Progressive politicians from Barack Obama to Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton want college to be free. Is their desire just trolling for more Democrat voters (not only a five-year party, but a free one)? Or is it part and parcel of progressive utopianism? Maybe so, in which case I suppose out of fairness, everyone should graduate summa cum laude.
But what will students learn in free college? I would argue that the real reason progressives want free college is because it fulfills a long-held leftist dream of universal indoctrination. Since the left seized control of American higher education, more and more courses, majors, and disciplines have adopted “best practices,” mandatory “values” (such as the abstraction “diversity”), and what literary critic Frederick Crews called aprioristic teaching where the truth is already revealed, final and immutable (such as anthropogenic climate change and “white privilege”). The search for truth is over.
What does this mean in practice? Consider the email I received last week from the University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC). Anonymized, it reads, in part:
I’m [redacted] for College Nine and College Ten at UCSC, and we are in need of instructors for our Fall 2016 Core Course.
The Core Course serves as an introduction to each college’s theme while preparing first-year students for college writing. College Nine focuses on International and Global Perspectives topics such as migration, immigration, educational access and equity, international relations, and consumerism and its effects around the world. College Ten focuses on Social Justice and Community through topics including police brutality and Black Lives Matter, gender and transgender issues, climate change and policy, and educational access and inequity.
Your work in Monterey Peninsula College might make you a great for [sic] the core course instructor positions.
One can readily conclude that UCSC knows nothing about my work. Founded in the 1960s, UCSC (historically known as “Uncle Charlie’s Summer Camp”) was intended to imitate the British system of separate colleges under the aegis of one university. In this case, it was Oxbridge-with-pot-and-surfboards. The university eschewed grades for years in favor of narrative evaluations, the mascot is the Banana Slug, and Black Pantherette Angela Davis is a prominent retired faculty member. And clearly, the two colleges’ Core Courses embrace a host of predetermined political and ideological conclusions, not questions. These are supposed to be writing classes?
The left-wing activist approach is not an isolated phenomenon—it is structural. A former student of mine at U.C. Berkeley wrote to me that:
my friend was in an LGBT class and someone presented and said that they wanted to only take questions from people of color, not white people. In the same class, my white male friend was vilified for asking questions that the teacher said came from `white privilege.’ Also, one of my classmates did two years at Santa Cruz, and they would have the class vote on how they would handle discussions. They voted that they would take five comments: three from people of color and two from women.
And this Banana Slug alumnus said:
Professors got tired of [being asked challenging questions] pretty quickly. Students would come to me in secret …., and one said ’if you’ve been to one class at UCSC, you’ve been to them all, because it’s all about race, class, and gender, oh, and sexuality.’ I knew students who had read the same Toni Morrison texts 4 and 5 times for various classes, but had never even heard of Rudyard Kipling. So, much of the faculty I encountered 1) suits facts to theories (Feminist, Marxist, Queerist, etc.) rather than theories to facts 2) actively works to chill dissent and differing points of view 3) will use class time to entertain leftist political aims.
The indoctrination curriculum is in place; next they make it free and fill the seats.