President’s Quip About Art History Pricks Some Ears






Art history caught some unwelcome attention from President Obama in a speech on Thursday emphasizing the need for job training. To reinforce his point that manufacturing jobs pay off, Mr. Obama said that young people who train for them could outearn art-history majors.

The remark drew laughter from the president’s audience in Wisconsin. But some in higher education felt slighted, even though Mr. Obama quickly added in his speech that there is “nothing wrong with an art-history degree” (trying to ward off “a bunch of emails”).

Linda A. Downs, executive director and chief executive of the College Art Association, a professional group that includes art historians and artists who teach at colleges, shared her reaction with The Chronicle. What follows is an edited transcript of that conversation.

Q. What was your initial reaction to the president’s comments?

A. I was very disappointed. I watched the entire State of the Union, and I’m continually disappointed at his lack of attention to higher-education issues. I know that he has to put people back into jobs, and he is very concerned about elementary education, and now he is talking about getting more middle-class kids into college, but he shouldn’t be doing it to the denigration of the humanities....



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