An Inconvenient Truth About Education

Some months ago, I shared that I’ve returned to The Ohio State University to complete my undergraduate studies. Two quarters into the process, I’m thoroughly enjoying myself, even as the extra work provides many new challenges in balancing my personal, professional, and now educational responsibilities. This summer quarter, far from reveling in a slower academic term, I decided to take four courses, or 20 hours of classroom work. Two of my four subjects are Biology, and I’ve learned many things. Perhaps most frustrating and enlightening however, is an inconvenient truth about college life: students are indeed exposed to political propaganda on issues ranging from climate change to health care.

Case in point: Biology. As part of the undergraduate course of study, students take a number of natural science courses to fulfill what are known as “GEC’s,” or General Education Curriculum requirements. These classes include Biology, Chemistry, Physics, etc. In scheduling my summer, I enrolled in both Bio 101 and Bio 102 to fulfill a portion of these GEC’s. Bio 101, which I finished last week, was a very enjoyable course (I earned an A, thank you very much), with which I have little complaint.

The single issue raising a red flag for me this quarter in Bio 101 was the film “An Inconvenient Truth” featuring climate change profiteer Al Gore. Students were forced to watch an hour of the film in the final lab session of the class, and to answer a series of fourteen questions based on the “facts” presented by Mr. Gore in his infamous “documentary.” The film, of course, presents a number of statements, statistical references, and other allegations to “prove” that the United States must revert to some 1950s Third World version of our society in order to “save the planet.” While several of my colleagues are bright and well read enough to capably discern the real truths from the “inconvenient” versions promulgated by Mr. Gore, it was nonetheless disheartening to discover that even a department as objective and unbiased as biological science would sneak political propaganda into the course under the guise of scientific education.

While students’ exposure to “An Inconvenient Truth” was mildly disconcerting, I wasn’t nearly as shocked then as I was just a week later when I got the syllabus for Bio 102. In the first two class meetings alone, three hours were earmarked for viewing films on the health care debate. You heard me correctly: a class ostensibly on human biology spent the first two lectures of the term subjecting students to political propaganda on health care policy.

The first lecture featured a PBS special with correspondent T.R. Reid of the Washington Post sharing why the health care systems of England, Japan, Taiwan, Germany and Switzerland are ALL better than the United States, and why our nation has the worst health care system known to man. Now, before you begin debating the merits of that argument, stop to ask the most pressing question: what in the name of St. Francis of Assisi does health care policy in the United States have to do with a college biology course?

Still trying to answer that last question? Well, then you’ll really flip your lid when I tell you that lecture number two was spent watching the Michael Moore mockumentary “Sicko” … in its entirety. While I was able to keep from hanging myself by my shoelaces during the presentation, I was left with a feeling that this class may not actually teach me anything about human biology. I’m even more convinced as I look to the week on “human nutrition” and see that we’ll be watching BOTH “Food, Inc.,” AND “Supersize Me,” two instant classics on the anti-farm, anti-American food best sellers list.

After watching “Sicko,” however, I was encouraged by two things: first, that a student was willing to challenge the professor on her choice to show the film, and second, that at least some students in the class understood that “free health care” is only possible through extremely confiscatory tax policies. The first realization came as the prof called on one lovely young lady in the back row for looking “shifty eyed” after the announcement of the Moore film. The young lady responded that she assumed the professor was simply trying to push her own liberal views on the students in the class. The professor deftly dodged the question, obeying the first commandment of political debate: Never accept the premise of the question.

The second realization came in class discussion following the film, as one student shared that France, a nation highly praised by Moore in the film for its universal healthcare system, has a nearly 90 percent tax rate. The lecturer shared that she highly doubted the stat to be true, so I provided the actual statistic: according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), France’s tax burden is 73 percent of Gross Domestic Product, in and 2007, the French paid over 47 percent in taxes, not including their “social contributions,” AKA Social Security. A number or students agreed the tradeoff was un-American.

Four weeks of liberal indoctrination await me. I’m trying to mind my P’s and Q’s because I’m going to make the Dean’s List this quarter come hell or high water … It’s going to be tough, especially when “Food, Inc.” rolls around later this quarter.