Sunday, March 13, 2011 | 3:03 a.m.
Regarding the Las Vegas Sun’s story Thursday on its website, “Higher ed contemplates fallout of financial exigency”:
There seem to be some fundamental misconceptions about the roles of government, education and business held by some in this state and elsewhere that need to be clarified. Government is, as stated in the Gettysburg Address, “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” The primary role of our democratically elected government is to serve the people’s interest and create/encourage the conditions for commerce to flourish. Businesses have, as their primary aim, the maximization of profit for their shareholders rather than the good of the customers they serve — that’s the role of government.
Thus, government has established regulatory bodies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and the Environmental Protection Agency (among others) with the aim of protecting U.S. citizens from potential threats to their livelihood.
Though many view education as a business, it is in reality far more important as the guarantor of our nation’s democracy, which requires an educated citizenry to properly function and also as a creative engine (via research) to foment the innovation and expansion of our economy.
When treated merely as a business, educational excellence will suffer as the view that degrees are paid for instead of earned will be prevalent and creative efforts will be thwarted by an obsession with the short-term “bottom line” instead of recognizing that supporting research is more often than not a long-term investment in our country’s future.
It’s high time for our leaders to recognize that education is far too important for our nation’s future to treat as a for-profit business.
The writer is a physics professor at UNLV.