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The Senate Immigration Reform and My Case for Humanities and the Arts

04.30.10

Apparently amid all of this Arizona immigration law controversy, Senate Democrats in Washington have actually released an immigration reform plan.  It seems extraordinarily unlikely that this will go anywhere in 2010 since this is an election year and nothing is more polarizing than tackling immigration.  (Except maybe health care reform.)

You can download the REPAIR (Real Enforcement with Practical Answers for Immigration Reform) proposal here.  (I wonder how long it took them to come up with that acronym and I wonder how excited they were when they finally made it work.)

I haven’t had a chance to study this 26-page document but I stumbled upon this excerpt that caught my eye, which shot me off into a completely different topic entirely but one still worth talking about:

This proposal will reform America’s high-skilled immigration system to permanently attract the world’s best and brightest while preventing the loss of American jobs to temporary foreign labor contractors. At the moment, high-skilled workers are prevented from emigrating to the Unites States due to restrictive caps on their entry. In order to accomplish this goal, a green card will be immediately available to foreign students with an advanced degree from a United States institution of higher education in a field of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics, and who possess an offer of employment from a United States employer in a field related to their degree. Foreign students will be permitted to enter the United States with immigrant intent if they are a bona fide student so long as they pursue a full course of study at an institution of higher education in a field of science, technology, engineering or mathematics. To address the fact that workers from some countries face unreasonably long backlogs that have no responsiveness to America’s economic needs, this proposal eliminates the per-country employment immigration caps.

My emphasis.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand the real-world necessity of having the best and brightest minds in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics here in the States working for American companies.  Our ability to compete with China, Russia, and India depends on it.  But, I have to say that the total lack of respect and throwaway mentality that is associated with the arts is appalling and depressing.

Upon telling inquirers that I was studying film in college, I couldn’t count how many times they would respond disdainfully with: “Well, what are you gonna do with that?”  As if learning about dozens of cultures all over the world through over one hundred years of celluloid art was a preposterous waste of time, money, and energy.  The change from excitedly curious to holier-than-thou tones in their voice still hasn’t escaped me to this day.  And I know that I still feel slightly ashamed that I haven’t become a successful filmmaker only because it would truly spite those people and their ignorant disapproval — and another part of me is slightly ashamed to admit that.

I have to think that our society wouldn’t be dealing with some of our current woes were we not so dismissive of the studies of humanities and the arts.  We need English majors.  We need Philosophy majors.  We need Sociology majors.  We need Fine Arts majors.  We need Comparative Literature majors.  We need History majors.  We need Psychology majors.  We need Photography majors.  These studies matter.  These studies provide value.

Perhaps they’re not the sexiest of degrees, nor do they promise immediate paydays upon graduation.  Admittedly, many of them don’t even guarantee employment in their respective fields once those students enter the workforce.  But what these studies and those who study them provide to our society and culture can be measured in countless other ways.  Not everything worthwhile in this world can be calculated by how much you bring home each paycheck.

If everyone became an engineer, who would actually assemble the product?  Who would interview the designers for the newspaper article that brings them attention and acclaim?  Who would film the inaugural release of that innovative creation, showing the whole world their success?  Who would turn that amazing story into a bestselling book and subsequently (less) amazing movie?  Who then would catalog these historical documents and relics so that this feat can be remembered forever?

(H/T The Daily Dish)
Photo courtesy of MLibrary

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4 comments

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  3. I couldn’t agree with you more! Education and training in the arts is critical. As a theater arts and history major, I got the same attitude from people as you described. In college and as a teaching assistant, I hated how students considered liberal arts courses as throw-away or easy classes. I think this is something that is started early on in education with the standardized testing in our schools. Too often, the passions of young children are stymied by emphasis on producing test results so that teachers aren’t fired and schools aren’t closed. What results is a highly disengaged and disgruntled workforce. People need to learn how to contextualize and deconstruct the world around them. Otherwise, we get get bills like S.B. 1070 :-/


    • I’m glad you brought up the issue of test results. Again, the focus on the numbers only. All of the focus then goes on teaching for the test, rather than teaching the material. I suppose if the test was a true account of knowing the material, that would work… but otherwise students simply study for the test, not to comprehensively know the content.



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