I knew our universities had become laboratories of leftist thought, but, as it turns out, things are much, much worse than that.
I still believed the students were getting an education… Even while they were being indoctrinated. But, apparently, except, perhaps, for hard sciences, that isn’t the case anymore. Did you know that most universities are mandating professors to give all their students no less than a B- grade?
The American Freedom Alliance held their June conference last Sunday and Monday. The conference was entitled “Failing Grades: The Crisis In Teaching On Our University Campuses”. University professors from around the world were invited to discuss what has happened to our universities.
The conference started with John Ellis speaking about a study he did on the University of California system, and the corrosive effects of political activism on the campuses. Professor Ellis is President of the California Association of Scholars. He is a German Literature professor at UC Santa Cruz and Dean of UCSC’s Graduate Division. His study found a 40-to-one, or higher, ratio of leftist professors to conservative professors. Required programs, core courses, and general reading lists were all primarily left-leaning. Dr. Ellis explained that, although the public is alarmed by the politicization of our universities, there is little or no examination of how such professors got there. When the public hears some of the leftist anti-conservative and anti-American rants from professors, they want those professors removed, but the root of the problem is never addressed. What is more important than the absence of conservative professors on university campuses is the presence of so many radical leftist professors.
Dr. Ellis pointed out that everything changes when universities have political goals. Ideas protected from examination are likely to be ones that can’t hold up under examination. “Social justice” is a vague, but somehow appealing term. Who doesn’t want justice? Universities are deceiving students. The last person you should look to for “social justice” is the man foolish enough to think he knows what that is.
Dr. Ellis told us the best place to shed light on how radical our campuses have become is to look through their catalogues of classes. “Queer Gardening”, “Fantasy and Desire in the EU”, etc., etc., ad infinitum. History departments have no courses on America’s founding, but many on feminism, race, and environmentalism.
In his research, Dr. Ellis discovered things even more alarming than the above. Through politicized curricular choices and omissions, the students are receiving an impoverished education. We are graduating students who write poorly, cannot read any reasonably-complex material, have alarming gaps in knowledge of history, and are generally poorly-equipped to join the workforce. Students are graduating with debts upwards of $100,000, but no skills critical to earning a living.
The next speaker, Professor Roberta Seid, who specializes in European Social History and teaches Gender Studies at USC, said the university told her that her purpose was to recruit students to “feminism”. She told us of a student who came to her and said, “I can’t read, what can you do for me?” Professor Seid told her “nothing”. She explained to this student that she wasn’t a remedial reading teacher. The student then asked if she could turn in an art project instead of the required paper. Dr. Seid told her the class required reading, and she would have to learn to read and return then. How was such a young woman accepted as a student?
We learned that the Board of Regents has become virtually impotent in most respects. They have ceded authority to the chancellors. However, the two things they are still adamant about are affirmative action and quotas (both of which have recently been ruled illegal). Sherry Lansing is one of the regents, and she dismissed the entire Ellis study with hostility. Even though his study was based on the university’s own statistics, Miss Lansing said it was anecdotal. Minority and foreign students who don’t qualify for admission are admitted in droves, while qualified American students are rejected. I have to say that my observation of the students on the USC campus where the conference was held bears this out.
There were panels of speakers throughout the day, covering such subjects as “Who is Teaching Our Students?”, “Politicization of the Classroom & Psychological Barriers to Inclusion”, “Where Are the Trustees?”, and “Alternatives to Our Current Models”.
Brian Kennedy, President of the Claremont Institute, explained that universities no longer focus on the search for truth. It is hard to find any university that still believes in the founding principles of this country. There has been a hundred-year war on human understanding, and the enemy is winning. Everything is defined by race, religion, and “class”. The good news is that people seeking the truth can still find it… If they look for it outside the higher education system.
Guy Milliere, Professor at the University of Paris VIII, former President of the Turgot Institute in Paris, and an economist at the Bank of France has authored forty published books on France, Europe, the United States, Israel, and the Middle East. He explained that there are no private universities in France. All universities are owned by the government, and all the professors are nothing more than civil servants waiting to retire. They care little about educating students. He said if a professor gave a bad grade to a student who earned it, he would get a call from the university president telling him he better change it, because it was harming their reputation. He explained that society is being shaped by “intellectuals”, not scholars. Intellectuals want absolute power, and are willing to destroy society and people’s lives in order to achieve it. They cannot allow the public to be truly educated.
Several professors explained that they are now mandated to give no less than a B- grade to all students. Some were told they must have an A- average. One told of a student who turned in a paper that was unreadable. When the student asked what the professor thought of her paper, he told her to write it in English. She brought it back the next day, clearly having paid someone to edit and correct it. This is happening on a regular basis. The speakers said there is a sizable cottage industry of paper-writing services around every campus. The student in the above instance didn’t learn from her mistake, she simply paid someone to correct it.
Victor Davis Hanson was the keynote speaker of the conference. He is a Senior Fellow in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institute at Stanford University. He was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007. He spoke about universities’ general purpose, which, until the 1960s, was to educate, not to “mold” minds. The 60s, 70s, and 80s were affluent decades, but Baby Boomers thought that since America wasn’t perfect, she can’t have been good. It was from that time that things like “Women’s Studies”, “Black Studies”, “Latino Studies”, and so forth all sprouted. For every questionable subject added, another subject was dropped, and those casualties inevitably included American History, the Civil War, American Literature, and so on. I keep asking what, exactly, does a degree in “Women’s Studies” qualify a student for? What job calls for that?
Dr. Davis Hanson went on to describe the leftist technocrats who reduce history to cardboard characters, with no discussion of the human condition during historic periods. They decide what is good and bad. Professors live in comfort, vacation at lavish resorts, and drive SUV’s, all the while damning the very things that provided them with those luxuries. They support any changes that will deny comfort to the rest of us, and strive to render themselves immune from those changes.
Dr. Davis Hanson explained that military history is no longer being taught at all. It has been replaced by “Peace Studies”, but studying “peace” has never prevented wars. We need to know how wars are won. We have created a citizenry that is ignorant of history. There are countries dependent on us for peace. They signed treaties with us, saying they would not build up their own militaries, or produce their own nuclear weapons, because we would protect them. Reducing our nuclear arsenal makes them, and us, less safe.
Dr. Davis Hanson reminded us that we don’t have to be perfect to be good.
The Monday session of the conference consisted of a roundtable of all the speakers discussing what could be done to improve our university systems. We came up with a list of recommended changes. I don’t hold out hope that these can be implemented under the current administration, but we need to shine a light on our universities’ extreme politicization, so that a future administration might implement them.