Aristotle said, “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”
Sean Parnell—a politician and oil-industry public relations man who inexplicably was chosen as chancellor of the University of Alaska Anchorage despite having no background as an educator or university administrator—takes a different view. In his op-ed touting the vocational-technical opportunities available at UAA, he wrote only about training workers, with no mention of the university’s role in expanding minds and developing the intellectual rigor we need to learn from our past, understand our present and create a vision for our future. Yes, we need welders, bookkeepers, medical assistants, pastry chefs and first responders. Those are valuable and respectable roles in our community. But a university is supposed to be about more than simply training people to fill jobs. We need a chancellor who envisions not only a plentiful workforce, but a thriving society.
At a time when Mike Dunleavy’s draconian budget cuts are resulting in the firing of tenured faculty and gutting the college of arts and sciences, Parnell’s shallow sales pitch reveals how ill-prepared he is to defend UAA from ruin, or to ensure Anchorage will have the kind of rich, robust university we need to ensure a bright future for Alaska.
If our state is to thrive in the future, we must see beyond Parnell’s myopic goal of supplying a workforce. We must also educate thinkers and visionaries who will enrich our state with arts, science, improved social justice, technological innovation and so many other things that grow in the hearts and minds of well-educated and intellectually curious Alaskans.
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