The axis of public sector unions and the identity politics industry has come up with a new way to increase their power and profits – force college students to take a class in “ethnic studies” if they want to graduate.
To do this, AB 1460 was introduced earlier this year by California State Assembly Member Dr. Shirley Weber, a San Diego Democrat who, prior to being elected to the Assembly in 2012, was a Professor of African-American Studies at San Diego State University. The bill has passed the assembly and is currently being considered in the state senate.
An outspoken critic of this bill is Dr. Tony Lima, who taught economics at CSU East Bay for 37 years. Lima has posted online a six page takedown of AB 1460. He writes:
Cal State University (CSU) is today graduating students who cannot do basic algebra, supposedly a requirement for admission to the university. They also cannot compose a paragraph, much less an entire research paper. Once the CSU has figured out how to teach those two R’s, they can take the time to guarantee full employment for ethnic studies faculty.
He backs up this assertion with sobering data on the performance of California’s K-12 public schools. Referencing the U.S. Dept. of Education’s National Assessment of Educational Progress, Lima recounts how California’s ranking vs other states has fallen steadily in recent decades. For example, eighth grader performance in math went from 29th among states in 1992 to 44th place in 2015. Writing scores dropped from 28th place in 1992 to 36th in 2007. Science scores fell from 37th in 1996 to 43rd in 2015. Reading fell from 32nd 1998 to 38th in 2015. In every category, California’s K-12 schools have gone from bad to worse over the past 25 years.
What’s this really about? Will mandating an “ethnic studies” course make CSU graduates more employable, more skilled, more productive? Remember, this is the Cal State system that in 2017 dropped algebra as a prerequisite to satisfy the math requirements they need for graduation. So as Cal State’s college graduates move away from numeracy, what are they moving towards?
Here are examples of what “ethnic studies” majors actually study, drawn from department webpages for Cal State East Bay, Cal Poly, and Sacramento State:
Ethnic Studies is an interdisciplinary approach to the study of the cultures, languages, historical, and contemporary issues relating to African Americans, Asian Americans, Chicana/os-Latina/os, and Native Americans.
Apply inter- and multidisciplinary, comparative, and intersectional approaches to critically analyze discourses, practices, and institutions that maintain structural inequality.
Design and implement research projects that account for the limits and potentials of humanities and social science methodologies and acknowledge competing frameworks of knowledge.
Explain the concepts of colonialism, decolonization, genocide, environmental racism, and/or resilience as foundations of indigenous epistemologies and sovereignty.
There is so much jargon and so many code words like “Chicana/os-Latina/os,” “structural inequality,” “competing frameworks of knowledge” and “environmental racism.”
It shall be interesting if AB 1460 passes, and approximately 100,000 CSU students per year are forced to take these classes. It might even be beneficial for ethnic studies professors and lecturers to have to deal with CSU students who resent having to pay for a class that won’t offer them a single useful post-graduation skill.
Will these instructors be prepared for the occasional brave student who can’t conceal their sarcasm when asked to always say Latino and Latina (unless Latinx is in vogue on the campus in question)? Or when said student laughs in the instructor’s face when corrected and informed that this week it is no longer “Latino/Latina/Latinx,” it’s “Chicano/Chicana”? There will be one in every class who stands up and asks these sorts of questions with unconcealed contempt, and for every student who stands up and speaks, there will be dozens who think it.
How will these instructors cope with engineering students openly scoffing at their attempts to stigmatize objective scientific inquiry as merely one of many “competing frameworks of knowledge?”
And how will the instructors react to students of color from low income households who stand up and explain that the only “environmental racism” they’ve ever encountered is having to pay twice as much for (renewable) energy as their counterparts in other states?
Maybe it will be a good thing for AB 1460 to pass. It will expose the entire student body of the Cal State system, to the absurd, convoluted, perpetually angry and patently ridiculous nonsense that constitutes “ethnic studies” in America academia, and by extension, the entire Leftist establishment.
To be clear: Students of color, especially the majority of them who had never considered taking an “ethnic studies” class because they were trying to get an education, not an indoctrination, will be forced into these classes and find themselves making common cause with their White and Asian (not of color) classmates. They will see, more than ever before, how the academic Left is intellectually mediocre, morally ambivalent, bitterly divisive, bereft of practical ideas, pathologically obsessive, and emotionally hypersensitive. They will walk away.
Bring it on.
Indoctrination, however, isn’t the only goal of AB 1460. As Dr. Lima carefully explains, this is about money, jobs and power. Despite assertions to the contrary by advocates for passage of AB 1460, ethnic studies faculty were hired over the past decade at a far higher rate than other CSU faculty. But across the CSU system there aren’t nearly enough ethnic studies faculty to teach classes in ethnic studies to well over 100,000 students per year. At a typical workload of two 65 student classes per semester, over 800 new faculty members would have to be hired. To put this in perspective, in the fall of 2018 the CSU system only had 13,000 full time faculty.
In a rare display of fortitude by a member of academia, CSU Chancellor Timothy White has come out against passage of AB 1460. Maybe he’s trying to do the academic left a favor, because he anticipates the backlash it will provoke among every student that prefers to spend their tuition money to acquire useful skills.
Whatever the reason, White has invited predictable retribution. Change.org now has a petition online entitled “Demand CSU Chancellor Timothy White to Support AB 1460.” “Demand.” Of course. Excerpt: “We demand that Chancellor White stop his campaign against Ethnic Studies, Gender and Women’s Studies, and Queer Studies. He has demonstrated ill disdain for curriculum offerings, faculty expertise, and activism by Ethnic Studies faculty.” “Ill disdain.” Is there any other kind?
Maybe Chancellor White just happens to care more about preparing students for the real world, which means classes in accounting, engineering, computer science, nursing, and the like.
Compliance with AB 1460 would cost around $80 million per year in pay and benefits for the new instructors. The money and facilities necessary to implement AB 1460 would come out of other departments, or taxpayers would have to increase the budget. And while hiring another 800 ethnic studies instructors might only add around another million per year to the union’s coffers, these 800 individuals would have a far greater propensity to become activists for the union than, say, another engineering professor.
But who needs engineering professors, or the future engineers they will train? California needs more human resources managers and community organizers. Every woke ally knows this.
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Edward Ring is a co-founder of the California Policy Center and served as its first president. This article originally appeared in the California Globe.