In Ignorance We Trust: Timothy Egan on History, the Liberal Arts and Florida’s Governor Rick Scott!

Dear Commons Community,

Timothy Egan has an op-ed piece in today’s New York Times presenting the importance of learning history as a critical part of a good basic liberal arts education.  He covers a lot of ground and wanders a bit  but saves his best shot for Rick Scott, the Governor of Florida:

“For knuckleheaded refinement look to the state of Florida, a breeder of bad ideas from its dangerous gun laws to its deliberate attempts to make it hard for citizens to vote. Gov. Rick Scott’s task force on higher education is now suggesting that college students with business-friendly majors pay less tuition than those in traditional liberal arts fields.

“You know, we don’t need a lot of anthropologists in this state,” the governor said in October. “I want to spend our dollars giving people science, technology, engineering and math degrees. That’s what our kids need to focus all their time and attention on.”

Notice he said “all.” If the governor, who’s been trying to run Florida like a corporation, had applied the skills of the liberal arts, his approval rating might be higher than 38 percent. Any anthropologist could tell Scott how he misread human behavior in the Sunshine State.”

In an effort to be balanced, Egan refers to David McCullough:

“And yet, as McCullough has said, the keepers of academic gates in these fields are their own worst enemies. Too many history books are boring, badly written and jargon-weighted with politically correct nonsense. There are certainly exceptions among the authors — the witty Patricia Limerick at the University of Colorado, for example, or the prolific Douglas Brinkley at Rice. And I defy anyone to read Robert K. Massie’s “Catherine the Great” (enlightened German teenager takes over Russia) or Erik Larson’s “In the Garden of Beasts” (Nazis, oozing evil in diplomatic circles) and not come away moved.”

Important commentary!



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