Interpretive political dance

Gov. Bevin, you know we appreciate good satire at LEO, but the fact is: Nobody majors in interpretive dance.

And while we’re talking facts, it’s ironic that you demean dancers, using them as an example of worthless college graduates who can’t get jobs. According to the Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics, 61 percent of arts and humanities majors were employed their first year out of college… in Kentucky! That compares to only 54 percent of (your precious) science-technology-engineering-math majors.

Governor, please don’t cancel liberal arts courses — how else will we learn the critical thinking skills needed to call you on your bullshit?

By now, everyone pretty well knows, Gov. Matt Bevin doesn’t think highly of our public school systems and teachers. He recently exhorted public college presidents and boards to eliminate courses that do not lead to high-salary, in-demand jobs — anything “that’s not an asset of any value, that’s not helping to produce that 21st century educated workforce,” he said. He mocked students studying “interpretive dance” as an example of these wasted resources — criticisms he’s made in the past of French literature courses.

He noted that his proposal would be considered by some as “sacrilege.”

It is not wrong to suggest programs should be cut. Presidents of Kentucky’s public colleges have already been forced into doing just that, thanks to years of budget cuts. Universities and community colleges reported in September 2016 they had cut 980 positions and 56 programs because of recent budget cuts, according to The Kentucky Center for Economic Policies.

The same report shows that, since 2002, public funding of post-secondary institutions has decreased to 44 percent from over 70 percent. And who has made up the difference? The students — some who even studied theater and dance.

What universities haven’t done is eliminate entire programs because you, a man who majored in East Asian studies, told them these fields provide no value in the 21st century workforce.

No, governor, what you propose is not sacrilege… it’s arrogant.

For you to tell educators what programs are of value is some kind of goman’na — Japanese for “arrogant” (Mr. East Asian studies apparently speaks Japanese). So, unless you want to tell us how the universities in East Asia do things… stay in your lane, governor.

But for Bevin, it’s never been about solving the pension problem, or shoring up the budget… it’s about earning his conservative stripes. Simply, it’s been about him, and his ambitions. After two years under his reign, it’s clear that Bevin is little more than a narcissist. A man willing to publicly shame teachers, and attack anyone who challenges his authority — including journalists, judges and constituents. He demonstrates a stubborn unwillingness to listen to others, to reason or dissent. He has proven remarkably adept at creating red herrings and false narratives — like interpretive dancers and dishonest reporters.

He revels in the enthusiastic social media praise of the 16 percent of voters who elected him, and blocks his critics. But government-by-praise doesn’t improve the quality of life for Kentuckians.

We know that we have to grow our way back to fiscal health. Bevin and I agree, there simply isn’t enough to cut that would solve our budget and pension problems. But when cutting leads to removing fundamental social services, you create a state that becomes unpalatable. You may save money in the short run, but you’re going to lose people looking for better schools, safer streets and cleaner air.

Education has proven to be one of the best investments government can make. For instance, the 2016-17 UK budget points out that the school’s “$3.5 billion academic, research, health care, and service enterprise returns to the state more than 12 times its annual investment.”

Even a former hedge fund manager, like Bevin, can’t ignore that kind of return.

If Kentucky colleges keep cutting programs, high school graduates will look to other states. They will take their tuition elsewhere, and they will graduate from other states’ universities, where they will start their careers, buy their first homes and raise their families.

If we follow Bevin’s plans, people will not move to or stay in Kentucky. We will not grow. It will be sayonara, Kentucky.