The Philosophy Behind Cutting Out Philosophy

Posted by | April 8, 2011 02:46 | Filed under: Top Stories

by Stuart Shapiro

Higher education is on the chopping block along with everything else in this time of budgetary stress.  Few state universities, however, seem to be going as far as the University of Nevada Las Vegas:

The dean informed me that he was very sorry but, barring an unlikely immediate solution to the state’s financial crisis, the university had decided to eliminate the Philosophy Department, which I chair. In July, I would be given a one-year terminal contract. After that, the university would fire me, along with all of my departmental colleagues, after twenty years of service.

Now, I am all for accountability at public institutions of higher education.  However, that accountability must consider the difficulty in measuring things like the value of a philosophy department.  Going back to Socrates, philosophy has been a critical aspect of higher education.  Getting rid of it cuts at the core of what most of us see as a central mission of higher education, preparing students to be informed and thoughtful adults.  If the only important mission is preparing students for jobs, then get rid of philosophy; but don’t call it higher education or college, call it trade school.

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Copyright 2011 Liberaland
By: Stuart Shapiro

Stuart is a professor and the Director of the Public Policy
program at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers
University. He teaches economics and cost-benefit analysis and studies
regulation in the United States at both the federal and state levels.
Prior to coming to Rutgers, Stuart worked for five years at the Office
of Management and Budget in Washington under Presidents Clinton and
George W. Bush.

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