CDCR High Desert State Prison, Susanville California

Obsessing over the truth and missing the point, again.

California gubernatorial candidate Delaine Eastin got jammed by an outfit called Politifact over a point she made in a radio interview — California has built more prisons in the past 40 years than it has built colleges and universities. According to Politifact, the prison number, 23, is accurate. The claim that only two colleges were built, no not so much. The Politifact article identifies a number of community colleges that were built and opened as new facilities in the past 40 years. It sort of muffs the point that only two new campuses have been added to the University of California system in that same time frame.

Gate at Pelican Bay State Prison, CDCR

The numbers are since 1960: two University of California campuses, six California State University campuses (state universities were formerly state colleges) and 40 odd community college campuses most built before 1980. The University of California’s admissions numbers for students of color (as opposed to foreign students) has never gotten much past abysmal. The transfer rates of community college students into the four year Bachelor of Arts or Sciences programs at the UC and CSU system, is frankly a long, long, long, and no longer funny joke. The Community College system, which has the most racially diverse student body, is also where most students of color seeking higher education opportunities seem to get ( yeah I’m going to say it) trapped.

So, if you trust the folks at PolitiFact, and remember they include the word “fact” in their name, then Ms. Eastin, a former State Superintendent of Schools, isn’t really lying, her statement was just, you know, false.

I do not trust that assessment. It is not a matter of not trusting PolitiFact. It is a matter of disliking news analysis that misses the forest, the trees, the leaf litter, and even the twigs, let alone the point: more money, energy, and political capital is being spent on the “law and order lock’em up” gravy train than on, well, education, training, child development, mental health care, and all that other rot (according to some).

I see Eastin’s statement from this perspective: Using the 1960 California Master Plan for Higher Education, as the standard, the state has done a poor to pathetic job of reaching its goal of providing affordable opportunities for higher education and advanced technical training to its citizens. The Plan, as it is sometimes called, is now more than 50 years old. It gets dragged out from time to time for review, consideration, discussion, and then dumped back in a drawer. The PolitiFact piece does not seem to have even considered reviewing what some would probably now describe as a relic of a more idealistic age. In 2014, the Daily Cal published this article http://www.dailycal.org/2014/03/06/california-master-plan-higher-education-faces-new-scrutiny-old-challenges/.

Clark Kerr, Principal Author of the California Master Plan for Higher Education

I personally feel that Eastin deserves to be thanked for putting the spotlight on California’s overall lack of any commitment to making higher education work for all of the people of the state, as opposed to those who are wealthy enough to send their children to its fabled elite campuses — UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara, UCLA. Under the Master Plan, there would now be a University of California, Redding campus. Imagine that.

Image from the Merced Monthly featuring the UC Merced Extension Building (Under construction)

I believe that PolitiFact provides a valuable public service in holding politicians and others accountable for the accuracy of their statements. Veracity on the other hand is more difficult to assess. Eastin of all people should know that California’s political commitment to education is more like the Pirate’s Code, something more in the nature of “guidelines” when in fact there are actual statutes that have not been followed or funded.