Monday, October 29, 2012

STEM Politicians Showing Themselves Penny Wise But Pound Foolish

Because Republican governors borrow bad ideas so frequently, this Florida news item frightens:
Highly distinguished universities, such as the University of Florida and Florida State University, could charge more than others. Tuition would be lower for students pursuing degrees most needed for Florida's job market, including ones in science, technology, engineering and math, collectively known as the STEM fields.

The committee is recommending no tuition increases for them in the next three years.

But to pay for that, students in fields such as psychology, political science, anthropology, and performing arts could pay more because they have fewer job prospects in the state.
Dan Luzer points out that the plan makes little economic sense:
. . . .Florida’s economy is largely based on international trade, tourism, and agriculture.
It’s unclear how this proposed policy change would help Florida’s actual citizens. The chief benefit seems to be allowing colleges to raise money without the legislature appropriating additional funds. That might be fiscally useful in the short term, but it fails to address the long-term problem with the state’s public higher education: the state isn’t providing the institutions with the money they need to continue operating.

It also seems puzzling to charge more for people who want to major in psychology, political science, anthropology, and the performing arts. Those classes are, in general, actually cheaper for a university to teach and administer than classes in sciences, engineering, and technology, which generally require expensive materials and laboratories.
I know that English majors are a pesky lot. Some may be free thinkers, or, God forfend, atheists. Even the liberal arts majors who are atheists, however, spend their lives trying to live out a Biblical injunction from Philippians 4:8:
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
I haven't seen anyone engineer virtue or honesty. The mathematical formula for beauty hasn't been developed.  In my cynical nature, I wonder if the STEM folks just want to get revenge on Walt Whitman for this poem:

When I heard the learn'd astronomer;
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them;
When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;
Till rising and gliding out, I wander'd off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look'd up in perfect silence at the stars.

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