John Leo
Q: Mr. Answer Man, I understand there's a sex scandal at the University of California, Berkeley. What's going on?

A: I wouldn't call it a scandal. I would call it overblown media coverage of a very promising male sexuality course.

Q: What happened?

A: A Berkeley course was designed to make men feel safe about their bodies and their sexual feelings. There's a female version, too. Do people respect these sex courses for their sensitivity and academic content? No. The Daily Cal, the student paper, had to run an article making the male course sound tawdry. Actually, there was nothing cheesy about it at all, though there was some class interaction of a sexual nature.

Q: You mean like at a fraternity party?

A: That's vulgar. This was serious. All the students, male and female, would discuss their sexual fantasies and porn stars were invited to lecture. The students allegedly went to a strip club and watched a class coordinator have sex on stage. As an icebreaker at one class party, the students allegedly took photos of their genitals and later tried to match all the genitals with their owners. You can imagine the interpersonal exchanges that followed. One female in the class called it an orgy. Students earned two academic credits for this course.

Q: What? Berkeley has fraternity parties for credit?

A: I wish you'd stop calling this a frat party. It's a dignified and empathic de-cal class, and it's been going on for years.

Q: What's a "de-cal" class?

A: It stands for Democratic Education at Cal -- student-led classes outside the general curriculum. A lot of educational theory says that teacher-led classes are too hierarchical. They imply that teachers know more than students. In student led-classes there aren't any teachers, just "coordinators" and "facilitators," and everybody is on the same level.

Q: There's no adult supervision? No wonder things are out of control. I thought this was a major university.

A: It is. But you are behind the times. Nowadays students educate themselves. They don't meekly receive prepackaged wisdom from an older person. Anyway, the de-cal courses range from "Body Dissatisfaction" and "The Joy of Garbage" to "Esperanto" and "Copwatch for Credit," how to monitor your local police. Sexual material is only part of the mix. One student said she loved de-cal courses because they fill "that empty space where faculty can't go."

John Leo

John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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