by Craig Klugman, Ph.D.
I couldn’t believe it when GOP Presidential Candidate Marco Rubio said that “we need more welders and less philosophers” during the November 10 GOP Presidential Candidate debates. As someone who is employed in an area of applied philosophy, I certainly found this offensive. As a bioethicist I work to help people think more and I hope that I have a positive influence on the world. Such statements are a continued attack on academia and the intellectual professions. North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory proposed that philosophy majors should not be eligible for federal funds.. In 2011, Florida Governor Rick Scott was out to end anthropology as a major in his state. This despite the fact that many executives are philosophy majors. Ironically, Rubio himself was a political science major; Carly Fiorina graduate with a degree in medieval history and philosophy; and Jeb Bush’s undergraduate degree is in Latin.
The presumption behind these comments is that higher education is job training. It is not. Education is about bettering the self, learning to think, and learning to critically analyze facts, studies, and debate. Perhaps that’s the reason that some people are against it. They want to “modernize higher education” (according to Rubio) which seems to be the mantra for faster and cheaper education—creating workers and not citizens.
Rubio stated that people need to be funneled away from higher education and toward technical learning because “welders make more money than philosophers.” To accept this concept means that one must accept that wealth is the “good”—the end of all action—not eudemonia, not utility, not virtue, just this notion of wealth.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.