The UC regents voted for a steep increase in tuition. Some have pointed to the unedifying spectacle of whining middle class students taking to the streets to protest the tuition increase, since they prefer to have California’s working class, most of whom will not attend the school, bear the financial burden. Although I agree in principle about California’s spoiled brats, I’m not sure that’s the right argument for the UC problem. The point of public education is that everyone pays so that some may benefit — on the theory that those who benefit will contribute to society for the benefit of all. Of course, what we actually have in California is a punitive tax system that means that those who actually benefit, if they’re smart, promptly leave the state, taking their skills, education and tax dollars with them. But still, the theory is that the tax payers get a secondary benefit from having an educated class within their midst.
The real problem, I think, is the UC system itself. I’ll freely admit that I last attended a UC college more than two decades ago, but I’m assuming the situation then has gotten worse, not better. With the exception of three hugely talented teachers who brought their subjects alive, my Berkeley professors could easily be lumped into a single descriptive class: Except for the three mentioned, none could teach worth a damn — that is, those who bothered teaching at all, as opposed to handing the task off to grossly underpaid graduate students, many of whom had only a limited grasp of the English language. The professors would read from yellowed notes, or waffle on in monotones, sucking the life out of everything. Despite their manifest limitations, because they published (remember: publish or perish), they were tenured, and their pathetic inability to teach was irrelevant.
The beauty of tenure was that they were paid sooooo well. Professors didn’t live middle class lives — they lived upper middle class lives. They had houses in the Berkeley hills with expansive views of the San Francisco Bay. Their kitchens were cleaned by the Hispanic help and their gardens groomed by the Japanese. The fact that so many of these professors were Marxists was irrelevant to these delightful living arrangements.
If one queried the lavish way in which these state employees lived, one was told that Berkeley, to keep its world standing, needed to compete with such private facilities as Harvard or Yale. I don’t know about that, but I do know that many professors at City College in San Francisco were doing a much better job teaching. At the same time I took a mind-numbing art history class at Berkeley, my mom took the identical class (at least in terms of subject matter) at City College. My teacher was a mumbling, boring drag. Her teacher was a dynamo, who brought the class to life. Whenever I had time, I’d go to his class, not my own. He wasn’t at a world class institution, but he was a world class teacher — and there were so many like him. Unburdened by the cachet of Berkeley, and the “publish or perish” imperative, these people simply got down to the job of actually teaching.
Another problem with Berkeley and tuition is the absolute garbage being taught. Should anybody be paid to teach, on the taxpayer’s dime, the politically correct effluvia that flows from the Gender Women’s Studies department:
The Department of Gender and Women’s Studies offers interdisciplinary perspectives on the formation of gender and its intersections with other relations of power, such as sexuality, race, class, nationality, religion, and age. Questions are addressed within the context of a transnational world and from perspectives as diverse as history, sociology, literary and cultural studies, postcolonial theory, science, new technology, and art.
The undergraduate program is designed to introduce students to women’s studies, focusing on gender as a category of analysis and on the workings of power in social and historical life. The department offers an introduction to feminist theory as well as more advanced courses that seek to expand capacities for critical reflection and analysis and to engage students with varied approaches to feminist scholarship. The curriculum draws students into interdisciplinary analysis of specific gender practices in areas such as feminism in a transnational world, the politics of representation, feminist science studies, women and work, women and film, gender and health, and the politics of childhood.
The department offers an undergraduate major and minor. It also houses an undergraduate minor in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender studies, a program whose courses overlap productively with feminist and gender studies. Faculty in the department collaborate with an extensive group of extended faculty through the Designated Emphasis in Women, Gender and Sexuality, which provides graduate students across campus with a site for transdisciplinary learning and teaching. The department is now in the process of developing a Ph.D. Program in Transnational Studies of Women and Gender, which will involve faculty from a range of departments. The department fosters connections with scholars in feminist and sexuality studies throughout the campus by cross-listing courses, collaborating in research, and participating in the Gender Consortium, which links research and teaching units that focus on gender.
African Studies is equally bogus, functioning, not as a way for African-Americans to learn about their culture, but as an umbrella for Marxist theory. You don’t have to believe me. You can convince yourself with a visit to the UC Berkeley African-Studies Events link. Scroll down and click on “Robert Allen Celebrated: A 40th Anniversary Tribute to Black Awakening in Capitalist America.” I optimistically thought this would be a program about the benefits of capitalism for African-Americans (because I believe capitalism benefits all people, just as a rising tide lifts all boats). Silly me. At that link, you can hear audio files from the celebration. I know you’re hungering to hear about:
“Malcolm X and Robert Allen on Domestic (Neo-)Colonialism and Revolutionary Nationalism, and Black Awakenings as a seminal bridge between the ‘organic’ and ‘traditional’ intellectual traditions of activist-scholarship.”
“Colony Over-the-Rhine: Gentrification and Econocide.”
“Social Justice and state crisis: Lessons for the future from the 1960s Black Liberation movement.”
This scholarship isn’t about enabling blacks, at taxpayer’s expense I might add, to advance in American society. Instead, it’s firmly intended s to keep blacks locked in the perpetual victim servitude of identity politics.
This kind of “academic material,” if I can dignify it with that title, is for hobbyists and obsessives, not for people nominally being educated for the benefit of (and at the expense of) the people of the State of California. It’s equally easy to attack the other “politically correct” departments that populate the school, all providing the “mick” classes (i.e., Mickey Mouse or easy classes) that people with a high tolerance for BS will take, and that have absolutely nothing to do with a classical education of great thought, science, languages, history and, perhaps, world culture.
Students and taxpayers alike would benefit substantially if the UC system, rather than repeatedly imposing an ever greater burden on students and taxpayers alike, would actually examine its own flaws. It should purge those who can’t teach (or at least stop pretending they’re teachers), and it should peel away the politically correct classes that weigh down the curriculum (at great expense) and focus on core education that benefits, not just the students, but the long-suffering people of California.
Here’s the way I would do it: I would create a two tier UC system. The bottom tier, primarily funded by taxpayers, would offer the same core curriculum that existed before the free speech movement, before Marxism and before political correctness ate away like a canker at the heart of the system. This tier would focus on science, mathematics, history, languages, etc. It would pretty much resurrect the 1958 (or thereabouts) catalog. In this way, the state would still get the benefit of an educated class that, in theory, would then raise the whole tone of the state.
All other classes at UC would be a la carte, with students interested in them paying extra for the privilege of learning something outside of the core curriculum. Those who want a basic education would get it. Those who want more, would pay, either out of their parents pockets or, if they approached college as I did, by getting a job. This approach would bring the marketplace into the mix, and allow the Regents, the state and the taxpayers see just how many people are actually willing to dig into their own pocket for “womyn’s studies” and Afro-centric Marxist victim classes.
Somehow, though, I think both taxpayers and students are going to be gouged in perpetuity in order to fund a significantly large group of Marxist professors intent on teaching identity politics papulum to our poor, vulnerable youth.