Florida Gulf Coast U. May Lose Philosophy


Florida governor Rick Scott and the Florida board of governors, is calling for universities in the state to “examine their academic offerings, seeing if they can cut smaller, costly programs or those generating graduates with low job prospects and earning potential,” a committee at Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) has answered the call, proposing for elimination two master’s programs and eight bachelor’s programs, including the philosophy program.

News-Press.com reports:

Glenn Whitehouse, associate dean and interim chair of the Department of Communication and Philosophy, last week presented the committee data showing better SAT scores and improvement during college in critical thinking, problem solving and communication by arts and humanities students than those in professional degree programs. “The fact is that liberal arts and professional students have almost identical earnings over the course of a career,” Whitehouse told The News-Press. “Employers want not only job skills but those transferable skills. “They’re really part of a university education,” Whitehouse said of liberal arts programs. “They really do offer students viable paths to careers.”

Meanwhile, the university committee that made the recommendation to cut philosophy “is looking for more information on graduates’ job prospects, salaries and other information in making its review.” Recall the figures presented here by Robert Stufflebeam from the University of New Orleans. I imagine that the philosophy faculty at FGCU (there appear to be seven of them) would appreciate pointers to other relevant data and arguments for the value of philosophy.

(via Timothy Hsiao)

guest
10 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Anonymous Undergrad
Anonymous Undergrad
5 years ago

Let’s be honest, nobody pursues a philosophy education with the goal of becoming affluent. Myself and I assume most others (as much as I hate to speak for other people) pursue philosophy as a way of enriching one’s life.

Unfortunately, a discipline’s or department’s value is (by the powers that be) usually determined in terms of fiscal return on investment.

The case for the value of philosophy, I think, is to be made in terms of the value of people after their assets are removed from the equation. A hedgefund manager’s value is tied largely (if not entirely) to his economic status and impact. Sans such, the hedgefund manager seems to be of little value to society (and realistically, even their perceived value is only in relation to personal gain; i.e. any wealth they create is a byproduct of their own pursuit for wealth).

Even considering statistics showing the comparable salaries of those with humanities degrees and those with professional degrees, I suspect philosophers at FGCU will be met with brute reasoning on the part of the committee.

Philosophers may not produce wealth, but they do produce ideas and critically examine old ones. Philosophers help people cultivate and refine their worldview, and I think that has a much greater impact on the world than “creating” wealth (which, in many cases is more akin to stealing or exploiting).

Just because people do not get paid much does not entail that they (or their education) are of little value, rather, I think wealth in terms of money and assets is a distinct notion from value. The latter remains (and I think is more adequately accounted for) in lieu of having little (if anything) to offer or show in terms of money and assets.

Unfortunately, I don’t think any of this will help save the FGCU philosophy program, unless there are philosophers (or closet philosophers) in the position which makes the decision. There may even be a better chance of “corrupting the youth” legislation being subsequently drafted in the state of Florida.

/rantReport

JDRox
JDRox
5 years ago

While the main motivation of students majoring in philosophy may be to enrich their lives, philosophy is a perfectly practical degree: philosophy majors make more money than many other majors, including business majors (10 years out), and are employed at a higher rate than many other majors. There are some good resources here: https://sites.google.com/site/whystudyphilosophy/Report

Fritz McDonald
5 years ago

This sounds like an odd way to save money, if that’s the intent.

At least at my university, the philosophy profs have some of the lowest pay but the highest course enrollments. We’re cash cows.

I am wondering if the governor of Florida is cutting off his nose to spite his face here.Report

Carnap
Carnap
5 years ago

News of this depressing sort seems to be increasingly common. In light of it, I’d like to see the APA become MUCH more involved in advocating for the existence and importance of undergraduate philosophy departments. Efforts at increasing the diversity of the students and professors of philosophy are worthwhile, but the survival of the discipline as a core component of any real university seems far more significant and hence to merit more sustained attention from the leadership of the APA.Report

Ronnie Hawkins
Ronnie Hawkins
5 years ago

Philosophers could do a lot more than imparting “job skills” to their students or helping a state “grow its economy,” and their purview, as well as that of other academics, goes well beyond “enriching the lives” of individuals. They could, for example, start an intellectual discussion addressing _what sorts of “jobs” people ought to be to pursuing_–what sorts of human activities it makes sense to engage in, given our situation in the early twenty-first century, in which we are currently destabilizing the global climate as we continue to pursue the sorts of “jobs” that make up the given status quo. They could examine just what “wealth” and “money” really amount to–mathematical symbols that we all currently believe in but which would not exist at all without our collective belief system, which itself, of course, will not exist if we destabilize the biosphere that supports our lives. Since, for various reasons, few academics in other disciplines seem to be addressing such issues at a fundamental level, it seems that these land at the feet of philosophers. Unfortunately, most philosophers appear to themselves be so caught up in the collective belief system that currently reigns that they are unable–or unwilling because of fear of potential negative social feedback it might provoke–to do so. If they can’t carry out that crucial part of their job–shedding light on what we humans are doing in the big picture, and why–then perhaps they will have only themselves to blame when politicians like Rick Scott turn them out.Report

Anonymous
Anonymous
5 years ago

I agree with #1 that wealth-generation and value should not be treated as synonymous in the short-sighted way they frequently seem to be. But I disagree with #1 that nobody pursues philosophy to become affluent; I can provide specific counterexamples of students who wanted to make a lot of money, knew that their talents and interests best suited them to the study of law, and chose philosophy as the best means available of preparing them for law school. They now work for major law firms where they can expect to become part of the top ten percent of income-earners. In addition, #3/Fritz correctly observes that philosophy usually pays for itself by generating tuition in lots of lower division credit hours, while employing relatively small numbers of low-paid faculty. Institutions considering cutting or shrinking philosophy programs (such as the two we’ve seen recently in the news) otherwise claim to be committed teaching their students critical thinking and ethics – the bread and butter of philosophy instruction – so their actions make very little sense in light of their stated goals.

I can neither agree with nor emphasize enough #4’s point that the APA should be at the forefront of lobbying for the survival and flourishing of philosophy programs across the country, especially in the current environment where the obvious benefits of philosophy are so ill-understood. Even here on the Daily Nous we recently saw a thread about “responding to taxpayers” in which the defense of the profession was less than dazzling, overall. We know the wider public isn’t aware, but even administrators of universities don’t seem to be aware that philosophy programs usually easily pay for themselves in a university budget, that they provide the most direct instruction possible in the core abilities that universities claim to care most about, and that students who major in philosophy tend to have earnings comparable to or better than many other programs that nobody ever questions in terms of practical value, such as business administration or criminal justice. Facts like these should be blasted continuously from golden trumpets by our professional organization, not to mention all of us who can bend the ears of administrators, lawmakers, and others in a position to make decisions about the future of our profession.Report

Derek Bowman
Derek Bowman
5 years ago

Ronnie Hawkins says: “Since, for various reasons, few academics in other disciplines seem to be addressing such issues at a fundamental level, it seems that these land at the feet of philosophers. ”

This reasoning assumes both that academics with university jobs are the best people to address these questions, and that the category of ‘philosophers’ is to be understood primarily as a subset of that group of university employees. But why should that be assumed in the context of a discussion in which many people want to define the value of philosophy in ways that are not restricted to financial returns or career success? If philosophers really are especially well equipped to inquire about “what sorts of ‘jobs’ people ought to be to pursuing” and “what sorts of human activities it makes sense to engage in,” shouldn’t we be equally willing to address that inquiry to our own academic jobs, and to the practice of providing philosophical education only to those who can afford to enroll at the universities that employ us?Report

twbb
twbb
5 years ago

“especially in the current environment where the obvious benefits of philosophy are so ill-understood”

If the benefits are so obvious why do so many people fail to see them? And shouldn’t you differentiate between philosophy as a overall discipline and philosophy as it is practiced in 2015 by philosophy professors? Maybe there’s a way to separate out philosophy as a pursuit from philosophy as an academic discipline.Report

Ronnie Hawkins
Ronnie Hawkins
5 years ago

To Derek Bowman’s question, shouldn’t we be willing to inquire into our own jobs, and the current state of university education on many levels, including the financial status of those upon whom such a university-supplied philosophical education is bestowed, my answer is “of course”–that is, in fact the main point of my post. I must preface what I say by stating that I have recently attained the privileged position of becoming a retired scholar and thus in some ways less vulnerable to negative social pressures than many, but I would also note that I was outspoken on some of these issues even before being granted tenure, and that I have come to perceive self-censorship to be a greater factor in maintaining academic conceptual inertia than any sort of threatened administrative retribution. I do not assume that university-employed academics are necessarily the “best” people to address what I think are profoundly existential issues faced by humanity–they certainly do not have much of a track record of doing so to date–but I do think that, having been so fortunate as to receive an extensive education in a chosen subject and (one would hope) a reasonable enough proficiency in other academic disciplines to be able to conceptualize, at least in outline, the essentials of these issues, university academics have a responsibility to address them openly and honestly, both within their particular disciplinary fields and as educators of students and of the public at large. I consider philosophy to be a discipline particularly empowered to question fundamental assumptions–How are human beings to live, given that current ways of living altering the biosphere so as to make it less and less hospitable to our form of life and many others? What is this thing we call “money,” and how does belief in the symbol system surrounding this constructed conceptual “object” structure our collective activities and at the same time prevent us from seeing what our activities are doing to the real–as in physically existing, living–world? Why do we continue to identify ourselves largely as members of subgroupings of our human species and conceptualize those subgroupings predominantly in terms of competition, conflict, and often war when activities aimed at such goals are ultimately self-defeating and contribute highly to planetary climate destabilization? Surely considering such issues at a fundamental, philosophical level is not beyond the intellectual prowess of most academic philosophers, and I would submit that the dynamics of social psychology looms large behind the virtual absence of their consideration within mainstream academic philosophy. More importantly, without intelligent attention being focused upon such questions–attention coming from within or from outside of the academic community–humanity is left virtually rudderless in a time of great crisis.

If philosophy is to become relevant again, it needs to look directly at our human problems, not work so hard at ignoring them while distracting itself by churning already-plowed ground. And the need for a much more thorough examination of issues such as surround my question #2 above–what is “money” and why does this abstract conceptual system have such a hold on us?–are already at the doorstep of academic philosophers, as alluded to by Bowman above. Is philosophy something to be “taught” only to those who can afford to attend universities, and what does it mean to be able to “afford,” or “not afford,” to get an education? What is student debt, and why do we continue to believe in a conceptual system that seemingly shackles younger generations to engaging in certain predefined kinds of activities–what we call “jobs,” as defined by others–for many years of their lives, rather than utilizing the “education” they get (if it can be called such) to help address questions like my #1 and #3 above? From where I stand, our ship at sea is badly in need of rebuilding from the hull on up, and one who would presume to be a philosopher should be rising to the challenge, even if it does necessitate putting her or his own academic position in question at the same time.Report

Kenny
Kenny
5 years ago

It would not be out of character for this governor, who has spent large sums of money drug-testing welfare recipients, and used to run a corporation that made money defrauding Medicare. He’s known for tactics that sound like they might save government money but actually cost the government much more than they save.Report