The recommendation to the UNC Board of Governors to close UNC-Chapel Hill’s Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity represents an appalling misunderstanding of the role of higher education in a democracy. The recommendation places them in a long line of leaders who try to repress the role of education in raising important questions about issues of justice and the extent to which our society ensures the dignity and well-being of all of the residents in our state.
We live in a society in which there are unconscionable levels of hunger, homelessness, lack of access to decent medical care and quality education; a state in which one quarter of our children are growing up in poverty. And one in which serious questions must be posed as to who is really benefiting and who is losing in the current economy.
These board members are in good company with many of those in authority around the world who favor an education that makes no waves, never questions the decisions of government and does not encourage a new generation to think critically about the kind of society in which they live.
From Jefferson on, Americans have understood that education is about more than providing “marketable skills.” Without civic literacy and the courage to question power that only our educational institutions can nurture and encourage, democracy withers. We should fear that this is the direction the current board wishes to take us.