Terry Mulcaire's April 12, 2005 Statement to the Santa Rosa Junior College Board of Trustees

I would like to ask the Board to pass a resolution stating your opposition to SB5, legislation pending in the State Government, the so-called “student’s bill of rights.” Allow me briefly to cover two reasons for opposing it.

First, SB5 responds to a false problem. The problem, supposedly, is “communist” or “leftist” or “totalitarian” instructors who are abusing their classroom authority, by indoctrinating students in their extremist opinions. One example of such a totalitarian professor, from the Florida state legislator who introduced a Student Bill of Rights (similar to SB5) in the Florida State legislature: a college biology professor who teaches that evolution is a fact, and refuses to recognize creationism as an equally valid scientific explanation for the development of life on earth. If the 98% of college biology teachers who agree that evolution is a fact are “totalitarian dictators” for teaching that view, then I, as an English instructor, I suppose, am also a totalitarian dictator for teaching that there is a critically crucial difference between facts and opinions, that facts can be verified, while opinions are arguable.

Second, SB5 will have the effect of reducing all knowledge to opinion. Under SB5, students who object to instruction will have a legal right not to have the instructor’s views forced on them. I fear, then, that under SB5 one student’s opinion that the earth was created in six days, six thousand years ago, will legally have equal standing with his college biology professor’s teaching that life has developed through an evolutionary process of natural selection over millions of years. A Holocaust denier’s opinion that the Holocaust is a hoax cooked up by a worldwide Jewish conspiracy will legally have equal standing with her history professor’s teaching of the factual historical record documenting the Nazi’s murder of millions of European Jews during World War II. A Marxist student’s opinion that private property is the root of all evil will legally have equal standing with his economics professor’s scholarly conclusion that societies where private property rights are protected tend to have higher standards of living.

If everything is arguable, and no one can lay any particular claim to authoritative knowledge or expertise, then why have a system of higher education at all? The anti-intellectualism that underpins SB5 is breathtaking, and antithetical to everything this college stands for. I urge the board to make public their opposition to SB5.