Focus On Faculty & Staff

Degrees that work ... and think

The kickoff presentation for Pennsylvania College of Technology’s Centennial, a presentation meant to highlight our “degrees that work” motto, turned out to be frustratingly unsupportive of the academic wherewithal of the institution. The keynote speaker, actor John Ratzenberger, was probably selected, at least in part, because of his advocacy for American jobs. His long-running television program called “Made in America,” a show that touted home-grown manufacturing, ostensibly exemplified the sort of businesses that would put our degree holders to work, thus suggesting he would be a perfect fit as an opening act for Penn College’s year of celebration.

We are “a national leader in applied technology education” because we are more than just a trade school – we are Pennsylvania College of Technology.

Unfortunately, Mr. Ratzenberger’s comments focused solely on the “Technology” part of our name, ignoring the “College” part. In doing so, he did a disservice to those who sponsored his appearance in Williamsport.

Pennsylvania College of Technology is a college that offers some certificates, but the vast majority of our graduates leave with either an associate degree or a bachelor’s degree. That means, in addition to studying the basics of their individual career fields – the tools they’ll need to gain entry-level access to their life’s work – they are also studying a general core of courses common to any college degree – the tools they’ll typically need to advance beyond the entry level of their professions.

Yet it is not the mistaken message in Mr. Ratzenberger’s remarks, but rather the anti-intellectual tone of those remarks, that is really bothersome to many of us who teach here. His very pointed suggestion that all that matters in an education involves the wielding of a hammer (to use his repeated image) denigrates the idea of an educated – and not merely trained – workforce, an idea at the foundation of American industrial (not to mention civic) strength.

A student plies his craft in welidng. Photo by Larry D. Kauffman

Several times during his presentation, Mr. Ratzenberger described his own work history: as a young man, before his acting career took off, he spent time in construction, as a carpenter. He belittled the “educated” people around him during those early days. Yet he never deigned to mention the importance to his adult career, his work as an actor, of his English studies as an undergraduate at Sacred Heart University. For a man earning his living in the arts to denigrate his study of the humanities is sheer hypocrisy.

The anti-intellectual message Mr. Ratzenberger propounded during his presentation was a disservice to the faculty, staff, and – especially – students of Penn College. We are “a national leader in applied technology education” because we are more than just a trade school – we are Pennsylvania College of Technology.

Lawrence Beaston
Assistant professor of English, Ph.D.

D. Robert Cooley
Assistant professor of environmental science and anthropology, Ph.D.

Mark D. Noe
Professor of English, Ph.D.

David Richards
Professor of physics, Ph.D.

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