The governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, wants to gut support by 13% and refashion higher education’s mission in his state.
He wants to strike the motto that universities should seek the truth.
Pretty bold for a guy without a college degree.
But here’s the thing.
Universities do serve the workforce.
Sure I’m biased: I earned a doctorate from the University of Wisconsin—which Walker holds in low regard—and I hold the title of professor.
My colleagues and I take our jobs seriously, and we thoughtfully consider how we can best prepare students—not just for their first job—but for their families, communities, countries—for the world. And for themselves.
Yes: for the workforce.
Why? Because a workforce should employ citizens who are open-minded, embrace vision, seek out evidence over politics, and make wise choices.
One of the most important lessons we offer as professors is the opportunity for students to think critically.
This lesson serves the community and the workforce.
One example: when things are not always what they seem, we need the courage to dig more deeply than take issues at face value.
Recently a noted scientist—who was vocal in his dispute of the human role in climate change—was outed for taking money from the fossil-fuel industry while keeping mum on his connections.
The scientist accepted more than $1.2 million from industry and never disclosed the conflict when presenting data about climate change.
He claims his relationship with industry had no effect on his findings.
My hope is that our students will examine such issues critically: who has a stake in how governments create laws that leaven the effects of, say, driving your car?
Who has a stake in banning genetically modified foods and who benefits from their sales?
Students and citizens alike need to examine issues from all angles: poke it, prod it, massage it. And that’s what education delivers.
Walker claims educational institutions encourage elitism.
I argue we encourage critical discovery.