The highly-politicized conversation regarding Berkeley’s “indoctrination” of students grows odd when it lectures about things outside the realm of the political.

A recent Wall Street Journal opinion piece claimed that “the politicization of higher education” at the University of California “deprives students of the opportunity to acquire knowledge and refine their minds.” But the piece itself can see education only through a political lens. (It worries how many Democrats and Republicans are housed in the UC Berkeley English and History departments.)

Two Berkeley professors responded indignantly to the false claim that Berkeley does not teach American History or Western Civilization courses (linked here and here)—but both, in frameworks themselves politicized, leave the practical and intellectual issue largely unaddressed. By what means do students receive the skills to weigh competing discourses? What larger intellectual structures order the knowledge that students receive—including the politicized, historical anecdotes that both professors cite?

One of the responses rightly asserts that a university education is more than an inventory of courses—and that “what matters is what we teach students to do: in our case, read, think, write, and decide for themselves.” But on what grounds do students make those decisions? Yes, education is more than an inventory of courses—but is the question of content frivolous? Is any topic as good as another? Telling students we should “decide for ourselves” intellectually is no more than an empty compliment if we’re told next that it doesn’t matter what we decide.