Hypocrisy of UC Berkeley liberalism is unacceptable

By David Kurz

Don’t take this class if you believe the Bible is inspired or infallible.”

When I started taking classes a year ago as an entering doctoral student here at UC Berkeley, I knew I was entering a very liberal environment. I had heard that the campus was the flagship of liberal academia, and I was also familiar with other bastions of liberalism during my time in the Ivy League and at Oxbridge as an undergraduate and a master’s student, respectively. But despite UC Berkeley’s ultra-liberal reputation, I took it as a given that there was still significant latitude for free thought and expression in the classroom.

Thus, I was not expecting the unapologetically heavy-handed double standard I encountered from the professor, a well-respected biblical scholar. His initial cutting remark within five minutes of the start of class was soon followed by more: “This stuff isn’t taught in synagogues or churches because they don’t want to piss people off. … Anyone can take this class, as long as you play by the rules of the game. … If you disagree with the approach we use, that’s an F.”

I was shocked — not only by his contempt for religion but also by the fact that he wasn’t even trying to be subtle about his narrow-minded academic approach. Apparently, free thought and academic curiosity were off limits from the get-go. “I don’t want people who are going to disagree with me all semester,” the professor declared in no uncertain terms.

To be fair, part of me understood where my professor was likely coming from. After all, as Thomas Kuhn writes in his classic book “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,” prevailing paradigms within any disciplinary study (including the study of the Bible) demand adherence to certain assumptions or ground rules that allow the field to advance within that paradigm. Thus I understood that my professor probably wanted to operate within a historical-critical framework of studying the Old Testament without having to deal with students questioning the fundamental basis of that approach to literary criticism.

Kuhn, however, also points out that paradigms are often flawed.

So, undeterred, I politely peppered my professor with questions…

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