Students at the University of California are receiving a biased and compromised education from activist professors. So says a new report by the privately funded National Association of Scholars. We discuss the report, and what it sees as the “politicization of higher education.”

Peter Berkowitz, Tad and Dianne Taube senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, member of the National Association of Scholars board of directors and author of an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal about the report
Robert Powell, vice chair of the University of California Academic Senate and a faculty representative to the University of California Board of Regents
Jeremy Mayer, associate professor and director of the Master of Public Policy Program at George Mason University and co-author of "Closed Minds?: Politics and Ideology in American Universities"
Vishalli Loomba, molecular and cell biology major and a senior at UC Berkeley and president of the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC)
Shawn Lewis, political science major and a junior at UC Berkeley, Bay Area regional chair of the California College Republicans and president of the Berkeley College Republicans

  • Wellington

    There are liberal universities and conservative universities, just as there are liberal newspapers and conservative newspapers, and liberal radio stations and conservative radio stations. So what are the NAS people crying out? That there are people in the world who say things they don’t like? It seems to me that really, they want to destroy dissent. They want to have a country with one ideology: That of the right-wing crony capitalist. That’s what Stanford and Harvard are for, but don’t try to impose that oppressive ideology on UC. It won’t stick and only a fool would think it can be imposed.

    • Wellington

       Oops.. I meant “crying about” not crying out.


      And my “liberal “education gave me an appreciated balance from the right indoctrination I received in my public school education.

    • The problem is that this is a state system. There is a fundamental problem if the state is sponsoring access preferentially to schools with a particular ideological bias.

  • Eric

    The entire UC system is certainly not dominated by a hard left-wing ideology, as anybody who is familiar with (for example) UC Berkeley’s economics, public health, political science, or engineering departments can attest.  However, left-wing faculty still dominate certain UC campus departments, such as sociology, education, anthropology, geography, and most of the humanities, all of which have an abundance of professors who adhere to Maoist or Stalinist principles (yeah, I am an exaggerating but you know what I mean).  I think diversity of views is a good thing, but let’s face it, many UC faculty members are utterly blind to their prejudices and their published work and classroom teaching style shows it.  

  • Josh

    My son is a student at Cal State East Bay and he is experiencing profound political bias in his professors that has diminished the quality of the teaching. Last quarter, for example, he took a class in California Politics from a teacher who was obviously a socialist.  Neither he nor I really objected to the teacher’s bias, but we objected that he made no attempt pay even lip service to opposing points of view, and used as teaching materials propaganda instead of academic materials.  For example, he gave the class articles pointing out that Bank of America in 2009 paid no income taxes, but never pointed out to the class that it was because the corporate income tax is a tax on profits and BofA lost billions of dollars that year.  It was a lost opportunity to discuss tax policy critically in order to make a political point not supported by the facts.

  • Danielayer

    Bias will always enter into education.  What universities should be doing is teaching students how to think.  That means that regardless of what bias they encounter they have the tools to tease out truth from fiction, fact from opinion, and form their own views on what is real and what is theory. 
    As a science major I always disliked the softer more subjective humanities classes. 

    • Natalie

       Too true.  Being bias is human nature, not something you can take out of the equation because our idealized system thinks it’s possible. Teaching them how to think is the best way to teach unbiased.  This is like silly people saying all Americans are equal, it would be nice, but the reality of it is there’s no such thing as being equal in a literal sense of the word. 

  • wizardofx

    Universities have historically been liberally biased and with good reason. It’s liberal thinking that inspires creative thinking by students. The belief of extreme liberal bias is driven by conservatives as usual.

  • Will


    Berkowitz states in the Wall Street Journal that “None of
    the nine general campuses in the UC system requires students to study the
    history and institutions of the United States.” How would he support this claim in light of the fact that there is a U.S. History requirement for both the B.S. and B.A. degree?

  • James Ivey

    I graduated from UC Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law in 1991.  Many of the professors there were some of the most conservative people I’ve ever met.   In fact, it’s my understanding that the author of the memo to the Bush Administration that waterboarding is not torture because the subject survives largely in tact now teaches at UC Berkeley’s law school.

    Sure, there are liberal professors at the UC.  But there are extremely conservative professors at the UC as well.  The cry that there is a liberal bias at the UCs is that there is _any_ liberal thought at the UCs, not that the liberal perspectives are overwhelming.

  • Danjocastro

    Who are NAS’s private funders? Is this just a conservative attack on higher public education disguised as a non-partisan analysis?

    • Wellington

       From SourceWatch:

      Foundation funding

      Scaife has been heaviest donor

      The Sarah Scaife Foundation, a heavy and consistent donor, appears to have been the Association’s biggest foundation donor from 1991-2005MediaTransparency site and likely beyond: it gave $200k in 2009, $250k/yr from 2000-2008, $300k/yr from 1994-1999, and various amounts before then.[15]. The 2005+ Scaife funding does not show up on Media Matters.

      Other foundations

      As of 1996, PFAW said

      “The N.A.S. is heavily backed by the Olin, Bradley, Sarah Scaife, J.M., Coors and Smith Richardson foundations, among others, receiving a combined total in excess of $348,000 from these foundations alone in 1990-91.”[13]

      • JohnMashey

        Funding: see Bottling Nonsense – Peter Wood and NAS for funding (2002-2009, from Form 990s) .  See Appendix A.5 Follow The Money- NAS, p.23- 
        Also, besides Scaife + L&H Bradley, more than half of NAS’ revenue from 2006 oinward (p.23) seems to have come from Teaching American History grants from Bush-period.  See Appendix A.7.

    • Tim

       Got quite a defensive answer, didn’t you?

  • colin

    Why is it that every time we hear from someone from the UC system they immediately blame budget cuts?  We are talking about representing different philosophical ideas, not class sizes or university salaries.  How do budget cuts prevent one from at least neutrally presenting different philosophies?

  • eriksf

    In an era where conservatives are rejecting rational thought ( denying climate change, evolution etc.)  why would it be surprising that educational institutions might have a liberal bias?

  • Berkley Driessel

    As a former faculty member and student at Stanford, I hardly think that some one from the Hoover Institution should be pointing fingers at ideological bias!

    • Wellington

       Hoover is inherently very biased. So why listen to them at all?

      • eriksf

         Exactly. And references to a piece in the Wall Street journal supporting the findings? A paper owned by a right wing radical who is facing multiple criminal charges.

        • Wellington

           Why do I always see this pattern… of rich right wingers being connected with criminality?

          • Maybe because it allows you to dismiss claims that challenge your view of the world.

    • Ellen in CA

      Not only that, when Dr. Berkowitz was asked who the private funders of his report were, he dodged the question, indicating that the National Association of Scholars funded it, and directing the questioner to the NAS website.  The NAS website does not reveal who the funders of NAS are.  A liberal watchdog site, citing its review of NAS’s 990 Forms filed with the IRS, lists a group of conservative foundations.  This site also gives evidence that the NAS has been active in attempting to discredit climate change science and opposing affirmative action in universities. I find it unlikely that Dr. Berkowitz would have no idea which donors to NAS funded this report, which appears to have been a major undertaking.  It’s likely he briefed the donors extensively on the findings to be sure it met with their approval before going public with it.

  • Cluman7

    I would be interested in knowing who funded this study.

  • Will

     Note this,  from the American Historical Association’s Statement on Principles and Ethics.”

    “Among the core principles of the historical profession that
    can seem counterintuitive to non-historians is the conviction, very widely if
    not universally shared among historians since the nineteenth century, that practicing
    history with integrity does not mean being neutral or having no point of view. Every work of history articulates a particular,
    limited perspective on the past. . . . The
    very nature of our discipline means that historians also understand that all
    knowledge is situated in time and place, that all interpretations express a
    point of view, and that no mortal mind can ever aspire to omniscience.” 

  • Ryan

    Why have universities not set up an affirmative action program for conservative professors?  It seems most liberal professors espouse diversity as a great benefit to university life!

  • Guest

    No exclusion of Republicans. For the last 50 years or more, more Democrats get PhD’s than do Republicans. The whys are interesting to think about but it’s not a prejudice. Teaching is altruistic. Which party fits that?  

    • There are some studies which seem to show that if you survey a class every year at a “liberal” college, they will become more liberal with every year that passes. If indeed democrats outnumber republicans 20-1 in the social sciences, that would mean that students would likely to end up also being democrats by the time they get their PhD. Self selection might explain some of the bias, but definitely not all.

      • Icanread!

        It’s only 20-1 at Berkeley, it is 5-1 nationally.

        • Sorry, you’re right. But 5-1 in social sciences and humanities or 5-1 total?


          Turns out it’s 5-1 in general. Looking at the other figures in the report it seems clear that the numbers are much greater in the social sciences and humanities.

    • Sam

       Neither party fits that, both are parties of “the 1%” in the lingo of Occupy, but the Democrats certainly like to pretend that they are the party of social altruism

  • Karen Ivy

    As a UC graduate (English, ’67) I’ve been very disturbed by a number of recent incidents in which UC students are totally unwilling to listen to a speaker whose point of view they disagree with.  They shout these speakers down – I specifically remember a speaker defending Israel, who was shouted down by pro-Palestinian activists.  This wasn’t the only incident, it’s the one I recall now.  This is not only rude, it’s intellectually dishonest.

    UC appears to be teaching “the truth” instead of “the facts”, and in politics especially this is a very dangerous approach.

    Since I remember from my stay at UC that 95% of the noise is made by 5% of the people, these yokels may not represent all of UC students; but the fact that they exist at all is very disturbing.  Equally disturbing is that the UC administration seems to make no effort to defend a scheduled speaker from this kind of attack, leading to the inference that they agree with the disruptors.

    And before you ask, my opinion on Israel is irrelevant.  The issue here is paying attention to a speaker regardless of his point of view.

    • Sam

       Are you really surprised that Palestinians are too angry with Israel to let their advocates speak? I wouldn’t want somebody who invaded my land and started stealing territory to speak at my university.

      • Mialexa0010

        It’s not their university. The Palestinians are guests and they are receiving a first class education in part funded by Americans and students from many countries. They have no right to shout down any invited speaker. The same goes for a Palestinian guest speaker. Noone is ever poorer for listening to another person’s opinions, even if you disagree with them you may learn something new.

      • RegularListener

        The view you just expressed, sums up in a nutshell, the problem. Yes, Sam, academic freedom, intellectual freedom, freedom of expression, etc. means exactly, that you have to let even people who “invaded” your land and “started stealing” territory to speak at a public, i.e. every American’s–not your— university. What if Coptic, Syriac, Armenian, Balkan and Roman Catholic Christians said that Arab and Turkish Muslims had no right to speak at a public university because they invaded and so much stole territory from them in the period from AD 634-1634? No one at a public US university would even propose  such an idea, let alone try to justify a shout down of such speakers.

  • Eloquentprofanity

    As a liberal who doesn’t really trust what Republicans have to say regarding social matters I would celebrate a liberal idealogical bias in the poli-sci departments. Alls fair in love and war and attrition wins

  • Concerned

     My daughter attends UCD and she can attest to the liberal bias of her professors.  She wouldn’t mind their bias so much if they actually provided a balanced view that included both left – right and middle of the spectrum.  How can we expect logical balanced thinking young people if they are indoctrinated into only the left leaning liberalism that seems to be prolific on the UC campuses?  A college education should include ALL perspectives so our youth is well informed without some taught biases.

  • Sam

    Why would a science professor want to be a Republican? The party who doesn’t believe in evolution, bans stem cell science, tries to cut research funding?

    • Wellington

       Because Republicans are funding police state projects like surveillance of law-abiding citizens and these scientists have no ethics, and they want they money.

  • Sam

    Conservatives believe in a whitewashed and factually inaccurate notion of US and European history, which minimizes the suffering of minorities and Native Americans, as well as the brutality of American and European Imperialism and Capitalism on an international stage. Anybody who studies history will necessarily be exposed to these events, and thus likely to take a more critical perspective on economics and the American political establishment. Anybody to stop teaching critical theories and facts are politically biased themselves.

    In that respect, getting a left-leaning and critical education on American history is fine. This report sounds like false right-wing demagoguery and slander about California’s brilliant public education system, which does a good service in bringing critical thinking to its students. As a UC Grad, I was never done a “disservice” by any “Bias”.

  • Greg

    This is nothing but a regurgitation of a conservative meme. I’m sure that the rich kids whose families are paying cash for their out-of-state tuition are sick of hearing arguments about the middle class, about the democracy of education, and about how Clark Kerr reshaped the face of higher education. But that is NOT radicalism. It’s called engaging an idea. The UC (and CSU) systems have been disemboweled by budget cuts and fee increases — amounting to a fiscal guillotine to higher education for working and middle class families — and this SHOULD result in discussion on campuses.

    • You don’t see a problem with statistics such as 60% of professors feeling it is appropriate to use their classroom as a vehicle for their political message?

      • Gdo

        The “statistic” that you quote is inaccurate.  You can’t just stuff up and suggest it’s factual, when it’s not.

        • I didn’t make it up. It’s a study quoted in the report which shows that 58% of surveyed professors believed their role to include teaching students “to become agents of social change”. Is the quoted study inaccurate? Is the quotation inaccurate?

          • Wellington

             Can you provide a link to said report?

          • It’s the one that is the topic of the discussion here. There is a link just under the guest names.

          • Filaw614

            “agents of social change” doesn’t mean that they think they should be teaching them to be making specific (leftist) changes.  It could just mean that they think part of their job is to teach their students to be active citizens who attempt to make their world and their country a better place, in whatever way that means to the student.

            It’s like saying “Vote!”  That doesn’t mean go vote democrat or republican.  It just means, be a responsible and participating citizen of your country.

          • First, I don’t think saying “Vote!” is neutral simply because you did not urge a particular candidate. The idea that one has a duty to vote carries with it a large number of assumptions regarding the relationship of individuals to government which are not shared universally. Similarly, the words “agents of social change” imply a certain view of individual’s relationship to society. To advocate these things in your classroom is to push a certain political agenda.
            I may be wrong, but I believe many conservative activists would be unlikely to describe themselves as being “agents of social change” because those words are generally understood to imply change towards more liberal goals. After all, conservativism tends not to favor change by definition.
            Furthermore, I don’t think it’s reasonable to believe that professors are urging students to change the world in whatever way they see fit. (except in the most abstract of ways) It is one thing to treat those you disagree with fairly and respectfully, it is quite another to urge them to bring about what you believe will be bad for the world.

          • Greg

            Me thinks thine (PrometheeFeu) doth protest too much…

          • Greg

            I have to agree with Filaw614’s point — your purported claim that ‘X’ professors are using ‘Y’ classrooms as a vehicle for ‘Z’ message carries the intellectual tensile strength of wet Kleenex.

            Further, the lack of confidence you express in the intellectual capacity of America’s youth is breathtaking. You appear to think the same pedagogical doctrines from kindergarten should be employed when citizens have reached 18 to 22 years of age.

            Sorry, but that thinking is part-an-parcel of the problem in American education. Too many want to “dumb-down” curricula to serve an ideological bent.

            I’ve taught at university and delighted to report that your perceptions are incorrect. Our youth are bright, vibrant and capable of simultaneously holding multiple perspectives.

            I know you don’t believe this, but they can think independently. And unlike you, they employ logic and reason to arrive at their own understanding of which argument is rational and which to discard. 

          • Greg

            One other point: the very reason America colleges continue to attract scholars and students from every country on the globe is because we DO teach students how think independently, creatively, and progressively. 

            We American citizens used to venerate Enlightenment principles but the fear-based, ultra-right-wing would rather have us return to the darkness of a “Demon Haunted World” (Carl Sagan). Dr. Sagan was decades ahead of his time…

            Fiat Lux. Fiat Lux. Fiat Lux!

          • “Further, the lack of confidence you express in the intellectual capacity of America’s youth is breathtaking. You appear to think the same pedagogical doctrines from kindergarten should be employed when citizens have reached 18 to 22 years of age.”

            Please explain to me how you get from: “Teachers are using their classrooms for political advocacy and that’s undesirable” to “Teach college the same way you teach kindergarten.” I must have missed a logical step of 20.

            “I’ve taught at university and delighted to report that your perceptions are incorrect. Our youth are bright, vibrant and capable of simultaneously holding multiple perspectives.”

            Great. And that relates to the point how?

            “I know you don’t believe this, but they can think independently.”

            And your anecdotal evidence that youth can “think independently” overwhelms the entire field of social psychology which clearly shows the effect of environmental factors in the construction and shaping of attitudes. Specifically, if you follow students over time in their college experience, they become more liberal when at “liberal” colleges and more conservative at “conservative” colleges.

            “And unlike you, they employ logic and reason to arrive at their own understanding of which argument is rational and which to discard. ”

            You forgot “Oh Snap!” to conclude your rational argument.

  • Ramona

    Politics aren’t the problem with grading…it’s ratings for the school. Better grades means better ratings.

    I am not surprised at all.  Grading was a mess at my CSU, dumping outliers on curved grade science classes: 60% meant an A grade.  Another teacher in a soft science attempted to give me a B+ when I had 96% of the points.  I currently have a hard science lab teacher who gives +100 points for equations that are typed vs the exact same hand written work getting 15-20 points less. 
    Grade curving and lowered standards are killing our education.  Check and read about it for yourself.

  • Wellington

    It seems to me that what we have here is one group, the partisans for right-wing crony capitalism, that wants to claim intellectual legitimacy, but their approach is to simply attack their intellectual rivals, rather than debate the issues.

    All too often, when a person cannot win a debate, they use tricks, lies, exclusion and other thuggish tactics to attack their opponent.

  • Sami

    Every public educator in California at every level – K through 12, UC, CSU and community colleges would agree that students’ education in California has declined due to the Conservatives/Republicans’ refusal to fund public education in this State.  And the public higher education institutions are struggling with students who were not well-educated in K through 12.  Let’s look at the real source of this problem AND the source of this study… the Hoover Institute!

  • Onion Radio!

  • Jacob

    Isn’t the job of professors to push the bounds of human knowledge and thus be progressive?

    • Two different kinds of progressive.

      • Jacob

        Yes two different kinds, but there is a reason they share the same word.

        • I honestly see no connection between promoting positive rights and advancing human knowledge.

  • Patrick

    Wall Street Journal owned by Murdoch’s News Corp (along with Fox)

    NAS president denies climate change in opposition to overwhelming consensus of scientist.;jsessionid=685D8CCD910B8EBE92A66CA81582E06B#-1620

  • Geo

    Education has always been political. It’s a way to transfer cultural priorities and traditions from one generation to another. To suggest education needs to be apolitical is an ahistorical view of education. And yes, many university are progressive, but most of America is not particularly progressive. Thank god there are a few places that encourage critical thinking and don’t automatically assume that extreme capitalism can solve all of humanity’s problem. 

  • Bill

    Given the right wing attack on all learning, especially science, is it surprising that a significant majority of scholars would consider themselves progressive.  The traditional mainstream points of view are now considered left wing.

  • Michael

    This “study” doesn’t pass the straight-face test.  Mr. Berkowitz tries to make a big deal out of pages from the report supposedly showing that the quality of higher education has declined.  There may be some merit to this point, but there is no evidence–and I mean nothing–in the report that supports his conclusion that this decline is due to politicization.  Rather than engage in a legitimate review of high education, the National Association of Scholars is obviously just manufacturing right-wing talking points.

  • Eamonn

    The National Association of Scholars is a right wing organization funded exclusively by right wing think tanks.  It has been described as homophobic, racist and sexist.  

  • I don’t believe the caller who says that professors told him and conservatives to shut their mouths in class or else they would not pass.

    • Guest

      I didn’t believe him either.

      • Sam

         yes, i went to UCSC and took classes with “left wing” professors, and i was never told to shut up about my politics.

        • Sam

           mind you i am “leftwing” myself but i never heard them tell anyone else that either, including conservatives

    • Mythic

       I was certainly told that at UC Berkeley in some of my classes.

  • Sam

    How much does an increase in “Leftist” professors come from an increase in academic freedom? In the 60s, Angela Davis was fired by Reagan in a direct attack against intellectual freedom for being a communist, however there is no longer a “Red Scare” driving leftist Academics underground and out of Academia altogether.

  • Panourgos

    What’s surprising is that KQED would give recognition to this so-called “Report.”  The Hoover Institute has no credibility as a serious research vehicle, nor does the NAS have any credibility as a scholarly association.  In fact, it was founded as a conservative organ to try to promote the very views that these authors are now proposing is the result of a “study.”   Would KQED give a guest spot to Joseph McCarthy?

  • Robbie

    I graduated from Berkeley in ’97 in engineering. We had no less than 6 required humanities courses as part of an engineering requirement to graduate. I took US history and Western Civ as part of my requirement.

    I read NAS’s website, and it reads like a well articulated Tea Party platform (see their issues and ideals page).

    If they really want to point out a valid problem in higher education, it’s that there is no or very little science requirement for non-tech majors. I know humanities majors that still can’t tell the difference between an atom and a molecule. How are people with this lack of science education expected to be able to vote on issues such as climate change policy, nuclear power, oil-shale fracking, etc.??

    If they wanted to solve a REAL problem, it would be how to increase the science requirement for non-majors to be commensurate with the humanities requirement expected of tech majors, so that citizens would come out halfway ready to deal with the REAL world – not somebody’s agenda with respect to tax policy or “free market” ideals.

    • Wellington

       You mean to say NAS is an example of the Hijacked Koch Brothers Tea Party, which is in opposition to the original tea party movement, which was anti-banker.

  • Robertoorark

    I WAS A STUDENT AT BERKELEY IN 1968….I was in Political Science and Economics…my professors were some of the best advocates for critical thinking that I can imagine, and tried to describe the political scene in terms that left it to the students to discern the merits of any particular ideology.
    I just went back to Berkeley to attend the Economic Department’s Biofuels conference, and the Haas School of Business Forum on the Economy, which was completely sponsored by Corporations, and the Economist Magazine.As far as I can tell, the political atmosphere at Berkeley has definitely shifted to the right, and Robert Reich is not saying anything that is very controversial, when he states that “liberals will win”….Progress is driven by people who are struggling for the right to live the “American dream”… 

  • If you don’t believe in evolution, and you don’t believe in global warming, and you don’t believe in funding higher education, ideas do matter. The Republicans have become a brain-dead party largely antithetical to even the idea of the academy.

    How can they expect to not decline? How can they expect parity?

    • Some republicans don’t believe in evolution. Far from all. And there is a huge difference between opposing funding of higher education and opposing state funding of higher education.

  • Will


    ” [It] is dangerous for a scholar even to
    imagine that he might attain complete neutrality, for then one stops being
    vigilant about personal preferences and their influences—and then one truly
    falls victim to the dictates of prejudice. Objectivity must be operationally
    defined as fair treatment of data, not absence of preference.” Stephan Jay Gould

    • Eric

      “In a review of The Mismeasure of Man, Bernard Davis, professor of microbiology at Harvard Medical School, said that Gould erected a straw man argument based upon incorrectly defined key terms — specifically reification — which Gould furthered with a “highly selective” presentation of statistical data, all motivated more by politics than by science.”

      Source: Wikipedia

  • Andrea

    Mr Berkowitz seems to be asking for some sort of ideological affirmative action that will guarantee more representation for conservative views in higher education. I find it very ironic that this desire for affirmative action is coming from someone on the right, given that it is the right that has fought so vociferously against affirmative action policies intended to provide more ethnic and racial diversity in the UC system.

  • Wellington

    The one speaker acted like a crying victim when he claimed that Milton Friedman wasn’t being taught.  Let us NEVER forget that Friedman’s policies resulted in at least 50,000 innocent leftists in South America being tortured and murdered, which Friedman never condemned. Some of them were thrown out of airplanes. These were REAL victims of murderers and he says boo-hoo because the ideologue of the MURDERERS isn’t getting attention in academia.

    • Sam

       This is true, while Karl Marx gets wrongly blamed for the crimes of Stalin and Mao who lived many decades after his death, Milton Friedman and the Chicago boys were ACTUALLY working with dictators and giving them economic advice. Conservative academics also supported war efforts, militarism and coups in real time. Conservatively-biased analysis led to people pushing for the war in Iraq after all

      • Friedman responded on multiple occasions to these criticisms by explaining that while he disapproved of Pinochet’s attacks on political freedoms, he saw no reason to deny his advice on providing for Chileans the best economic policies possible. He believed that greater economic liberty would eventually result in great political liberty. Classical liberalism values liberty above all else and unreservedly condemns the kind of oppression inflicted by Pinochet et al on their people.
        On the other hand, Marxism is fundamentally dependent upon the abolition of economic liberty. But as has been shown time and time again, economic actions cannot be circumscribed within a sphere apart from other human actions. And so far from being aberrations within Marxism, many (not all) of the kinds of horrors inflicted by Mao and Stalin are nothing but the logical conclusion of Marxism.

        • Wellington

           And yet even today, Friedman’s policies, which have been implemented in Latvia, are resulting in yet another economic disaster, another exodus of skilled workers out of their country, and debt slavery for anyone foolish enough to stay.

          • I wasn’t aware that we were discussing the effectiveness of free-market ideology in promoting prosperity. I thought we were talking about its supposed connection to Pinochet style massacres. But fine.

            I must say I am not familiar enough with Latvia’s situation to comment on it. That said, in that region, everybody is going through a terrible recession. So I’m not sure we can attribute Latvia’s economic problems to free-market policies you claim it implemented. France, Italy, Greece and Portugal are also doing terrible and they aren’t exactly known for being big followers of Friedman’s prescriptions. If you have evidence for your claim that Latvia was indeed a deregulated economy with little government intervention, I would love to see it. And I’m not simply talking about its government divestment following independence from the Soviet Union. Moving away from 100% state control does not mean you have a free economy.

          • Colin

            “Moving away from 100% state control does not mean you have a free economy.” Or as Donald Rumsfeld said about the looting in Baghdad, “Stuff happens.” 

          • I don’t see the connection.

    • gdo

      Besides, since when is Milton Friedman not taught?  Of course he is.  Once again, the right shouts out beliefs, and everyone accepts it as fact.  Where’s the data?

  • Ericlowin

    The National Association of Scholars is privately funded. Who pays their bills. Their work product smells suspiciously like those of the Cato, Heritage, and Club for Growth variety, i.e., paid propaganda.

  • Vet

    I graduated from UC Berkeley in 1972.  I was a VietNam era vet (who never went to VietNam) on the GI Bill, working nights at a defense plant.  I was give very low grades because I would not participate in the various political “movements” at Berkeley.  I could not get a MA due to my low grades.  However, I now teach at a college (in spite of not having a MA) and I find the incoming students to be very poorly prepared.  The problem of politically inclined teaching in high school is a serious handicap to the young student. 

    • Guest

      It is not “politically inclined teaching” in high school that is the serious handicap!  It is the lack of funding (caused by conservative groups brainwashing people into voting against tax initiatives), lack of educated parents and appropriate upbringing to encourage them to value education (same cause), and basic laziness caused by improper parenting (same cause)!  DUH!

  • Rick

    Dr Mayer is wrong about pay freezes.  Gov Brown, a Democrat, froze faculty pay in the early 1980s. 

    • Eric

      In addition, it is worth noting that UC faculty continued to receive merit pay raises between FY 2008 and FY 2011 while tuition skyrocketed and pay for non-union UC staff was frozen.

  • Stevv

    Not all conservatives are Republicans. Many conservatives endorse teaching the theory of evolution and critical thinking. Republicans are debating whether contraception should be legal and are doing their best to dismantle all public education. Higher education is for snobs?
    The study has basic logical flaws, as do Republicans, and the proof is in this primary process we’ve had to witness. 
    We need real debate, and perhaps real conservatives.

  • Mikbrickey

    The whole conversation is another sad indicator of the culture wars at play in the U.S.. The liberal “tradition”/philosophy has more expansive and inclusive values than the conservative tradition and most University education has reflected that fact for decades (students, myself included, have not met with evolutionary science, broad social perspectives, etc and come out more conservative!).  This “study” and others like it are merely attempts to hold students’ mind in place long enough to prevent them from turning leftward (developing more inclusive/expansive/social/environmental outlooks).  —–However, from a broad values perspective, I think  every professor should strive to become more aware of their own biases, and make sure that they do not make their values the subject of their course. This is done partially, by finding ways to show that all perspectives are right (to some degree) but are also partial.  

    • gdo

      You had me up to the very end.  All perspectives are not right.  People who deny the Holocaust, who think that President Obama was not born in the US, who do not believe there is evidence for climate change have perspectives that are not right.  Yet they believe, as strongly as I do, that they are right.  I am not obligated to teach crackpot perspectives (I am a UC system professor), as if they had the legitimacy of perspectives that are based in fact.  Journalists do too much of that already.

  • Jeremy

    Hi–so are the authors of the report asking for affirmative action in hiring of professors at UC, to get better representation of Republicans?  Does this not open the door for more discussion of affirmative action of minorities such as African Americans in order to reduce racial and cultural bias?

  • I went to a liberal university and professors are not equal in the way their biases come out. I had a very radical communist professor who always graded fairly and from whom I learned a lot about my own views. On the other hand, I had a fairly moderate liberal professor who basically equated “not liberal” with wrong. And that is the problem. Professors who act on their biases don’t think of themselves as biased. They seem to think of themselves as right.

    • Prosper

       just like the NAS spokesperson who claims to be non-political….

      “Professors who act on their biases don’t think of themselves as biased. “

      • Yeap. Everyone has biases. That’s why it makes sense to examine what he was saying and I must confess I don’t see the bias in practice. [update: I mean, in this case]

  • Lindamat2001

    I’m sorry if I missed this discussion, but did you consider the _applicant pool_ for positions at the universities.  The university cannot go out and create a pool of super conservatives who want to be professors.  My view from growing up in two very conservative states is that many conservatives are AGAINST education, so how does the speaker expect them to be represented in university faculty.

    I would also like to hear WHO FUNDS THIS GROUP?  Is it yet another conservative group that is against education?  Is it yet another attempt to attack institutions that don’t goose step to their ridiculous fundamentals?

    Just asking…

    • Wellington

       I posted the SourceWatch list of funders in the comments already…

    • gdo

      Absolutely right.  If we were to try to hire conservative scholars as Professors, it would be difficult, especially in the elite universities.  To become good scholars, one must question and challenge beliefs. The heart of conservatism is respecting authority, and not questioning or challenging.  It’s no surprise that, on average, better scholarship comes from liberal Professors (though great conservative scholars certainly exist).

  • Guest

    The question of who are the funders of this study was clearly and awkwardly avoided.  

  • Tia Watts

    Perhaps what you guest describes as the faculty member’s personal political opinions are actually well researched, and tested conclusions.

    As a teacher, when a student expresses an opinion based solely on their feeling and no evidence, it does not add anything to the teaching of critical thinking.

  • I’m extremely progressive, but I think it’s very important that we all get an unbiased education. 

    • California Francophile

      I don’t see anyone questioning that except the conservative guest!

  • Danielayer

    I just looked up The National Association of Scholars to try and identify their funding.  What I found stated, “NAS was founded to bring together conservatives in academia to fight the
    “liberal bias” on college and university campuses and to target
    multiculturalism and affirmative-action policies.”

  • Patrick

    I see no disclosure of funders on despite the implication of the speaker

  • Amy

    Fascinated that the Chairman of the Board of the NAS received the Jeane Jordan Kirkpatrick Academic Freedom Award from the American Conservative Union Foundation…. And why are so many of the staff from one particular university?

    • I dunno. Why is it that Brad De Long teachers at UC Berkeley and Bob Lucas teaches at Chicago?

  • Josefa Molina

    The author of this report is a conservative activist himself, though he doesn’t see it. His viewpoint is based on a dominant world view where anything that deviates from that world view is threatening. It is akin to what is happening with Mexican-American studies in Arizona. Lies and misrepresentations about what is being taught are thrown out as if they were “truth”. Professors are accused of being biased to instill fear to tow a more conservative line. It smacks of McCarthyism and we really need to be careful as a country not to go here. What is happening in the political arena right now reflects this strategy with the end result that candidates try to outdo themselves as to how “conservative” they are so that they are voted into office.  If these classes ONLY taught a conservative point of view would there be similar accusations of “conservative activism” by the writer of this report?I highly doubt it. We need to not forget that the intent of this finger-pointing is to instill fear in professors & teachers to teach a conservative, Western-focused curriculum devoid of other points of view to maintain the current status-quo. We need all points of view offered in classes. Students certainly get plenty of exposure to the viewpoint of conservative activists throughout their educational careers, in the media, and from the governmental institutions that dictate the norms of everyday life. Students should have the opportunity to enriching their minds with the ability to CHOOSE to take a class with another point of view and from other, non-Western perspectives.

  • John liberty

    NAS has been funded extensively by politically conservative foundations, including the Sarah Scaife Foundation, the John M. Olin Foundation, the Bradley Foundation, the Castle Rock Foundation, and the Smith Richardson Foundation.[24][19  From Wikipedia
    John Libeerty

  • Mark B

    I’m trying to imagine an academic situation in which professors are discouraged from disclosing their own political biases, or in which someone (the government? an academic senate?) determines what is a good balance of biases within a school. Not good for anybody, I’d say. Argue on, professors. Your students will form their own ideas, and they will be much better off if they have the advantage of being exposed to new ideas and vigorous debate.

  • Panourgos

    By the way, this kind of thing is something we’ll see a lot more of if Romney is elected.  An ideological attack on public education to go hand in hand with the fiscal wrecking job that’s already being carried out. The right hates higher public education–it enables social mobility among the lower classes, opens people to new ideas and provides a space for scholars and students to do work that is not immediately convertible into cash.  This “report” is an opening salvo.  The stakes are high, especially for working people.

    • California Francophile

      We won’t LET Romney be elected!  Commit!!

  • steve

    Typical opening salvo in a conservative attack. Claim liberal bias in an institution (media, courts, government, education, wikipedia, teach the controversy!) to delegitimize the institution. Simultaneously, infiltrate the institution or build a competing institution with an actual conservative ideological agenda. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. Sorry conservatives, REALITY has a liberal bias.

  • Tim

    The crux of the problem might be in Mr Berkowitz’s implication that there are only two points of view on the world: left and right. To a great extent a liberal bias in academia can be attributed to a root social instinct or tendency among liberals, an instinct suggested in the word itself, to have a generous and broad scope of curiosity and interest.

    I would add that liberalism, truly understood, is not in the least anti-conservative. Mr Berkowitz’s simplistic dualism demonstrates intellectual mediocrity and carelessness. He points in some worthy directions, but they deserve a more worthy advocate.

  • BC

    The Liberal wishes to frame the discussion/argument in terms of “republican” and “democrat” or “conservative (bad)” and “liberal” (good” – which is of course a calculated strawman. The ideology of the right is pictured and hysterically described as “stifled” and “narrow-viewed”. IN REALITY – the issues are far more simple – but when framed properly, the arguments of the liberal brain float away in abject illogical and irrational clouds of pot-smoke and frazzled dreads.  The REAL line in politics and our western society today is simply this: Rational and Irrational. Logical and Illogical. Is it Rational to teach one side of an issue when there are people there paying to learn both? Of course not. Is it logical to believe that there is no merit in having a society based upon accomplishments instead of color, creed, or religion? Of course not. Why would someone’s “cultural diversity” have any bearing on whether they can or cannot excel in a job or university? It shouldn’t – because its irrational. Teaching historical facts and creating historical contexts in a way that is washed through our current (mistaken) moral relativism is completely bereft of logic. 200 years ago is not today. 1000 years ago is not today. History stands on its own – with its own facts and contexts. When a biased professor teaches history with today’s bias, he/she fails to do his or her job. And of course – when a logically and well-thought out argument is made against something that a liberal feels should be accepted without rational thought – they attack the source – with no mention of the data.

    • You obviously wish to frame the argument as Logical vs. Illogical because you’ve presupposed that the progressive position is “illogical”. Perhaps it’s due to your alcohol-soaked brain and the shortness of your buzz cut?

    • gdo

      This is a silly argument.  There are people who deny the Holocaust happened, think that climate change is a myth, think that creationism and evolution are equally plausible, and think President Obama was born outside of the US.  Is it rational to teach both sides of these issues? 

      • Guest

         Let me try to understand your point of view. While there are scholars on both sides of the climate change and creationism versus evolution debates, the only rational thing for everyone to do is to only teach what YOU consider to be rational. Did I get that right?   

  • Tim

    Mr Berkowitz points to some very real problems regarding mediocrity in reading lists and a carelessness about the canon, but in so doing very dubiously conflates “Republican” and “conservative”. This strikes me a very careless intellectual mistake — as the current Republican primary amply demonstrates. I’d ask the guest on what basis he might have made this erroneous connection.  The two are not only different but given the extraordinarily disruptive nature of unchecked markets are arguably mutually exclusive. Clearly Mr Berkowitz isn’t a conservative but a neo-liberal market fundamentalist; not republican — one concerned with the public– but an advocate for privatization and the unleashing of private greed as the primary shaper of society. He can complain about the “social agenda” of university faculty, but why it should be replaced with the anti-social agenda of market fundamentalism is far from persuasive to anyone who’d like to see a restoration of the foundation of education — and civilization?

  • JohnMashey

    Last summer, I looked very hard at NAS funding, given its attacks on climate science and campus sustainability initiatives via its President, anthropologiist Peter Wood.  See Bottlling nonsense, misusing a civil platform at Chronicle of Higher Education for a short introduction.

    Then see this report, esp. p.20, 23-
    NAS has long been funded by the same conservative family foundations behind most thinktanks doing climate anti-science.  In this case, Richard Mellon Scaife and L&H Bradley have been the core fiunders, but NAS also got some nice government grants in the Bush era for purposes that might seem outside their charter, and with some murky funding relationships.
    There is plenty of room for argument over politics, but NAS sees science through a political lens as well, which then casts doubt on their credibility elsewhere.

    I haven’t had a chance to read this report, but when the President of NAS lauds a talk by Viscount Christopher Monckton attacking climate science showing a swastika (p.12 of the report has a picture), the NAS viewpoint is fairly clear.

  • Laurie Collier

    I just did a little research on the National Association of Scholars and found out that, as expected, it is a coalition of conservative academics and their supporters on the right. I was interested in the discussion because I have experienced ridiculously biased teachers through my many years of college and my daughters years at UC Santa Cruz. I have had egregiously biased teachers on both ends of the political spectrum although more often professors are liberal only some go off the deep end with it. Professors should be sanctioned if students are complaining of gross bias but the study itself was clearly biased.

  • Mark Spence

    Libtardism is a mental disorder.

  • I read the NAS report and I don’t believe they established a causal relationship between declining academic standards and political affiliations of faculty/management. Without a control group, or examining performance over-time relative to faculty affiliation, this study is fundamentally flawed. 

    That said, there are some disturbing allegations of curricular and classroom bias that should likely be addressed by the UC Board of Regents.

    Both of my children attended UC Santa Cruz, and we never heard them complain about academic bias or having dissenting opinions quashed.

    Lastly, I work in Silicon Valley and some of the most brilliant people I have
    worked with had quite radical ideas / perspectives. Learning how to get 
    along and appreciate these individuals is a good lesson. If we manage our
    academic institutions into “political correctness”, it would be a mistake (IMHO).

  • guess

    Sounds to me a very bias study funded by right wing when I listened to Borkowitz and dodging the question about the funding of this study. 

  • JohnMashey

    1. Before semi-retiring, I was employed at Bell Labs and then 3 Silicon Valley companies, interacted with hundreds of companies and government agencies and lectured at hundreds of universities around the world.

    In sizeable organizations (especially universities), implementation of policies is rarely uniform, because they are implemented by people.  Teaching skill varies from awful to terrific, with most ~average.  Ability to be unbiased ranges from ~0 to 1, as does left/right bias.  In any of these, if one doesn’t like the average position, one highlights the extreme end of the disliked direction and tries to paint that as typical.  I don’t know if that’s what happened here.

    2. Hoover:without necessarily agreeing with Hoover in general, I would say that there are useful efforts there, like Shultz-Stephenson Task Force on Energy, which actually has some serious people, like Shultz (a big fan of PHEVs and EVs and getting off oil) and Burt Richter of Gambling With The Future. I’ve heard that talk in person, the first half could have been given by Al Gore.

    I think Hoover is in that rare category of being a legitimate center of conservative thought, unlike places like Heartland, CEI, etc, etc, who seem more like ad agency/lobbyists.

    For instance, while I’ve easily found (p.39-41 of above) much tobacco funding for many thinktanks (AdTI, AEI, ALEX, APF, Atlas ATR, CRC, CATO, CEI, Claremont, FoF, GMU La&Econ Center, Heartland, Heritage, Hudson, IWF, Mackinac, Manhattan, NCPA, NCPPR, PLF, PRI, TASSC, WLF, etc), I haven’t yet found Hoover amongst the fundees.  Maybe they are there, but if so, not obvious like the others.   Hoover has also been far less active in climate anti-science than many of the others and its funding profile is a bit different.

    Anyway, each thinktank is worth considering separately, and at least in some, each effort.  Here, I think the NAS connection is more relevant than Hoover.

  • Guest

    I’m a sophomore at Mills College and I’ve also studied at a California community college. Both of which are taught from a liberal perspective.
    Most of my professors, especially at Mills, have just assumed that all of the students are as liberal as they are. And when anyone questions the professor, he or she often times doesn’t even dignify the question with a response. I’ve a had professor that simply responded to inquisitive students by chuckling and saying “No.”
    There have also been several times where I have felt that I need to write my essays from the biased perspective of my professor in order to received a good grade.
    My professors last semester highly encouraged us to participate in the Occupy marches. One professor even offered us extra credit if we went.
    Mills College prides itself on promoting critical thinking. But in reality, I often feel like my professors are not directly teaching me how to be a critical thinker. In fact, I’m learning how to become a critical thinker by reviewing my notes after class and determining for myself which aspects of my professors’ lectures I agree with and which parts I don’t.
    I love Mills College, but the extreme liberalism frustrates me at times. I entered Mills hoping to major in Ethnic Studies and minor in Anthropology. But after taking a few courses, I now find myself majoring in Psychology and minoring in Math because I did not like biased curriculum of the Humanities.

    • erictremont

      Your observations are definitely applicable to many UC classrooms, where the professors are often blind to their prejudices and intolerant of dissenting opinions. 

    • RegularListener

      I agree professors should not publicly encourage students to participate in “Occupy” marches, any more than they should publicly encourage students to participate in “Tea Party” demos.  A demo that is strictly about funding for higher education is another matter since every student, of whatever political persuasion, is affected by funding classes, teachers etc. However, offering extra credit for attending a demo (any demo, including one on funding) definitely crosses a line and should be reported to whatever Ombudsman or committee on academic freedom exists at Mills. 
      Professors, should be free to participate in demos on their own time of course.

  • Let me get this straight, the humanities department has a liberal bias? Seriously? Does the business school have a conservative bias? Do the sciences tend towards the middle. We need a study from a right wing think tank to tell us this?

    • erictremont

       James, you are missing the point.  Everybody is biased but that does not mean that professors don’t have a professional obligation to acknowledge other points of view and avoid repression of dissenting opinions in the classroom. 

  • guest_x

    I thought it was interesting during the radio show when a caller asked who funded the study. Peter Berkowitz sounded offended and couldn’t understand what difference it made to the study results. He did not answer the question but suggested anyone could look it up. So I did. Not surprisingly NAS gets most of its funding from conservative foundations (NAS has been funded extensively by politically conservative foundations, including the Sarah Scaife Foundation, the John M. Olin Foundation, the Bradley Foundation, the Castle Rock Foundation, and the Smith Richardson Foundation (from Wikipedia)). This certainly raises the question of whether there was a conservative bias going into the study. Beware all reports and articles that do not go through a peer review process.

  • David G.

    As I listened to this Forum program, I kept asking myself, “What is the National Association of Scholars?” A little online research indicates that they are a conservative leaning organization especially dedicated to opposing multiculturalism, the declining emphasis on studying Western Civilization, and affirmative action in higher education, among other things. The same sources say  that it has been funded principally by conservative political organizations. A look at their own list of “Issues and Ideals” does suggest a conservative ideological bent, but also lists plenty of things that any liberal might agree with as well. 

    One item that I found interesting was their opposition to the “sustainability agenda” on college campuses. Curious to know what their beef with the “sustainability movement” is, I read a three part article by the president of the NAS It’s quite fascinating. Related to this issue, there’s just been a press-release from MIT about some computer modeling that predicts a global economic crisis due to exhaustion of resources around the year 2030. Peter Wood would no doubt describe this as another apocalyptic, pseudo-scientific creation arising from liberal biased academia. 

  • Guest

    The report  “A Crisis of Competence” suffers from polemical and shabby scholarship and I was shocked that the Hoover Institution would want to be connected with it. As a history major at Cal, I was trained to carefully analyze sources, make coherent claims and use evidence in my argument. Perhaps the authors may want to go back to school and learn these skills before attempting social science research.  
    The bulk of the “evidence'” section comes from a website (now taken down) where students posted political grievances with the curriculum or their instructors. The authors suggest that since the professors did not engage in an online rebuttal it is evidence that the student’s claim must be true. “The inability or unwillingness of the instructors who are the subjects of these complaints to rebut them (even when invited to do so) is only one of the many reasons to treat this site’s reports as much more than uncorroborated accounts by individual students.”  In some cases the “evidence” they cite is not even that of a self-proclaimed student in a class, but hearsay evidence of someone else’s experience in the class. The report tries to make claims of increasing radicalism of the faculty but has a difficult time since the criteria that they use to determine faculty perspective shifts. At some points, the authors use political parties, at other times they use self-reports, and in one case they use faculty survey on an established scale of the Pew scale. At times they use national studies and at other times local analysis and they shift eras. Of course, as any student of American history knows, the agendas of political parties in the U.S. have shifted over time.  A Teddy Roosevelt Republican would differ from an  Eisenhower Republican or even that of a George H.W. Bush or George W. Bush. But even so presenting changes in faculty allegiances from Democrats to Republicans in the last century would be, if not evidence of trends, at least a more coherent analysis. Since the point of their argument is that it’s the increasing radicalism of the university that has caused the deterioration of the American intellect, they have to make this point even if they do not use any consistent sources of data to support their claim. The authors don’t even attempt a reasoned case. One sentence reads, “Using faculty surveys to get at faculty bias in hiring runs into the difficulty that asking for self-reporting by faculty is rather like asking a criminal to confess.”  In another passage, the authors use a 1998 quote from the now-current AAUP leader about not hiring faculty whose “views you consider reprehensible” and then make vast leaps -“It seems safe to assume that for campus activists, ‘reprehensible’ will be anything to the right of center.”  Why? What evidence is there of “right of center” applicants to be deemed reprehensible?  As in so much of the report, there is no substantive data to back this claim.The irony is that this is a very poorly written polemic about how partisan politics undermines scholarship. 

  • Etanfer

    is it any surprise that UC professors break to the left? Republicans in the state legislature have been actively pushing spending cuts on higher education. Conservatives work diligently to undermine the public university system, so why is it taboo to name the enemy? Unions unabashedly support Democrats, and now it’s time for university educators to take a stand.

  • David G.

    It seems like many of the comments by liberals below actually agree that UC academics probably is liberally biased, but that this is not necessarily a bad thing. The NAS is starting from the viewpoint that such a bias is a bad thing, but then uses a half-cocked argument to relate the bias to the decline of the educational system. 

    I actually agree that it is a problem in our country that we cannot have a respectful discussion between conservatives and liberals (much less, people on the radical extremes), and it would be useful for universities to promote such a conversation. In my opinion, neither liberals, nor conservatives have the answers about how to run our society. We have a population of more than 300 million people of diverse backgrounds, a culture that morphs and changes every decade, and the rest of the world is changing just as fast or faster. There is no one political theory that has the answers. Groups like the NAS seem to want to return to some mythical past, when “Western Civilization” showed the world how to live properly. Liberals dream of repeating the great works of FDR, when our country was much smaller in population, and much more willing to work together for a common goal. These are both fantasies.

Sponsored by

Become a KQED sponsor