Commentary

One temptation Margaret Spellings will hopefully avoid

The University of North Carolina has a new president. As Jim Jenkins notes in this morning’s edition of Raleigh’s News & Observer, let’s hope that Margaret Spellings makes her mark and does a good job.

That said, there are good reasons to be concerned about Spellings. Be sure to check out yesterday afternoon’s news story by Sarah Ovaska-Few and this afternoon’s Fitzsimon File for a thorough list of the reasons.

And here’s one area that will bear close watching: let’s hope Spellings resists the temptation to bash the liberal arts.

As most North Carolinians are well aware, it has become a bit of a right-wing parlor game to attack university programs that are not exclusively about cranking out worker bees for corporate employers. Gov. Pat McCrory made a big splash early in his term spouting such nonsense and, as the Charlotte Observer editorial page highlights this morning, the game continues. Over the weekend, presidential candidate Jeb Bush said the following:

“Universities ought to have skin in the game. When a student shows up, they ought to say ‘Hey, that psych major deal, that philosophy major thing, that’s great, it’s important to have liberal arts … but realize, you’re going to be working at Chick-fil-A.'”

By all indications, Mr. Bush was serious.

Spellings, of course, worked for Bush’s brother and a decade ago helped to churn out a big study that arguably gave voice to a similar position — even if it was stated in a less boneheaded way. Let’s hope that since that time, Spellings has learned a thing or two and realizes that, in her new position, she should be working to promote a truly diverse vision of higher education.

Perhaps there is hope though. After all, Spellings was a liberal arts major herself as an undergrad. Then again, so was Pat McCrory.

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