Earlier this month, the National Association of Scholars, a conservative group concerned with the goings on in higher education, released a report titled, “A Crisis of Confidence: The Corrupting Effect of Political Activism in the University of California.” Like the title suggests, the report goes on to describe all the horrible abuses the extremely left-wing UC system, whose faculty are some of the left-wingest left-wingers that ever left-winged, is dealing conservatives and white people. They’re not all wrong, but they’re pretty far from correct.
Wait, you might think, how are they even remotely correct? Well, academics are more likely to be registered Democrats than registered Republicans. So to the extent that Democrat and Republican voting preferences map with left-wing and right-wing ideology, yes, academia does have a left-wing bias.
But the correctness ends there. I do not have the time or the space to document everything wrong with this report. It’s not even remotely scientific, sure. It draws predominantly on anecdotal evidence, yes. It suggests that liberal professors are incapable of keeping their bias out of the classroom, but that conservative professors would provide an unbiased view of the subject they were teaching, yeah OK. All of this is patently ridiculous. The thing that I want to focus on here is the dismissive attitude the report’s authors take to courses outside of the Western canon and American history.
In California, one look at the demographics of undergraduates shows that the group has becoming more and more diverse. Students from a variety of backgrounds, from many racial and ethnic backgrounds, are entering the UC System. At the same time, the curriculum in many programs and departments is changing, allowing students to take courses in fields that are much more inclusive of the history and experiences of POC, women, and other marginalized groups. The change in curriculum is fantastic. By providing these courses, the UC system provides all of its students with valuable access to a variety of types of knowledge, experiences, and points of view.
For some reason, the authors of the report see this shift away from the Western Canon as somehow handicapping students of color. Here, let them speak for themselves:
When Jesse Jackson led his infamous march at Stanford University chanting “Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Western Culture’s got to go,” he was in effect destroying a precious chance for the groups that he ostensibly championed to reach full equality. Removing courses in Western civilization, in American History and Institutions, and in classic writers and thinkers put a rigorous, well-rounded education out of their reach just when they needed it most. And the consequent dumbing down of the education of high school teachers simply guaranteed that black students, for example, would arrive at the college level with a handicap every bit as great as it has ever been.
For starters, if a student wants to, they can indeed take courses in Western Civilization and American history and “classic” writers at the UC schools. Adding courses in African American studies or Chicana/Chicano studies does not mean that American history classes are disappearing – it just means that the definition of American history expands beyond the boundaries set by white men. I fail to see how this is a bad thing.
Further, I fail to see how this inclusion puts a “rigorous, well-rounded education” out of anyone’s reach. What could possibly provide a more well-rounded education than talking about the experiences, art, culture, and history of groups of people who fall outside the white male-dominated view of traditional history and culture? No one is getting a worse education because they are reading and thinking critically about the works of Jamaica Kincaid or Arundhati Roy rather than Ray Bradbury or Herman Melville.
I sincerely hope that the UC system does not take this report seriously. It does not deserve to be taken seriously. Honestly, as I read through it and find statements like this to provide evidence for a vast liberal agenda, I cannot help but shake my head:
For example, at UC San Diego in the fall of 2010 nine upper division courses in American History were offered, but one looks in vain for any course that provides a connected view of the sweep of American history, and of how it came to develop so rapidly from an insignificant cluster of colonies to the nation which is economically, militarily, and culturally the most powerful and influential in the world.
The titles of the nine courses seem to go in a very different direction. For example, History 146 has the title “˜Race, Riots, and Violence in the U.S.’; 139 is “˜African American History in the 20th century’; 156 is “˜American Women/American Womanhood’; 180 is “˜Immigration and Ethnicity in American Society’; 154 is “˜Western Environmental History.’
It turns out that in the eyes of the authors of this report, Stephen Colbert is right – reality has a well-known liberal bias.