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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Board of Regents nominee wrong to put economics over education

    In my two years covering the Arizona Board of Regents for the Daily Wildcat, I’ve learned one thing above all else: You can’t separate education from politics in Arizona — partly because nobody seems to genuinely want to.

    Take Greg Patterson, a former Republican state representative and current blogger at Espresso Pundit. He is Gov. Jan Brewer’s nominee to fill an open position on the Arizona Board of Regents.

    Patterson has come under fire by some at the capitol because of his views on higher education that he has repeatedly and publicly declared on his blog. In the past, Patterson has questioned the value of some degrees, particularly those in the social sciences such as sociology, psychology, history and journalism.

    Patterson falls into the same regrettable rut that seems to have captured so many of Arizona’s legislators. He fails to see that sometimes the point of higher education is to, well, get educated. Colleges and universities are not meant to be some kind of academic assembly line constantly churning out slighty-more-educated-than-average individuals to work in the middle management salt mines. They’re meant to be places that push the paradigm of critical thinking. Sure, not all of us can be biochemists or engineers, but we can all better ourselves by learning how to think in different ways and challenging the people around us to do the same. You know, if we can afford it.

    Patterson has raised solid points about the cost-to-benefit ratio of a college degree. It’s true that those students who waste away trying to learn something unmarketable like teaching are at a significant economic disadvantage to their peers. Maybe it doesn’t behoove someone to incur tens of thousands of dollars in debt to pursue a career path that will never pay them more than a pittance.

    But maybe that’s not the universities’ problem. Maybe it’s the fault of a Legislature that is far more interested in the bottom line than what happens down the line, when any of the scholastic stalwarts that could have offered benefit to this stagnating state have gone to greener and more supportive pastures. Maybe it should be a priority for a state to offer its populace access to education that is as affordable as possible, like the Arizona Constitution says it should. Then, who knows? Perhaps someone could graduate from college with an average of $18,545 in loan debt, like Arizona students did according to a 2011 report from the Project on Student Debt.

    But in order to bring this rosy picture into focus, Arizona’s universities need someone on the board of regents who is willing to stand up in the face of continued pressure from the Legislature. That someone is not a person who places the economic value of an education over its intrinsic value.

    Appointing someone who has repeatedly questioned the value of higher education to a board that oversees the administration of higher education for an entire state is like appointing a Scientologist to the American Board of Psychiatry. It’s shortsighted at best and asinine at worst.

    — Luke Money is the editor in chief. He can be reached at or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions .

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