SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

November 4, 2013

Column: A look at what others are saying


The Salem News

---- — Once upon a time, there was little debate about what made up a complete education.

A well-educated person should have read Homer, Virgil, Chaucer and Shakespeare. She should also know something about Caesar, Charlemagne, Peter the Great and Napoleon. She should understand Newton, Darwin, Freud and Einstein, speak a second language, appreciate Beethoven and Matisse, be able to find the standard deviation and, most importantly, write about it all.

The story is told differently today: A college education costs a fortune, and it better translate into a good job and a higher income. The liberal arts are seen as a luxury for the rich, while those serious about their futures are advised to head to the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and mathematics — if they want to have a place in the middle class.

The following are excerpts from editorials in other newspapers across New England:

Public colleges and universities are under constant pressure to produce graduates with the right skills to find work right away — though the definition of the “right skills” keeps changing.

It’s about time to bring things back into balance, and a report from the American Academy of Arts and Sciences does just that. “The Heart of the Matter: The Humanities and Social Sciences for a Vibrant, Competitive and Secure Nation” makes the case that the critical thinking and communication skills that are developed in the liberal arts serve graduates well when dealing with a rapidly changing world. Being able to think creatively, communicate and use good judgment are exactly the skills employers want new employees to bring with them on the first day on the job.

That’s not to say that everyone should be an art history major or that the university should be teaching the same books the same way as was done 100 years ago. We are in the middle of an information revolution that has affected every aspect of communication, and it makes sense that the way we teach about history or literature should be affected by that change.

The public institutions of higher education are under intense pressure to respond to the marketplace. The ongoing efforts by UMaine and the Academy of Arts and Sciences show that a liberal arts education is one of the best ways to do that.

— The Portland (Maine) Press Herald

What took so long? In Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, former Democratic Party chairman under President Bill Clinton and the Democratic nominee for governor, is running against a strong tea party advocate, Ken Cuccinelli.

The race was predicted to be close. In spite of exposure of both candidates’ past problems, recent polls show the race becoming one-sided in favor of McAuliffe. He has surged to a substantial lead, to the consternation of those Republicans who, echoing the tea party program, preached that only a right-wing candidate can win elections.

The gubernatorial race in the home state of Eric Cantor — a House Republican leader whose obduracy against Obamacare led to the federal shutdown and a dismal drop for his party in national popularity polls — may turn out to be the second recent resounding defeat of a Republican candidate chosen by the party’s right wing.

Cory Booker, a New Jersey Democrat, easily beat his tea party-endorsed Republican opponent in that state’s Senate race. Now Virginia, a swing state, seems likely to elect a Democrat over another tea party Republican.

The reluctance of some Democratic bigwigs to get involved in this race when it was a toss-up has changed. Hillary Clinton not only resoundingly re-endorsed her friend McAuliffe but made a fundraising appearance on his behalf last week.

If it is at all possible, you can be sure of the Clintons being on the side of the projected winner.

In the meantime, we do not see many national proponents of the tea party position rushing to Virginia to help their acolyte Cuccinelli. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and his cohorts are too busy telling us that they — and only they — are doing the right thing for their country, and those of us who do not agree with them are leading our country to ruin.

If Cruz tries to sell his program outside Texas and the other deep South states that support him, he may be one of the best assets the Democrats have.

Cruz has a number of years before he is a candidate for re-election. By that time, Texas may have changed just enough to find Cruz battling for his job.

— The Journal Inquirer of Manchester, Conn.