FLASH CUTS FROM 46 YEARS AT MPC
By David Clemens
1965: being a student at MPC means music, flowers, beer, and love beads. Educational deferment keeps Vietnam a million miles away.
1968: innocence ends overnight at Berkeley with bayonets, anti-war riots, beer, and tear gas.
1971: 23 years old, MA in hand, I teach my first English class, back at MPC. At once, though a bearded, long-haired hippie, MPC sends me to teach GIs at Fort Ord, and so I do, from Vietnam to Desert Storm. Best students ever.
1975: a few of us so-called part-timers take over the MPC CTA chapter, organize a newly-legal union chapter, and win collective bargaining rights. I become a pariah among tenured faculty. At the same time, a handful of us sue MPC for misclassification as “part-time” and “temporary,” a lawsuit that lasts 10 years (as long as the Trojan War). Like the Greeks, we win, and that’s how I became a tenured professor, and even more of a pariah.
1990: the Soviet Union crumbles, Fort Ord closes, and after 20 years, I am back on campus, only to find new, politically partisan departments and requirements.
2000: Requirement 14, mandates that all teachers and all courses “develop a knowledge and understanding of race, class, and gender issues” (including Physics and Succulent Gardens), a universal loyalty oath to multiculturalism.
Fed up with this ruthless absurdity, I expose MPC’s practice in the Monterey Herald, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Chronicle of Higher Education. When a story appears in the Wall Street Journal, MPC’s affront to academic freedom collapses and Requirement 14 is dead. I am a pariah again.
But that’s how I end up in the film Indoctrinate U and how I become a blogger for the National Association of Scholars and a writer for the Pope Center for Higher Education Reform, and linked on Instapundit and Hacker News, and reprinted in The Freeman, and how I get invited to join the Philadelphia Society. And that’s how I am asked to blog for the National Review, a gig that gets me quoted in England’s The Independent and in the Washington Post.
2010: I am involved in a two-front war against dehumanization. Political correctness and STEM obsession are savaging the arts and humanities while Student Learning Outcomes, the worst sort of behaviorism, has crushed the art of teaching.
Then a student inspires me to create the MPC Great Books Program, the only such program in California’s 113 community colleges. Ours is a “recommended program” of the National Association of Scholars and is named one of 60 nationwide “Oases of Excellence” by the American Council for Trustees and Alumni.
And that’s how I came to publish 30 articles, present 15 papers, and give a half dozen speeches in the past 10 years.
The Great Books Program receives $25,000 a year for seven years. We use the funds to produce readings by Poet Laureates of the United States Robert Pinsky, Robert Hass, and Donald Hall as well as talks by Victor Davis Hanson, Dana Gioia, Matt Kish, Mark Edmundson, and many others.
In retrospect, so much of life is chance and opportunity. Sometimes you produce your own fate. Here’s how: when you see something wrong, stand up to it, be fearless, and never back down.