Monday, March 23, 2009

Turning Universities Into Trade Schools

Times are tough. Money is short. States all over the country are cutting the budget for higher education, and the result is often the loss of faculty, classes, and even entire departments. The University of Florida has been forced to accept a 10% cut in state funding, and part of their response is to discontinue their geology department. This is insane. Geology is one of the most basic of the natural sciences; biology, paleontology, meterology, and oceanography all depend on it. Who's at fault? P.Z. Myers has the answer:
...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.

Read Myers' excellent rant here.


steve said...

Yep, it seems there is a large "anti-intelligence" demographic in this nation, and if this continues, we'll head into a scenerio akin to the 2007 film "Idiocracy". If subject matter like Geology is considered "elitist", then you can happily count me in.

Thy Goddess said...

They are also shutting down School of Education and School of Nursing.

Brilliant, eh?


Thy Goddess said...

I came across this site recently and thought about you:

Do you know it?

Aaron said...

Ah... the downside of representative government. Government can't really be any more farsighted or thoughtful than the people it represents. A shortsighted and self-interested populace drives government policies that reward shortsightedness and self-interest.

Whatcha gonna do?

Archaeopteryx said...

Hi everyone, and thanks for the comments.

Steve, it's hard to imagine that geology should be considered elitist. It was geology that really helped start much of the scientific and industrial revolution of the 1700s. It's so basic.

Goddess, I hadn't heard about shutting Education and Nursing--that seems so very odd, since we're constantly hearing about the shortages of teachers and nurses. At my university, those departments are among the most robust. But, there's no "sense" to this anyway.

Aaron, you would hope that the people who we elect to represent us would be more farsighted than the general population--that kind of the whole idea behind representative democracy. But, alas...

Kevin Clark said...

I'm sure PZ Myer's rant is lovely. The only problem is that it's not true. Total government spending on education in 2008 was 837.7 billion dollars. Total government spending on education in 2000 was 532 billion. (Source: So, over the last 8 years, education spending increased by 57%, which is vastly greater than the inflation rate. If legislators at all levels are so anti-education, why do they consistently increase the money devoted to education, by greater than the inflation rate, so that government spends more money on education in real dollars every year? (Okay, you could correlate this to increases in enrollment, but still, education isn't being cut.)

A couple of years ago, the library in town didn't get the funding they wanted. So, they decided to cut their hours of operation, because that was the they that they could make the greatest number of people unhappy. The more citizens who were unhappy, the more likely the were to get funding. Perhaps something similar is going on here with the geology cut.

Catnapping said...

It's astounding, the number of people who confuse training with education.

I wonder if some in power would prefer that we not be truly educated. A bunch of trained monkeys would be much easier to brainwash...

(ot: this is the first time in 9 days i've been able to access a blogspot static page, let alone a comment page. i'm hoping this means that when i hit the 'publish' button, this comment will appear on this page.)

Archaeopteryx said...

Kev, rather than that website, why not use the govenment's own figures, adjusted for inflation?
here. It shows an increase in funding since 2000, but not a 50% increase, as your guys' figures show. Do you really think funding for education went up 50% during the Bush Administration?

Regardless, I can assure you that the Florida story is true, and it is also true that we in Arkansas are having a gun held to our head. This isn't some PR ploy. Remember also, that those universities that count on endowments and private contributions to make up the difference between tuition and what it actually costs to put a kid through college are in a world of hurt.

artandsoul said...

Education in Florida is funded by the lottery.

That was a brilliant move made back when Bob Martinez (Rep. from Tampa) was Governor. Wow, look at all the money we'll save in our budget.

Also, in Florida, we don't have an income tax (come in old folks!) so we live and die by the sales tax.

Oh, that economy hit you in the pocket and you can't travel? Too bad for us. Tourism numbers crashing below all estimates? Oh, hmmm. What shall we do?

Let's cut education at those educational institutions. Yessirree! There's an idea! Of course the football and basketball and baseball teams at UF, FSU and USF bring in billions of dollars. But that has to go back into the programs.

Yeah. We've thought long and hard here in Florida about what is important.

And it has to do with balls.

artandsoul said...

Arch- have you seen this?

I got a copy of the book today. It looks unbelievably wonderful!

Archaeopteryx said...

Hi, Arty...

It's on my Barnes and Noble pick-up list. We make a pilgramage up to Little Rock once a month to replenish our supply of reading material. That book is on the top of my list.

artandsoul said...

I am loving it!! I'm on Chapter 3! Brilliant!! Freaking brilliant!