Saturday, June 7, 2014

Daugaard Dishes Out Practical Advice To Girl's Staters. But Why Should They Take It?

          I wasn't as chagrined as a lot of folks upon learning that SD Governor Dennis Daugaard spoke to this year's gathering at Girls Sate in Sioux Falls and gave them a lecture about their educational aspirations.  He laid out the practical consequences of pursuing some degrees and forsaking others, putting it thusly:  “I’m not saying you shouldn’t follow your dreams. If you’ve got your heart set on being a philosopher and you’re going to get a degree in philosophy, God bless you. Have at it. But know that at the end of that ... four-year road, it’s very difficult to get a job. While there are many good degrees, there are many others that lead to virtually no opportunities."  Further along in the speech, Daugaard noted, “In South Dakota particularly, the demands that we’re seeing are in the sciences, engineering, information technology, accounting, the health fields and in the skilled trades, machining, welding, construction trades, manufacturing trades.” Cory Heidelberger's outstanding blog Madville Times has a spirited discussion about the event, the speech, and Daugaard's disregard for a humanities/liberal arts-based university education.  
     I'm not crazy about the way the Governor disdained the practical value of a liberal arts curriculum leading to a future of "virtually no opportunities." I've seen different and I know better.  Just the same, I'll cut him some slack.  Daugaard was offering some fact-based advice to a block of some of South Dakota's most outstanding young women and, at the same time, addressing the pressing need for skilled workers and professionals in South Dakota's labor market.  Last January Daugaard noted during the legislative session that developing South Dakota's labor force would be a top priority this year.  He has already embarked on a series of "workforce summits" around the state, where he's been engaging local business and civic leaders in meetings meant to produce ideas on how expand our state's skilled labor pool. 
     This talk to the young women at Girl's State meshes with the Governor's overall plan to get a more technically proficient population of workers in South Dakota.  It makes sense, up to a point--the point being, what is the Governor doing about making South Dakota an attractive enough state in which to secure the services and lifelong commitments of these highly prized workers?  Daugaard seems to think that South Dakota, in its present cultural and economic condition, is a self-selling entity that has enough innate attractions to entice these future technicians and highly skilled professionals to want to stay here in the first place.  On that score, I think the Governor is kidding himself.
     If Daugaard wants to sell these young women on educating themselves  and remaining in South Dakota to pursue their careers, he has to give them reasons why they should do so.  That demand for them exists doesn't make the sale.  There's equal demand for them everywhere.  Actually, given pay differentials between South Dakota and our surrounding states, demand for them elsewhere is greater than it is here in SD.  Meantime, these Girl's Staters are being asked by Daugaard to contemplate rearing their future children in a state with the lowest paid teachers in the United States.  On a performance scale, South Dakota's public schools ranked dead last in Education Week's survey of American schools in 2013.  Daugaard is trying to get the probably sizable group of soon-to-be young moms in the audience interested in furthering their vocational skills, no doubt hoping they'll stay in SD, while ignoring the fact that their home state is a not-very-impressive venue for rearing their children.
     Good luck with that, Governor.  

10 comments:

  1. Excellent critique John. I understand the need for the governor to push the sciences and technical aspects of education. However not all students are cut out for those careers and may not share Daugaard's dream of an industrial state.
    What the governor offered was actually a reason for young people that have other interests to leave the state and that is what many are doing, often in droves.
    A leader's message should always be "be the best at what you choose to do", but consider this.........

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  2. Good point, Roger. In effect, Daugaard was telling the young women with liberal arts aspirations that he, and by extension the State of South Dakota, don't place much value on their chosen education path.

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  3. Well put, John! While younger people would certainly be impressed by a governor encouraging me to enter a certain profession and work in this state, the dealmaker for many of them will likely be actual employers offering them top wages. Has Dennis Daugaard ever said to any employer, "Offer higher salaries"?

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  4. Thought provoking post as always.

    I am cynical about every word that comes out of Daugaard's mouth. In this case I believe he chose to demean philosophy so South Dakota students wouldn't be reminded of Immanuel Kan's injunction that people are to be seen as an ends unto themselves not a means to an end. Daugaard's words and actions have me convinced that he sees people as a means to enrich his contributors and inner circle.

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    1. If an Immanuel Kant were to surface in South Dakota these days, Governor Daugaard, consistent with the speech he just made, would invoke God's blessing on him and remind him that "it's very difficult to get a job" with that Philosophy degree "that leads to virtually no opportunities." I'd say Daugaard's discussion on this matter merits "A Critique of Pure Buncum."

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  5. While I understand the frustration with the Governor's comments, there's something to be said that college is used not only to educate yourself on a wide variety of subjects, but also to become employable. With a daughter in college, I am horrified by the number of her peers who are graduating with "unemployable" degrees and $100K debt. Graduating with a degree in philosophy is a great in theory, but you spent $100,000 to read about Plato. That's just silly. And encouraging more young girls to go the STEM route is always a good idea.

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    1. No argument with your point, 3500Mom, just feel that Daugaard came up short in his remarks. If his hope/intention is that these young women will be preparing themselves to enter the SD workforce, where he has repeatedly claimed their skills are badly needed, he fails to make the case that South Dakota will be the place where they want to spend their lives and raise their families.

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  6. And here is another reason young women may not want to stay in SD:

    http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/states-longest-shortest-sex-article-1.1621369

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  7. John, I think that you make your best point in the way DD and the State of SD value our teachers, which to me says what he and we as a State think of education. If we don't value education any better than to pay our teachers 10k below the next lowest paid state for teachers, then we also don't value our children and by extension we don't value our citizens.

    Additionally while we have expanded immensely the healthcare capabilities within the borders of our State, we still leave over 5% of our population with only emergency room access to that healthcare, which in turn cost all of us more in the long run.

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  8. The big problem with Daugaard's comment is that it is something girls need to hear in grade, middle, and high school letting them know that STEM is something they can handle and contribute to society in those jobs. Some planning on course curriculum in K-12 is necessary. There is philosophy of science as well, and that probably suggests that using science and math to check on reality makes more sense than relying on religious and social mythology.

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