In a speech in Wisconsin on Thursday, President Barack Obama insulted perhaps the most fervent members of his political base: art history majors.
The politically clumsy moment occurred during the president’s remarks at General Electric’s Waukesha Gas Engines facility.
After extolling his own economic policies at some length, Obama observed that “manufacturing jobs typically pay well” in the United States. “We want to encourage more of them,” he said.
Then, he began to speak — apparently extemporaneously — about the benefits of working in America’s ever-diminishing manufacturing sector.
“A lot of parents, unfortunately, maybe when they saw a lot of manufacturing being offshored, told their kids you don’t want to go into the trades, you don’t want to go into manufacturing because you’ll lose your job,” the president opined. “Well, the problem is that what happened — a lot of young people no longer see the trades and skilled manufacturing as a viable career.”
So far, so good. Then, however, Obama went on the offensive against America’s most useless major that doesn’t have the word “studies” or “gender” in it.
“But I promise you, folks can make a lot more, potentially, with skilled manufacturing or the trades than they might with an art history degree,” Obama declared.
The president seems to have caught himself pretty quickly.
“Now, nothing wrong with an art history degree — I love art history,” he then swore.
The White House press apparatus dutifully recorded that the gathered crowd engaged in laughter at this point and again right after Obama quipped: “So I don’t want to get a bunch of emails from everybody.”
The president, a graduate of two Ivy League institutions, then said: “I’m just saying you can make a really good living and have a great career without getting a four-year college education as long as you get the skills and the training that you need.”
And the crowd at the gas facility reportedly broke into applause.
Since Obama’s speech, America’s small and tremendously weak art history lobby has sprung into action.
Linda Downs, the executive director of the College Art Association criticized Obama for “denigrating” art history and, she suggested, the humanities in general, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.
“It is worth remembering that many of the nation’s most important innovators, in fields including high technology, business, and even military service, have degrees in the humanities,” Downs wrote. “Humanities graduates play leading roles in corporations, engineering, international relations, government, and many other fields where their skills and creating [sic] thinking play a critical role.”