The Pew Research Center has released a study that shows Americans, especially more conservative Americans, are realizing that colleges and universities are, as the study states the most common answer, “have a negative effect on the country.” (see http://www.people-press.org/2017/07/10/sharp-partisan-divisions-in-views-of-national-institutions/) While overall 55% of respondents still believe institutions are higher education are valuable, the percentage has declined in recent years, and dramatically among conservatives, who just a few years ago reported a positive view. So what is happening?
A Washington Examiner opinion piece (http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/public-gets-wise-to-academic-baloney/article/2628218) on July 11, 2017 made mention of the study and I believe hits the nail on the head regarding the reasons. The prime example is the University of Missouri, where freshman applications have declined 35% this year–that is huge, and has led to 400 layoffs at the Columbia campus. The reason seems to be that parents and prospective students have finally realized the effects of the overwhelmingly biased academic community (self-reported by the way) as well as the effects of administrators allowing political correctness and just plain violence to continue unchecked–not to mention the new-found disdain for free speech.
When I was an undergraduate way back in the Dark Ages, I did have liberal professors, but at least they were reasonable and willing to hear opposing opinions politely for the most part. The situation now appears to be much different, especially at the state schools and the more “prestigious” private universities. I am appalled at what I read and hear that passes for academic substance, both in the classroom and in academic journals. Here is a sample of a milder sort of what one can read today in journals, especially those in the “soft sciences.” This is the abstract or summary written by the author:
“Building on a study of three women who practice walking-for-thinking as a part of their intellectual work, the analysis identifies potential themes for a future research agenda on gender, walking, and thinking. A particular focus is the subtle, daily, management of gendered expectations and ways in which walking, for these women, is a contribution to such management. We name this ‘walking away from expectations’ and identify three themes: walking away from others’ gaze, walking away from restlessness and domestic responsibility, and walking away as belonging. Walking emerges as a skilful way of creating the conditions to do one’s intellectual work and manage gendered expectations. Further, the meanings of silences about gender in the context of intellectual work and walking is discussed and questions for future research agenda are suggested.” (“Wandering intellectuals: establishing a research agenda on gender, walking, and thinking.” Gender, Place and Culture: A Journal of Feminist Geography, Volume 24, 2017, Issue 4)
If you thought that was a bit weird, here is another example from an “academic”:
“How I understand white-ness now is that it is an energetic imbalance caused by a loss of spinal fluidity and awareness of the lower body. Emotional energy becomes concentrated in the upper body, particularly gathering in the mind. To live in a world dominated by white-ness is to live in an environment that denies and protects white-ness as embodied trauma. When you look at it this way, white-ness is traumatization itself. The white body is in freeze: a state of disconnection between mind and body. It is ungrounded and cannot feel the earth. We see this pained energy of white-ness play out in our society through violence towards sexuality, emotional vulnerability and ecology, amongst other things.” (Tada Hozuma, June 11, 2017 at http://selfishactivist.com/why-white-people-cant-dance-theyre-traumatized/)
Yes, that is what some call academics. But parents and students are finally discovering that this does not produce either an educated person or a job, something educators and employers have been concerned about for quite some time. Not only that but you will find that both on the classroom and in the literature, one increasingly finds not merely an ignorance of religion, especially Christianity, but an attack on it.
But again, for some time Christians have either not known about what was happening in the academy or have looked the other way, hoping their children would have the solidiity of faith to persevere without being affected. That is quite a gamble it seems to me. On the other hand even many so-called Christian institutions have succumbed to the fashions of the academy at large. They are not to be trusted either, but it is often more difficult to discern due to the “false advertising” of so many of those institutions. We see vague, useless phrases like “Christ-centered” without definition or elaboration. We think that makes them safe for our children, but when we bother to look ( too often we don’t even look) we find that these schools teach or allow to be taught, the same substance as their very secular counterparts.
Now though this situation is pretty unacceptable, people are finally beginning to wake up. But it also presents an opportunity for institutions that do still care about both real education and a Christian-based one at that. It is in fact a golden opportunity. But it will not be effective if two conditions are not met unabashedly and forthrightly: (1) be very specific and very public about what the institution stands for (its essence) and (2) then with unswerving determination, make sure that is what students are getting. This is not the time for pulling punches about “who we are.” If we do that, we will come to be seen as just one among many other institutions, all perceived as the same. On the other hand, if we say we are “X” but don’t act the part, then we will come to be perceived as disingenuous–and we will also be leading our students down the path of error. This all takes an immense amount to courage and perseverance. Attacks will come from the outside, for example that one’s institution is just anti-intellectual or bigoted or primitive. In some sense the latter will be true if we are true to the Biblical mission. But to be “primitive” may actually be a compliment. As many great thinkers through the years have said, it is not necessarily a bad thing to follow in the footsteps of one’s ancestors, or to maintain a “tradition” or to be (the dreaded word) “conservative,” meaning to conserve what is good and true and to reject what is bad or false, even if it is currently faddish.
Parents, take a hard look at all colleges and universities. Prospective students, don’t choose a college just because it has nice buildings, great dorm life, “fun and games,” or easy classes. Remember why you go to college at all. And Christians in those categories, the readership of this blog, it is time we stopped simply affirming secular institutions simply because they have a reputation or are cheap. If education is an investment, and it is to be sure if done properly, it is also an investment in the spiritual and intellectual future of our children and ourselves and even our nation. Why would anyone want to make a bad investment?