Welders and Philosophers
Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio seems to have distilled his education policy during tonight’s debate. “Welders make more money than philosophers,” declared the Florida senator. “We need more welders and less philosophers.”
If Rubio is serious about education, he shouldn’t draw an artificial line between welders and philosophers. This country will not get stronger by assuming that workers who “do” don’t think…and that those who think don’t “do.”
Our next president needs to value an education system that values critical thinking as well as practicality. Workers can’t adjust to markets’ demands if they can’t reason. Neither can they find employment without practical skills.
Perhaps Rubio’s handlers can teach him a few grammar lessons (when, for instance, to use “less” and when to use “few”) while they help him generate a more sophisticated approach to education, one that doesn’t pander to the current right-wing penchant for humanities bashing. As journalist Fareed Zakaria has written in The Washington Post, Republicans seem to delight in asserting that “[a] liberal education is irrelevant, and technical training is the new path forward. It is the only way, we are told, to ensure that Americans survive in an age defined by technology and shaped by global competition. The stakes could not be higher.” At the same time, Zakaria writes, “[n]o matter how strong your math and science skills are, you still need to know how to learn, think and even write.”
Here’s to an expectation that all candidates, regardless of party affiliation, affirm students’ rights to speak, read, and write clearly. And here’s a wish for the coming year, when Americans will be choosing a new president: may candidates work for a world where philosophers get paid welders’ wages and where welders are assumed to think as nimbly as philosophers.