Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Cadre of the Creative Class

Richard Florida, with a few partners in crime, is blogging. Almost all of the posts at The Creativity Exchange make great fodder for musings here. Sticking with a recent theme, the investment in human capital continues to confound lawmakers.

I'm not interested in the
source article, but the resulting blog trail. In this case, the concern is about South Carolina high school students leaving the state to go to college (typically in neighboring Georgia and North Carolina) and the flagship university (University of South Carolina at Columbia) claiming to import "intellectual capital" for the public good.

The problem is trying to draw a line around the public, which state universities allegedly serve. Florida would liberalize the polity and welcome out-of-state students with open arms. Others, the locals, would demand special treatment for instate students given the tax burden. And then there are those who lament the outmigration of talent to other states. I think all of these perspectives misunderstand the migration pattern.

There is not a Georgia for Georgians. But there are Georgians for Georgia. And then there are Bulldawgs for the University of Georgia, and vice versa. Like UGA, Pitt and CMU cater first to their respective academic communities, not the Pittsburgh Region or the State of Pennsylvania. Furthermore, there is not a Pittsburgh for Pittsburghers, but there are Pittsburghers for Pittsburgh.

Public universities often do claim to serve their state in a mission statement. Pitt is committed to contributing to "social, intellectual, and economic development in the Commonwealth, the nation, and the world." The truth is that the nation and the world now come before the Commonwealth thanks to the vitality of the university being the primary concern.

Pitt claims that the "international prestige of the University enhances the image of Pennsylvania throughout the world." I think that the international community can (and does) make the distinction between the university and where it is located. Universities are global places, more networked with each other than with the immediate locality.

Meanwhile, if someone who was born and raised in Pittsburgh graduates from West Virginia University, then he or she won't be cheering for the Panthers on Saturdays. Pittsburgh proud only goes so far.

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