The National Association of Scholars (NAS), a non-profit organization which looks to foster intellectual freedom, recently released a report entitled “Crisis of Competence” which details how “left wing” politics have infiltrated the UC classroom. While these are interesting issues to highlight, NAS makes no claims that their vision of the “corrupted UC classroom” being exposed more to their own ideology will be any less political than what they outline.
The report details how the UC “misuses state funds”, prizes “political action over critical analysis”, and “has a lack of openness” for its taxpayers and students. NAS insists that our classes only feature one-sided ideology and indoctrination. This is coming from a group with an “avowed mission to combat ‘liberal bias’ and ‘anti-capitalist aspirations of the left,’” according to the Colorado Springs Independent.
While it’s true that UCSC is a liberal institution, with many humanities classes focused on left wing political causes and professors who may sympathize with these movements, that does not mean dissenting opinions are ignored. The NAS report looks to radically restructure classes in the UC system to fit their own agenda. Even UCSC’s own Politics 72, a course on the war on terrorism, receives criticism for its “extreme ideological prejudgement.”
The NAS report overlooks how politics can be a useful tool in learning. Seeking active political action from the students on behalf of the professor can teach the student about field work. It’s not all one-sided political ideology either — professors propel their students to analyze presented data in any fashion they prefer. There is hardly a group of students who are not allowed to engage academically because their idea is too controversial at UC Santa Cruz.
Professors should have political opinions on their subjects. One hopes these professors would gain perspective on the issue they research, and present their opinion as a matter of their own personal belief for discussion in class. Teaching the controversy surrounding their opinion and acknowledging the other side of the debate can inspire students to learn more about the subject. Our best humanities professors not only inspire a call to action but a call to criticism.
The NAS report believes any criticism generated in political action is not the same as criticism a professor may have. For the NAS, if one’s criticism is not written in some fancy journal, then it is inherently of lesser value.
If we allow NAS to change how professors teach because of perceived biases, than we miss out on stimulating academic debate. Students know their professor is not always correct. In the smartphone era we are all mere clicks away from contrary knowledge.
Academic freedom in the current system is treated with too cynical an eye in the report. The report states that UC’s limit academic freedom by creating departmental mission statements and course descriptions which limit outside input. Moreover, they base much of their arguments on tangential information delivered by the professor in student evaluations. This may not be the least biased form of gaining data on professors.
Students should be trusted to not take their professor’s opinions as pure fact. Students are independent free thinkers who can and do think for themselves. The NAS report has no interest in what students have campaigned years for. Instead of supporting ethnic studies, the NAS has made it clear — their agenda is to limit courses in feminist studies and to change what we read in core. Politics as usual.
For the UC Classroom, limiting politics is inherently political itself.