Vance-Granville Community College’s Arts and Sciences division is offering an enlightening public lecture series this semester on the theme of “money,” including issues of economic inequality. Faculty members from various departments within the division are making presentations, applying their particular fields of expertise to the subject.
The first lecture was held March 24 and was entitled “Show Me the Money! Income & Wealth Inequality Throughout the Centuries.” Sociology instructor and VGCC alumnus Leslie Hurt started the program by defining terms like “wealth” and “income.” Wealth is the difference between the value of a person or family’s assets and debts, while household income measures the annual inflow of wages and other sources of earnings. People can have steady income but little wealth, Hurt explained, or a farmer, for example, can have great wealth in land but little income. “Ten percent of U.S. families own 70 percent of the wealth in this country,” Hurt said. “The wealth gap is as large as it has ever been.” He offered statistics that also showed wealth disparities by race, as well as income disparities by gender, and discussed the effects of poverty.
“Ending poverty requires not only economic development but also human development, including improvements to education, life expectancy and living standards,” Hurt concluded. He said that community colleges serve to help alleviate inequality by making education accessible, and departments such as his own, Social Sciences, keep students’ economic conditions in mind by selecting textbooks that are affordable.
Following Hurt, VGCC art instructor Isaac Talley demonstrated how, throughout history, art has often been used to show off wealth, and therefore power. He offered examples from the rulers of ancient Egypt, China and Rome. In the Renaissance, it was the rising merchant class that could commission works of art to display their wealth. “But in the era of the French Revolution and afterward, you get the realism movement that focuses more on the poor and ordinary people,” Talley said. “Previously, there were no poor people in art, because the poor didn’t pay for art.” He added that art today is used for commercial purposes to sell goods to consumers. “Corporations are the new art patrons, but in today’s global economy, we can use art as a powerful tool to address economic issues and spread ideas more rapidly than ever.”
The VGCC Mathematics department will present the next lecture in the three-part series, “Are the Rich Really Getting Richer? A Mathematical Look at Income Inequality,” on Tuesday, April 7, from 1-2 p.m.
The series will conclude with “Education on a Shoe String: Pinching Pennies — Is It Really Worth It?” on Tuesday, April 14, from noon until 1 p.m. This presentation by the VGCC Education curriculum department will provide the audience with a look at the compensation rates of early childhood education professionals and how they translate into the classroom.
Both lectures will be held in small auditorium in Building 2 on Main Campus, and are open to the public, in addition to VGCC students, faculty and staff.
For more information, call Button Brady at (252) 738-3277.