Santorum takes aim at California’s college curriculum

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Facts eluded presidential candidate Rick Santorum when he took aim at the history curriculums at California’s universities Monday.

“I was just reading something last night from the state of California,” Santorum said at a campaign stop in Wisconsin. “And that the California universities — I think it’s seven or eight of the California system of universities don’t even teach an American history course. It’s not even available to be taught.”

UC Berkeley history professor Robin Einhorn, who is teaching a course titled “The United States from Civil War to Present” this semester, called Santorum’s claim “completely, laughably false.”

Santorum’s campaign headquarters could not be reached to clarify what Santorum was reading, but a perusal of course catalogs from the University of California, California State University and California Community Colleges reveals a plethora of courses focusing on U.S. history.

Each of the state’s 112 community college campuses offers a course in U.S. history, according to community college spokesperson Paige Marlatt-Dorr.

At the UC and CSU, all undergraduates must take a U.S. history course in order to graduate, UC and CSU spokespeople said.

However, an April report released by the privately funded conservative think tank California Association of Scholars states that students at four UC campuses can “achieve a bachelor’s degree without doing any coursework in science, mathematics, a foreign language, economics, literature, or the history and institutions of their country. Those four include the Berkeley campus.”

Whether Santorum was referring specifically to that report in his statements has not been confirmed.


“You can take broad surveys or more specialized courses on particular time periods or themes,” Einhorn said. “Every Cal student knows this, and anyone else can also know by checking the catalogs, helpfully available online.”

The only UC campus not to offer a U.S. history course is UC San Francisco — a medical school.

The UC Berkeley department of history has garnered national recognition for the education it provides in U.S. history. In its most recent ranking of graduate-level history programs, US News and World Report ranked the department fourth in the academic subfield of modern U.S. history.

Santorum’s remark comes about a month after he called President Barack Obama a “snob” for wanting all Americans to go to college.

On the campaign trail, Santorum has frequently criticized the nation’s higher education institutions and, on one occasion, called them “indoctrination mills.”

He has also said that parents should control their children’s education, and if elected he would home-school his seven children in the White House.

Curan Mehra covers higher education.