Monday, April 02, 2012

PLAYING STUPIDITY TELEPHONE

I just heard Rachel Maddow talking about this, but Raw Story has more detail:

During a campaign stop in Wisconsin on Monday, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum claimed that a number of the University of California's ten campuses did not offer courses on American history.

"I was just reading something last night from the state of California," he said, according to Think Progress. "And that the California universities -- I think it's seven or eight of the California system of universities don't even teach an American history course. It's not even available to be taught." ...


Maddow didn't know where the hell Santorum got this, but Raw Story found the source:

He appeared to be making reference to an op-ed recently published in the Wall Street Journal by Peter Berkowitz of the National Association of Scholars, a conservative group that fights the "progressive agenda" in the lecture hall.

That seems to be correct -- but notice what Berkowitz actually wrote:

None of the nine general campuses in the UC system requires students to study the history and institutions of the United States. None requires students to study Western civilization, and on seven of the nine UC campuses, including Berkeley, a survey course in Western civilization is not even offered.

Santorum reads that on seven of the UC campuses you can't take a course in Western civilization, and he tells the audience that on seven campuses you can't take a course in American history. To Santorum, apparently, they're the same thing! America = the West!

Meanwhile, the claim that you can't take a survey course in Western civilization at Berkeley is belied by the fact that if you go to Berkeley's online course catalog and start searching, you find, among other courses, Survey of World History:

This course focuses on benchmarks of the history of various nations and civilizations. It begins with the ancient Greeks, Romans, and Chinese, but emphasizes world developments since the 15th century. The purpose of the course is to gain a better understanding of the rise and decline of states, empires, and international trading systems. Therefore, political and economic structures and developments as well as military factors will be presented along with the more traditional historical perspectives.

To Berkowitz, I guess that doesn't count as "a survey course in Western civilization" because it's not called Survey Course in Western Civilization.

Berkeley also offers Origins of Western Civilization ("Introductory study of major historical events in the origins of western civilization"), Roots of Western Civilization ("This course covers Homeric and Classical Greece, Rome in its transition from republic to empire, and the world of the Old Testament"), and Western Civilization ("This course covers Homeric and Classical Greece, Rome in its transition from republic to empire, and the world of the Old Testament"). But those don't count either, I guess, because they're not surveys.

I can't even go any further in trying to dig through the ignorance here, but I'll mention one more thing Berkowitz writes about the UC system:

In several English departments one can graduate without taking a course in Shakespeare.

You know what? I got a degree in English at Columbia 32 years ago, and I didn't have to take a Shakespeare course either. The requirements were fairly rigorous, and Columbia stuck by its core curriculum -- it's a rare school where you actually do have to complete sweeping survey courses on civilization and literature -- but a full course of Shakespeare was an elective (which I happily took). So I guess Columbia is part of the rot, too.

*****

UPDATE: Here's the Maddow segment:


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9 comments:

debg said...

World History can be perceived as part of the rot--it's pandering to those global special interests who think the West isn't all so great. I was trained in grad school to teach Western Civ courses, then I got my current job at a school that (thankfully) offers World History instead. While it's much more complicated to teach World, it's also much cooler material.

And I always tell my students about the origins of Western Civ classes: right after WWII, as part of the cold war. They were "rah! rah! Christian Western Enlightenment Whig History!" as opposed to those godless commies. When people rightly objected in the 70s that Western Civ was just the history of dead white guys, World Civ came into existence.

Danp said...

If Santorum read enough Shakespeare and studied the Elizabethan context in which these plays and sonnets were written, he might understand the extent that Shakespeare criticized state-church relations.

That said, I was browsing your archives the other day and noticed your first post in 2002 was about Ron Rosenbaum, a clueless expert on Shakespeare, who couldn't see beyond the poetry, and doesn't think the meanings of the plays are particularly important.

Kathy said...

A Wall Street op-ed? And here I was thinking he'd read it in a chain email.

flarenut said...

Yep, as soon as you start including the Heathen Chinee or those pesky central americans asking whether there are more christians in heaven, it's worse than no Western Civ course at all.

Also, American history courses that mention slavery being wrong or reference the trail of tears: far worse than no course.

BH said...

If Santorum knows any more about Shakespeare than my dog Lucy, I'll eat the nearest sweatervest.

Tom said...

It's worth noting that leftist Berkeley grants "Masters of Financial Engineering" degrees in about triple the number of History PhD degrees, so I would conclude that those devious commies are planning to overthrow the system from within. Maybe 2008 was a dress-rehearsal!

Steve M. said...

It's also worth noting that Berkeley Law employs John Yoo.

Roger said...

Berkeley Law has gone downhill since they renamed it.

Cereal said...

Whatever U Cal requires it's obvious that U Conservative doesn't require it's grads to pass an intro course in "Not Being a Moron"