It’s probably for the best that Voltaire (right) isn’t here to see what’s going on in the best of states possible, i.e. Kentucky. New Republican governor Matt Bevin told reporters last week he wanted to change funding formulas for public higher education so that colleges and universities receive more money to study in fields like engineering and less for others.
“There will be more incentives for electrical engineers than for French literature students. There will simply be,” Bevin (left) told reporters, the Associated press reported. “Anyone in the world who wants to study French literature can do it, they’re just not going to be subsidized by the taxpayer.”
Bevin’s comments are similar to those of presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush, both from Florida, who questioned liberal arts majors such as philosophy and psychology, respectively.
Jeffrey N. Peters, professor of French literature at the University of Kentucky, responded to his governor’s proposal with an essay in The Lexington Herald-Leader in which he accused Bevin of trying to ask the government, not the students, to decide what to study. Additionally, Peters noted that language graduates pursue many careers, including business, in which they use the skills they learn (even if they don’t speak, for example, French) in their work. “In this time of rapid globalization, the majors in our department are learning to become full citizens of the world, both by studying abroad and by studying the great thinkers and artists of the world, ancient and modern, East and West.” , Peters wrote. “They learn to speak and write effectively both in English and in the chosen world language, and they come to understand the importance for their future working lives of thoughtful communication and confident self-presentation.”
The governor has indicated that he agrees whether private colleges offer French literature. This distinction may be relevant given that Peters highlighted the Governor’s undergraduate major at Washington and Lee University (private): Japanese and East Asian Studies.