Column by Hallie Beard, Junior from Louisville, Ky.
I don’t usually get too heated about politics, but I’ve got a beef with Gov. Matt Bevin. Here’s why:
Bevin gave his first budget proposal last Tuesday, stirring up quite a conversation on education in the commonwealth.
While he didn’t touch K-12 public schools, he proposed 9 percent cuts to universities over the next two years along with an immediate 4.5 percent cut.
None of this is pleasant, but what really struck me was Bevin’s peculiar attitude toward the humanities in education.
He wants funding for universities in Kentucky to gradually become based on performance in terms of the graduates they churn out – which doesn’t sound that bad until you learn that his idea of a valuable graduate is limited to one with a degree in a STEM field.
He told reporters, “There will be more incentives to electrical engineers than French literature majors. There just will . . . All the people in the world that want to study French literature can do so, they are just not going to be subsidized by the taxpayer.”
Bevin, I hate to say it, but you’re only kicking a dog who’s already dead. You say that as if people have previously been rewarding arts majors and scoffing at students who want to be engineers.
Newsflash: people already don’t care about kids who study art. No, really, they don’t. Think about the kind of careers or jobs we’re taught are worthwhile growing up – being a doctor, a lawyer, a dentist, an engineer. These are the tracks that get oohs and ahhs, because they make a lot of money.
So I’m not surprised this is happening, but it doesn’t make me any less frustrated.
Before I started college – and even now – I dreaded talking about my major because of the subtle ridicule that always followed. Nearly every time I said my focus would be literature, English or creative writing, it would elicit one of three responses, generally: a joke about being poor (original!), a disinterested “oh,” and quick change of subject (noted!) or an oh-so helpful, “well, there’s always teaching” (double whammy!).
Translation: students who study subjects like French literature aren’t new to getting brushed off and we can take it because we know what we’re getting ourselves into. No one has been waving dollar bills at apathetic high school graduates, hoping to lure them into literature programs.
But what you must know, Bevin, is that discouraging the arts in education only creates a cycle of disappointment.
You don’t want to give money to programs that don’t seem as successful as others, but by decreasing funding, you’re making it more difficult for the program to be successful, which in turn repels students who have potential to improve it. Less funding = less potential = less success = less funding and so on.
Now’s a good time to remember, Matty, that you have a BA in East Asian Studies from a private liberal arts college. I’m sorry that didn’t work out for ya, but don’t penalize students who have more potential for success in unique fields just because you have a skewed opinion of what makes people valuable.
And speaking of valuable, let’s also note that Bevin is a transplant Louisvillian (he wasn’t born there, so we don’t claim him). Louisville thrives on the humanities – what would it be without the Louisville Ballet, Actors Theatre or the Louisville Orchestra?
Before I’m trolled, let me be clear about what I’m not suggesting: that STEM majors should be discouraged or that humanities majors should be given more incentives than anyone else or that Kentucky will crash and burn if Bevin’s proposals go through.
Maybe things will turn out better than expected or maybe ol’ Matt will have a change of heart.
Either way, you’re coming in loud and clear, Bev. Message received. Just know, we’re not easily broken.