“I don’t know any polite way of putting this — but he’s lying,” said professor John Ellis, president of the National Association of Scholars’ California division. Ellis was reacting to a critic’s characterization of the NAS’s damning report, “A Crisis of Competence: The Corrupting Effect of Political Activism in the University of California.”
California taxpayers spend $2.8 billion to educate the more than 230,000 students at the 10 campuses that comprise the UC system. But the report says the UC system does not help students learn how to think, but rather teaches them what to think. And what they “learn” is that they are victims — whether of racism, sexism, classism or discrimination because of sexual orientation. Liberal profs, says the report, turn the UC campuses into “a sanctuary for a narrow ideological segment of the spectrum of social and political ideas.”
Nationwide, left-wing professors vastly outnumber conservative professors in the humanities. It isn’t even close.
The report cites several studies, including political scientist Stanley Rothman’s 1999 study: “Whether the question was posed in terms of liberals versus conservatives or Democrats versus Republicans, the margins favored the former by nearly 5-to-1 in each case, and in some departments the results were overwhelming. For example, in English departments the margin was 88-to-3, and in politics 81-to-2.”
A different 2007 study, says the report, found the 5-to-1 margin between liberal versus conservative professors had become 8-to-1. Almost 20 percent of professors in social sciences and 25 percent of sociology professors self-identifies as “Marxist.”
And things are getting worse. Younger professors tend to be even more liberal than older ones. Among UC Berkeley’s associate and assistant professors, according to one study, registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by 49-to-1 in all departments — including sciences. When Berkeley associates and assistants replace the older professors as they retire, the extreme 8-to-1 tilt in favor of liberal profession could reach 50-to-1.
UC Berkeley professor Robert Anderson, the critic whom Ellis accuses of “lying.” called the report “short on facts, but long on innuendo and anecdotes.” Is it? The 87-page report looked at course descriptions, books assigned, faculty’s political party registration and self-identification of ideology, and student feedback.
Students are immersed in an education that emphasizes the wrongs done to minorities, women, gays and other groups. Gender, ethnic, religious and sexual orientation grievances are highlighted as representative of an imperial, racist, exploitative capitalist superpower that continues to engage in widespread racism, sexism, homophobia and worldwide domination.
“We wuz wronged” takes center stage over a basic understanding of economics, of the concept of federalism, and of the values that turned a struggling bunch of colonies into a political and economic superpower. Indeed, the very mission statements of many departments on UC campuses stress their commitment to activism for enacting social change, or to bring about social or racial or fill-in-the-blank justice.
Take the UC Berkeley history course that majors in that field must take, “The United States from Settlement to the Civil War.” Its course description states its goals: “to understand how democratic political institutions emerged in the United States in this period in the context of an economy that depended on slave labor and violent land acquisition.”
A conservative professor — if there were any — might offer an alternative version of American history: The British colonies defied the mightiest world power by demanding and then fighting for political and religious freedom. They conceived a radical document, the United States Constitution, born out of armed revolution, where for the first time in human history, the new, imperfect country said: “The people rule. Through our Constitution, which we have amended to ensure equal rights of blacks and women, we grant our government limited, non-intrusive powers. The rest is left to the people and to the states.”
Why does this matter?
After all, students expect professors to give opinions. Surely students aren’t potted plants, and can a) read about other points of view and b) freely disagree with professors without fear of classroom ridicule or lower exam grades.
But the report says many students complain that alternative viewpoints are discouraged, scorned or dismissed, sometimes derisively. Students’ complaints to administrators are ignored.
What is the practical effect of this “corrupted” education?
Take today’s debate over whom to “blame” for high gas prices. Without some understanding of supply and demand, voters buy into the patently ridiculous argument that the price of oil results from “manipulation” by oil executives or evil “oil speculators.” Voters ignorant of Econ 101 support populist policies like the minimum wage, which actually hurts the job prospects of the poor — the people minimum wage proponents purport to help.
NAS’s Ellis says the answer is for the UC system to first acknowledge the problem. Then the UC system should stop ignoring its own regents’ “Policy on Course Content.” It states: “[Regents] are responsible to see that the University remain aloof from politics and never function as an instrument for the advance of partisan interest. Misuse of the classroom by, for example, allowing it to be used for political indoctrination…constitutes misuse of the University as an institution.”
Class is now in session.