedom” bills. This is also a long-term goal: we have to work to restore our government to some level of sanity. It’s been the domain of fools and thieves for far too long.

People don’t know how to vote and never will; it’s the beauty of the republic. Nobody has an inherent right to an education. There, I said it (wait, I’ve said it before, but whatever). Everyone does, however, have the freedom to pursue an education. Which means, if they cannot pay for it, they need to work a little harder to afford it. If that means bank-robbing to pay tuition, so be it. My background has given me a very odd outlook on education, though. I view it the same way the Army treats its SF program: everyone can try out and only those that can hack it make it in, and once in, it just gets harder. It should be difficult. (And I do believe Federal Pell Grants are a good thing but they need to enforce higher requirements to keep them, like a GPA of 3.5 rather than 2.0… yes, it is 2.0 to keep your grant)

And the easiest solution is probably the saddest: raise tuition. Or funnel all your lottery earnings directly into the educational system like Georgia (which, upon some snooping, is one of the least expensive states to attend with in-state residency). The beautiful part is that economic depressions/downturns increase the number of lottery tickets sold.

Or I have no idea what I am talking about.

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