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Thursday, February 20, 2014

Marco Rubio Thinks Apologizing to Art History Majors Is "Pathetic"

Posted by on Thu, Feb 20, 2014 at 8:07 AM

Mediate says that President Obama wrote a handwritten letter of apology to an art professor after he made some negative comments about art history degrees:

Let me apologize for my off-the-cuff remarks. I was making a point about the jobs market, not the value of art history. As it so happens, art history was one of my favorite subjects in high school, and it has helped me take in a great deal of joy in my life that I might otherwise have missed.

So please pass on my apology for the glib remark to the entire department, and understand that I was trying to encourage young people who may not be predisposed to a four year college experience to be open to technical training that can lead them to an honorable career.

Marco Rubio wasted no time in calling President Obama's apology "pathetic."


Remember when Rick Santorum called Obama a "snob" for wanting people to go to college? This feels, to me, like an extension of that: By attacking art history majors, Rubio is aligning himself with perceived "real" Americans, the hootin'-and-a-hollerin' Sarah Palin fans who think anyone with a collidge edumacation is a soshuliss. But that's a tiny demographic: The truth is that people with four-year college degrees lean Republican. Rubio is shooting himself in the foot by attacking art history degrees and by arguing against culture.

Worse, this attack feels disingenuous. Rubio's not a stupid man. Why does he feel the need to pretend otherwise? Doesn't he have polling people on his staff who can tell him that he's arguing against his own base? Are we looking at another race to the bottom in the 2016 Republican primary? (The answer to that last question is "probably.")

 

Comments (34) RSS

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Tingleyfeeln 1
I think you got "real Americans" slightly wrong here. The problem most of these people have with art history majors is that they invest in an education with no clear career path.
"ReAl Americans", having been poisoned by the Puritan work Eric and the myth of the American Dream, feel that education is only worth the career one gets out of it. These people do not value the light that comes from a well rounded education, and they overlook the innovations of the free thinkers in life. They have no concept of the value of play.
Posted by Tingleyfeeln on February 20, 2014 at 8:41 AM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 2

Those Art History majors should switch to something with job prospects. Like Comp Lit.
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://www.you-read-it-here-first.com on February 20, 2014 at 8:50 AM · Report this
3
Rubio's not stupid? Coulda fooled me.
Posted by treehugger on February 20, 2014 at 8:53 AM · Report this
JonnoN 4
I'm sorry, did you just cite Daily Caller?
Posted by JonnoN http://www.backnine.org/ on February 20, 2014 at 8:53 AM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 5
The bait and switch you're pulling is substitution "education" for "art history major". You can be pro-education without being pro-unemployable. Most of those Republicans with 4 years of college have business degrees.

Obama did make a perfectly reasonable point the first time around, and he should have shown some courage. He's the one being disingenuous by walking it back now because somebody got their fee fees hurt.

People who think art history is a viable career path have upper middle class parents with a big cushion in the bank to see their kids through. It's a disaster for a poor person to sign on to a lifetime of debt and major in art history.

Calling people rednecks and making fun of southern drawls doesn't address those facts, Constant. Instead of sputtering and fuming you should make your case, if you can.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn http://youtu.be/zu-akdyxpUc on February 20, 2014 at 8:54 AM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 6

But this is interesting

The bellwether group now appears to be voters with either a two-year degree or some college education but no formal degree — a group that includes current college students. Obama won this group in 2012 by the narrowest of margins, 49-48, while George W. Bush carried these voters 54-46 in 2004.


http://dailycaller.com/2013/02/25/not-a-…

So not only have Republicans been winning college and graduate school students all along, Bush, who is portrayed by liberals as this side of an imbecile, won everyone with an education beyond high school while the Democrats took those with less.

Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://www.you-read-it-here-first.com on February 20, 2014 at 8:55 AM · Report this
venomlash 7
@6: Actually, according to the article, people with graduate degrees and people with only high school educations (the two extremes on the scale) tend to skew Democratic while those with bachelor's degrees tend to skew Republican. The contested group is people with some college under their belt, whether as an associate's degree or part of a bachelor's or master's degree.
John Bailo is the stupidest motherfucker on the planet.
Posted by venomlash on February 20, 2014 at 9:11 AM · Report this
8
And herein is the problem with public education in our country: why do we do it?

Is it to have an educated populace or a trained workforce (or something in the middle)? As the late, great UW Professor David Notkin explained it, "Do you want your kids to get sex education or sex training?"

It is also an issue of getting kids to want to stay in school when education is treated like a joke and/or smart people are "nerds".

Kids aren't dumb - they see what adults say about education and then wonder why they need to be in school at all when, apparently, the common sense of Sarah Palin would serve them just as well.
Posted by westello on February 20, 2014 at 9:18 AM · Report this
pragmatic 9
@7
John Bailo is the stupidest motherfucker on the planet.

But you repeat yourself.
Posted by pragmatic on February 20, 2014 at 9:52 AM · Report this
thelyamhound 10
@5 - Perhaps, but I'd rather live in a culture where someone is majoring in art history, whether they're following a career path in it or not.

The problem, it seems to me, is that where once certain specialized jobs required degrees, but most did not, now even jobs that any basically competent person could do (if corporations still bothered to do anything novel like train employees) require a degree.

If corporations were charged with training their own workforce, then art history majors, or even autodidacts with basic literacy skills, who failed, for whatever reason, to find or create careers in the arts--or if they, like most people in the arts, labored for little or no money while holding jobs in the general market--then formal or independent study of "impractical" disciplines would be less of a problem.

I would actually say that vocational training should be quite separate from education unless your career is in science or medicine, and that education, once it passes the basic competence stage, should delve ever further into the "impractical" abstractions that actually make us something more interesting than mere flatworms with opposable thumbs.
Posted by thelyamhound http://thebayinghound.blogspot.com on February 20, 2014 at 10:22 AM · Report this
Fnarf 11
Rubio's degree is in Pounding Sand.
Posted by Fnarf http://www.facebook.com/fnarf on February 20, 2014 at 10:25 AM · Report this
12
I think the denigration of liberal arts degrees is misplaced. No, people with Art History degrees probably won't end up with the job position of Art Historian but they are perfectly employable in the corporate world. They might not be qualified to do structural engineering or something but for the most part getting a Bachelor's is just a hoop you have to jump through in our degree-inflated society.
Earning (any) Bachelor's shows that you can complete projects, read and write competently, and do at least a little critical thinking. Except for maybe the aforementioned engineering, no basic degree teaches you concrete instructional-type stuff you would use in the working world.
(Disclaimer: I only have one BA so I'm making some assumptions about what different programs teach.)
Posted by chi_type on February 20, 2014 at 11:00 AM · Report this
ɥsɐןɯouǝʌ 13
@12: Majoring in the hard sciences does require you to fill your head with some rather technical stuff. Of course, different colleges may vary.
Posted by ɥsɐןɯouǝʌ on February 20, 2014 at 11:28 AM · Report this
Supreme Ruler Of The Universe 14
#7, 9

Mitt Romney performed a net six points better than John McCain among voters with four-year degrees and five points better among voters with graduate degrees.


http://dailycaller.com/2013/02/25/not-a-…
Posted by Supreme Ruler Of The Universe http://www.you-read-it-here-first.com on February 20, 2014 at 11:40 AM · Report this
JonnoN 15
@14 doing better than mccain does not a majority make.

John Bailo is the stupidest motherfucker on the planet.
Posted by JonnoN http://www.backnine.org/ on February 20, 2014 at 11:47 AM · Report this
16
@12 Yep, and no degree pays off the way an engineering degree does.
Posted by Ken Mehlman on February 20, 2014 at 11:51 AM · Report this
keshmeshi 17
Degrees create jobs? Could have fooled me.
Posted by keshmeshi on February 20, 2014 at 12:15 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 18
@10

Well, you'll be pleased to know that nobody proposed a culture where nobody is majoring in art history. Obama was not apologizing for saying art history should be outlawed.

Your rosy scenario where people study art history and then go off and settle for crappy corporate jobs that have nothing to do with art history is not all that wonderful. And it's rather dishonest to encourage young people to follow their passion knowing they're going to have to chuck it all for a paycheck.

More power to anyone who wants to borrow tens of thousands of dollars to study art history out of love of the subject, with their eyes wide open knowing that they could be in for bitter disappointment and years of paying off that debt at a job that isn't anything like what they hoped for. But shame on anyone who tries to tell them it's going to be easy or the odds are in their favor.

Obama told them the truth: "folks can make a lot more, potentially, with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art history degree". It's disingenuous to apologize for telling the truth.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn http://youtu.be/zu-akdyxpUc on February 20, 2014 at 12:31 PM · Report this
venomlash 19
@14: Romney did better than McCain among people with graduate degrees. As JonnoN pointed out, that doesn't mean he did better than Obama. (In fact, in the 2012 elections, President Obama carried 55% of the post-graduate vote.)
JBITDMFOTP
Posted by venomlash on February 20, 2014 at 12:42 PM · Report this
20
@13: Yeah I probably should have said science and engineering.
And while I'm sure these are these are the most reliably lucrative degrees (especially at the start), there are many highly paid people in the corporate world with liberal arts degrees. So it's a bit disingenuous to tell kids that, regardless of talent or inclination, they need to get a science degree or be utterly unemployable.
Instead I would say, go ahead get your history degree. Enjoy the intellectual thrill of immersing yourself in something you're passionate about and enriching yourself through the acquisition of knowledge. Just know that in the end you're not likely to spend your working life on anything very closely related so be prepared to be flexible and apply the skills you've acquired to something a little less intellectually heady.
(Like internet comments, haha.)
Posted by chi_type on February 20, 2014 at 12:43 PM · Report this
21
And I think it was well worth the tens of thousands of dollars or whatever. I mean, I had to get a bachelor's anyway. It's like the high school diploma was in the 50s or 60s. So I got it in something I was passionate about and had the most intellectually thrilling time of my life doing it. I'll never forget having my mind blown by Derrida and I wouldn't trade that for 20k more a year or whatever.
Posted by chi_type on February 20, 2014 at 12:51 PM · Report this
22
Or, do as I did, double major in a social science AND a natural science.
Posted by Bloated Jesus is Bloated on February 20, 2014 at 12:54 PM · Report this
23
@20 Yeah, college gets sold as "an investment in yourself" when really it is, often, a fun thing to do if you can afford it.
Posted by Ken Mehlman on February 20, 2014 at 12:58 PM · Report this
thelyamhound 24
Your rosy scenario where people study art history and then go off and settle for crappy corporate jobs that have nothing to do with art history is not all that wonderful.
Life, viewed outside of the peak moments, is generally not wonderful; one can generally, at best, maximize peak moments to balance out the arduous, thankless chore it generally is for most people most of the time. And, in fact, the scenario you describe is pretty much what we have now. What interests me is ensuring that those crappy corporate jobs are ready to take on art history majors, a good many of whom would no more resent those crappy corporate jobs than they would a job in, say, engineering or the hard sciences (there will be exceptions, of course, but my guess is that many of them are already following dual career trajectories anyway).

There's another useful discussion to be had about ensuring that those crappy corporate jobs pay a living wage and offer leave policies that make continued pursuit of cultural interests possible, so we don't end up living in the Houston-ized reality that Ken Mehlman favors. I'm just not sure it's more than tangentially related to the topic at hand.
And it's rather dishonest to encourage young people to follow their passion knowing they're going to have to chuck it all for a paycheck.
I don't think they necessarily have to "chuck it"; they just can't assume that it's going to lead them to a paid vocation. All of us who work in the arts have to renew that understanding with ourselves pretty much daily.
Posted by thelyamhound http://thebayinghound.blogspot.com on February 20, 2014 at 2:53 PM · Report this
25
@23 Or a thing that you pretty much have to do in order to get anywhere in our society so you might as well enjoy it while you're there.
But yes, it is crazy expensive. So much so that hardly anyone can really "afford it" without taking on a lot of debt.
Posted by chi_type on February 20, 2014 at 3:11 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 26
@24

And Obama apologizing for saying that some technical jobs make more money than art history majors does what to ensure corporations hire art history majors? Obama told the truth and then caved, which has zero to do with whatever your agenda is.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn http://youtu.be/zu-akdyxpUc on February 20, 2014 at 3:39 PM · Report this
27
@25 Most jobs that pay well require some kind of post secondary education. That doesn't mean you have to have a four year degree. As the President recently observed, skilled tradesmen often out earn college grads. Also vocational certificates and technical degrees take a lot less time and cost a lot less than a four year degree. In today's economy job training is a necessity but a liberal arts education is a luxury.
Posted by Ken Mehlman on February 20, 2014 at 3:49 PM · Report this
28
If you're saying that there should be more less-expensive vocational options in the future, then I agree.
But from where I'm sitting a 4-year degree is standard, not a luxury. And a liberal arts degree is not a waste of money, it's just one way of achieving that standard.
Posted by chi_type on February 20, 2014 at 3:58 PM · Report this
29
@28 I don't think a liberal arts degree is necessarily a waste of money. My mother has a BA in art history. Her education has never helped her make money but she has treasured the college experience throughout her life and she wouldn't trade it for anything. I don't think the professional opportunities available to a person w/ a BA in art history, or social psychology, or whatever are good enough to justify the time and expense necessary to obtain that type of degree, but getting a job isn't the only reason people go to college.

Why do you see a 4-year degree as 'standard?'
Posted by Ken Mehlman on February 20, 2014 at 4:34 PM · Report this
30
@29 It just seems to me that it's listed as a minimum requirement for most professional middle class jobs. But I could be wrong as I haven't job hunted seriously in years.
Sadly, in my field, a Master's is becoming a minimum requirement.
Posted by chi_type on February 20, 2014 at 5:17 PM · Report this
31
@30 What is your field?
Posted by Ken Mehlman on February 20, 2014 at 5:25 PM · Report this
32
@31 I'm a librarian. Crazily enough, most major library systems require an MLS for that these days. But hey, I guess I get more use out of my English Lit BA than our theoretical corporate drone art history major!
Posted by chi_type on February 20, 2014 at 5:48 PM · Report this
thelyamhound 33
@26 - I'll probably regret posting, because you strike me, in general, as being a decent and thoughtful sort, while, conversely, it seems to me that you're being unduly pissy here, but ...

To my eye, Obama made a true statement that offered fertile soil for inference. Happens all the time--I say something true, it occurs to me that it could be taken to mean something other than what I meant by it, and I "apologize" for what it seemed to be implying.

This apology sounds like one of those. It's something decent people do when they realize that the things they say, even the true things they say, can be interpreted in ways with which they'd rather not be associated.

I studied the arts because that is where my gifts lie; I'd have been a terrible doctor or engineer. My second career as a personal trainer doesn't require a degree. I feel confident that I will have offered as many people benefit in the course of any month as any doctor or engineer, so I feel more or less fine (if generally pretty broke) about that choice.

The questions you bring up, without actually bringing them up, are the interesting ones: Why should going to college lead to a lifetime of debt, for someone poor or for anyone else? Why do jobs that really shouldn't require degrees currently require degrees (even if Ken doesn't seem to realize they do)? Why do librarians need a Master's (per 32)? At what point does the level of specialization demanded keep humans from meeting human needs?
Posted by thelyamhound http://thebayinghound.blogspot.com on February 21, 2014 at 12:39 PM · Report this
34
@33 Does one need a 4 year degree to become a personal trainer?
Posted by Ken Mehlman on February 21, 2014 at 2:56 PM · Report this

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