SDSU needs STEM, not beer

by Kenneth Leonard

I must preface this column by telling readers one essential thing: I love beer. It’s wonderful, and I appreciate everything about it. Echoing the words of Autolycus in William Shakespeare’s “The Winter’s Tale,” I wholeheartedly believe “a quart of ale is a dish for a king.”

Now that I’ve got that out of the way, here are some reasons why I’m frustrated to see San Diego State’s College of Extended Studies recently began offering a professional certificate in the Business of Craft Beer.

First of all, despite the surge of civic pride I feel whenever I reflect on San Diego’s status as a craft beer mecca, I fail to see the reasons why business courses offered last year failed to meet the needs of local brewers.

I doubt the business of brewing is distinctly different enough from other business ventures to warrant specialized education at a collegiate level. I understand how SDSU is attempting to capitalize on local craft beer mania, and I can respect where our administration is coming from. However, such a blatant attempt to distinguish SDSU as a hip school with courses in “beerology” comes across as an overt attempt at drawing in a niche market of students, which is categorically unhip.

Second, without delving into the god-awful and depressing details of the California State University budget, let’s take a minute to consider just how non-optimal our budgetary circumstances are in 2013. Earlier in the year, the CSU Board of Trustees approved a plan to reduce course re- quirements for graduation. Back in January, CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White was quoted in the Los Angeles

Times urging administrators to come to terms with the fact that “we are in a new normal, with reduced resources.” The addition of a course in craft brewing just doesn’t seem like the best use of resources.

While craft breweries serve a semi- vital purpose in the community, our school should only be facilitating the success of brewers after academic essentials are properly funded, and the CSU hasn’t figured out how to do that yet.

America is suffering from academic anemia in a big way, and public uni- versities have a responsibility to do everything they can to reverse anti-educational trends. To give you an idea of how far we’ve sunk into an intellectual hole, a 2012 Gallup poll revealed 46 percent of college gradu- ates in the U.S. believe “God created humans in present form within the last 10,000 years.”

According to the Gallup poll, “Despite … new discoveries in biological and social science, there has been virtually no sustained change in Americans’ views of the origin of the human species since 1982.”

The stability of American ignorance has been facilitated by organizations such as Answers in Genesis and the formerly Santee-based Institute for Creation Research, which teach scientifically illiterate people about how the world is approximately 6,000 years old, which is roughly a thousand years after ancient Mesopotamian civilizations figured out how to brew beer. These types of organizations are ideologically focused, and they are utilizing every available resource to spread their message. How come the CSU system isn’t similarly devoted to damning the spread of ignorance?

Our culture desperately needs edu- cation in the so-called STEM majors: science, technology, engineering and mathematics. These fields are what primarily drive our society and our economy forward. More beer is cool, but our university should be leading the academic community by example and exhausting every possible resource to facilitate academic fundamentals before offering courses such as the craft brewing certification.

Now, I’m not saying this certification is a mistake or that SDSU shouldn’t offer it. I just think it’s a big step in a neutral direction, and I’m a cranky idealist who wants his school to take giant leaps in positive directions. It bothers me that members of the student body who don’t have any idea what’s going on with scientific research at SDSU are excited about dudes from Stone Brewery teaching on our campus. Business Insider recently ranked SDSU as the ninth most underrated university in the U.S., which is something to be proud of. Business Insider’s article praised SDSU for it’s academics, saying, “The school has obtained over $150 million for research, allowing students to get real hands-on experience that will help them succeed in the real world.”

I draw attention to our academic successes and our ability to chase down grants for research because I’m extremely proud of our university and what we’ve been able to accomplish with limited monetary support from the CSU administration.

However, it’s not enough. SDSU must never be satisfied with being an underrated academic institution. We should strive for leadership while expanding our influence where it counts, and while craft breweries are great, this student thinks courses for brewers are more of a distraction than an enhancement in our academic catalogue.