A dominance of liberal thought in academia is difficult to refute, as is UC Berkeley’s history as a hotbed of progressive ideas and discourse. But these admissions do not devalue the high quality of education at University of California campuses, as suggested by an April report to the UC Regents.
The report, authored by the conservative California Association of Scholars, states that UC campuses are corrupted by radical activist politics in the classroom. Its pages are filled with ideological demagoguery and half-truths that fail to provide reasonable solutions for the actual problems assailing higher education in the state.
Students and Californians should always critically examine the material taught in their public schools. The concerns highlighted in this report are valid questions. Discounting students’ ability to question the material presented to them, however, is doubly insulting and dangerous. Indeed, a belief that young scholars can be so easily indoctrinated by their professors misleads those without the means or willingness to learn what the UC experience actually entails. Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum proved the harm misconceptions can breed in his blatantly false statement that some of California’s public universities fail to offer courses in American history.
Further, in arguing that graduates of the UC’s “prestigious campuses” are “ignorant of the history of their country” because American history requirements can be fulfilled in high school before college admission, the report demands an unreasonable degree of specialization for every college student’s curriculum. High school coursework should not, admittedly, be seen as equivalent to college coursework. But no university worth attending should need to teach rudimentary civics to its students — who should already know how the basic mechanisms of their government and society operate. In this regard, the “crisis of competence” outlined by the report would be better aimed at our nation’s primary and secondary education systems for failing to produce informed citizens.
When all is said and done, the public should be confident that every UC campus — from stalwart Berkeley to fledgling Merced — provides a well-rounded education. Because the high quality of our education stems not from what we are told, but how we are taught to consume, criticize and formulate ideas.