The good news is that Berkeley produces a skewed world view. The bad news is that it provides an all too accurate microcosm of academia. “Campus radicalism is back, big time,” Michael Cohen writes in the latest issue of Radical Teacher. “For the first time in a generation, massive rallies, marches, blogs, and, increasingly, student strikes, building occupations and confrontations with the police are drawing the public’s attention to the crisis in public higher education.”
“On March 4 of this year, rallies in 28 states and 11 different countries testified to a growing movement to reverse the now thirty-year neoliberal trend towards privatization and inequality not just in higher education but in American life in general.” Cohen teaches American Studies at Berkeley. Radical Teacher is “a socialist, feminist and anti-racist journal on the theory and practice of teaching.”
“These growing protests have both immediate causes and long term roots,” Cohen writes. “In California, where I live and teach, we are witness to the spectacle of the richest state in the country claiming that it is broke, and that billions in deficits must be made up for exclusively by cuts to schools, parks, food stamps and other necessities of public life.”
“These cuts have fallen on public higher education where the community colleges are canceling entire quarters, the California state schools are reducing enrollment by nearly 40,000 and the University of California system just raised student fees 32 % while furloughing faculty and laying off 1900 uinionized workers.”
“The 2010 Budget Act holds General Fund spending essentially flat compared to the prior year–$86.6 billion in 2010 compared to $86.3 billion in 2009-10,” according the enacted  budget in the Golden State. Nevertheless, Cohen sees budget cuts.
“In a shocking reminder of the state’s skewed priorities, California now has the dubious honor of spending more to incarcerate people than it does to subsidize higher education,” Cohen alleges. Perhaps if the state didn’t provide sanctuary to all of those gang members from south of the border….
His Radical Teacher bio claims that Cohen “is also a member of the Berkeley Solidarity Alliance, a coalition of student, worker and faculty groups dedicated to fighting for free higher education in California.
Cohen’s ratemyprofessors.com page shows that he has his camp followers but also his detractors. The reviews  from both sides make for interesting reading:
- “I want somebody from the Board of Education to audit this course. The last six reviews for Cohen, even the positive, indicate that he’s got an agenda that teaching is second to. Even if you agree with his far-left [sch][sic]muck, you have to agree that this is not teaching. He’s just like the prof in Simpsons season 19 ep. 11 except much more extreme.”
- “If you’re a white male, prepare to either accept that your achievements are less deserved than a minorities [sic] or accept a C (estimate) the class. It’s the Michael Cohen version of Culture Wars: learn how white male capitalists have ruined, oppressed, and stolen everything ever! This professor is such BS that I almost want to change majors!”
- “Amazing lecturer! Very liberal with many radical views but it was also interesting to see American history from a much different perspective. He pushed his agenda pretty hard during the strike (for it) and he’s either a Marxist or an anarchist, possibly both. Very passionate, I would recommend taking his class!”
- “Okay, I admit that he does not always present the most objective views (leans towards socialism), but honestly, he knows how to keep the class interesting! He incorporates different types of media into his lectures, and references pop culture into his slides. 2 short essays and 1 midterm and final. Readings were a bit boring, but movies were cool.”
We contacted Dr. Cohen to get his response to the above reviews but as of yet he has not responded.
Malcolm A. Kline is the Executive Director of Accuracy in Academia .
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