Gov. Pat McCrory raised a ruckus by suggesting yesterday that state colleges should shift away from academic studies "that have no chance of getting people jobs." This, as the classic quip has it, is a political gaffe — saying an unpalatable truth out loud.
There are way too many college students taking classes that won't help them get jobs. Heck, some of them will make it harder to get jobs.
I know what I'm talking about. I majored in philosophy. I graduated and scanned all the want ads. None had openings for philosophers.
I then went to graduate school in journalism. Only to philosophy majors does a career in journalism sound practical. Anyway, it did lead to a career of sorts. Many would say that I now work for the Civitas Institute is proof that it was a poor career choice, but I digress.
I at least studied in the halcyon days when American prosperty seemed eternal. Those days have gone the way of Nehru jackets and disco. We live in a different time. College costs are brutal. Job competition is fierce. It's a disservice to pretend that students should spend four years of their lives, and much more of their money, plus taxpayers' money, on studies that have little practical application.
The News and Observer printed an interesting chart of the top majors of recent grads at UNC-Chapel Hill. Here's the number two major: Journalism and Mass Communication; the number of students: 1,054.
There may not be that many journalism jobs opening up every year in the whole USA. And a lot of those jobs are going to go "poof!" as the digital revolution tears apart the media industry.
Spend taxpayers' money on those programs? There should be a fraud investigation of all the journalism departments that offer the illusion that they are preparing students for jobs — unless waiting on tables counts.
Then there are the 715 majors in Communications Studies, which sounds even less useful.
BTW, here's how you do journalism: Go down to the police station and ask the sergeant on duty, "Did anything interesting happen today?" That's journalism. If you really want to go to town, a few weeks of study can give anyone all the journalism skills he or she needs.
Finally, most of today's teenagers know more about modern communications than most of the professors know anyway. It's the kids who should be giving the courses.
And that's just one field. Look at the N&O chart. UNC-Chapel Hill had nearly as many exercise and sports science majors as journalism majors. I find it hard to believe there's that big a demand for trainers and gym teachers. Ditto for much else.
That's just the truth, like it or not, about today's world.
And NC's budget. The state may not be drowning in red ink. But if you give state money so a student can major in an esoteric field, you are taking money needed for roads, for police, for taking care of the truly poor and ill. It's a zero-sum game now. The governor just acknowledged it.