Paul Pierce wasn't reading from a script when he called the Chancellor of the University System of Georgia an idiot. As a drama major with a job, the Springer Theater director wanted Hank Huckaby to know that his degree prepared him to do more than act.
Huckaby, for those who don't know, oversees Georgia's colleges and universities but previously was the governor's chief budget writer, an administrator at several universities and served part of a term in the state House.
At a program in Athens celebrating Hank Huckaby Day in Georgia, it was natural for him to comment about the part higher education plays in developing the state's workforce. He also noted that many jobs are going unfilled "because students are studying the wrong things."
He didn't stop there.
"If you can't get a job, and you majored in drama, there's probably a reason," said Huckaby, who was originally a political science major.
Hearing his comments, Paul Pierce played the role of spokesman for the state's drama majors.
"It's official. Hank Huckaby is an idiot," he wrote on his Facebook page.
"Open your eyes, Hank. These drama majors that you're joking about are leading many of Georgia's -- and America's -- most dynamic institutions and industries," said Pierce, the Springer's leading man for more than two decades.
Using words like collaboration and innovation, Pierce said Huckaby used a tired cliché that doesn't apply to today's creative economy: "We're not just a bunch of narcissistic feather-headed artists."
Sylvia Hillyard Panell, a retired theater professor, said Huckaby "seems to be poorly informed of the value of a drama major to an industry of significant economic impact in our state."
Paige Ballou, a working actress in New York and a UGA graduate, blogged about the subject: "If all the students who hear (his) speech takes his advice and chooses their field of study based on where job openings in Georgia now are, who says those jobs will still be so plentiful, or even exist, five or 10 years from now, and what happens to those students then? In the meantime, what happens to a society that decides it doesn't value the education of its artists and creators?"
Pierce invited Huckaby to visit the State Theater of Georgia, where he might run into Nathan Deal, the governor who appointed him.
Deal enjoys performances at the Springer, where his daughter, Katie, got married on the main stage and frequently portrays Patsy Cline, as well as the Rialto Theater for the Performing Arts in Atlanta, where his daughter, Mary Emily, is assistant director of development.
Oh, didn't anyone remind Huckaby that the governor's daughters have degrees in theater? And they probably don't think they studied in the wrong field, either.
-- Richard Hyatt is an independent correspondent. Reach him at www.twitter.com/hyattrichard.