Thursday, April 26, 2012
LEARNING VERSUS ACTIVISM
“A Crisis of Competence” is the 81-page document produced by the California Association of Scholars that was recently presented to the California Board of Regents.
While the study illustrates, as I noted in my prior column, the utter dominance of leftist beliefs in higher education, its focus is not on political opinions per se, but rather on “the associated question of competence and quality of education.” Moreover, the report doesn’t claim that “most” educators are derelict in their duties but rather that politicization is widespread, unprofessional, and mostly ignored by administrators.
Put succinctly, the document asserts that the one-sided leftist tilt of colleges and universities undermines quality education, especially in the humanities and social sciences. Below are some UC-centered observations:
On most UC campuses courses in Western Civilization aren’t offered at all. Similarly, at UC San Diego a literature major need not take a course on Shakespeare but must complete a survey course in Chicano, African-American, or Asian-American literature.
“At UC Davis a history major can avoid American history entirely, and the same is true of the Santa Cruz, Irvine, and San Diego campuses,” the report notes.
By contrast, at UC Santa Cruz (where Communist Party Vice-Presidential candidate Angela Davis was a professor from 1991 to 2008) courses on Marx are offered in five separate departments. (According to a national study by Neil Gross and Solon Simmons, almost 20 percent of professors in the social sciences self-identify as Marxist.)
Several anecdotes in the CAS report illustrate the corrupting influence of political activism on specific courses:
A student in a writing program at UC San Diego’s Warren College, for example, reported that she composed an essay that called for legal abortion, but with restrictions. She was informed that in order to pass the course she needed to revise her essay “to support abortion in all circumstances.”
Even a computer science class at Berkeley included regular course-irrelevant harangues directed at George W. Bush and California’s “Nazi” Gov. Schwarzenegger.
The study also provides data indicating that the politicizing of higher education is getting worse—as younger faculty are more explicitly committed to leftist activism than older faculty. In addition, the report cites a study that links poor primary and secondary education with “the political preoccupations that now drive teacher training in the nation’s colleges.”
In calling for enforcement of the academic standards in the Regent’s own charter (and in California’s constitution) the CAS report sides with the view of John Stuart Mill that students must be able to hear arguments “from people who actually believe them” and that “he who knows only his own side of the case, knows little of that.”