From the Humanities to the Subhumanities

Part of the problem with the way the humanities are often taught today and part of the problem of postmodernist academia in general is that human beings and works of art are reduced from their complexity into ciphers of gender, sex, class, and race.  Instead of reading an author for what can be learned or appreciating the artistry of the work, he or she is “interrogated”–some scholars actually use that term, a metaphor from the totalitarian police state–for his or her ideological transgressions.

The estimable Anthony Esolen has a piece in the Intercollegiate Review that challenges this reductionism.  He does so with the help of Marilynne Robinson’s Christian novel Gilead. [Read more...]

Universities partnering with dictators

That blind Chinese dissident who was under house arrest for opposing forced abortion and escaped to the United States was given an academic appointment at New York University. But it’s being pulled now, some say because the university wants to open a satellite campus in China.  Jackson Diehl tells of other major universities that seem willing to throw out their commitment to academic freedom in order to land lucrative deals with dictatorial regimes. [Read more...]

College does NOT undermine faith

Glenn T. Stanton, in a useful feature at Gospel Coalition called “FactChecker,” cites research overturning the conventional wisdom that going to college undermines a young person’s faith.  Actually, NOT going to college is much more strongly associated with losing faith.  And 2.7 times more graduates say that college strengthened their faith, as opposed to weakening it. [Read more...]

Finding Your Vocation in College

Anthony Sacramone asked me to write something on “How to Find Your Vocation in College” for the I.S.I. website he edits, so I did.  I also took the opportunity to answer the conservative pundits who are saying that college students should all go into technology so they can pay off their student loans and forget about the liberal arts.  Also, Mathew Block at First Thoughts linked to the post and added some perceptive comments of his own. [Read more...]

Progressivism and college football

George Will reviews The Rise of Gridiron University: Higher Education’s Uneasy Alliance with Big-Time Football by Brian M. Ingrassia, in which we learn that big-time intercollegiate football grew out of progressivism and its vision for higher education:

Higher education embraced athletics in the first half of the 19th century, when most colleges were denominational and most instruction was considered mental and moral preparation for a small minority — clergy and other professionals. Physical education had nothing to do with spectator sports entertaining people from outside the campus community. Rather, it was individual fitness — especially gymnastics — for the moral and pedagogic purposes of muscular Christianity — mens sana in corpore sano, a sound mind in a sound body.

The collective activity of team sports came after a great collective exertion, the Civil War, and two great social changes, urbanization and industrialization. . . . .

Intercollegiate football began when Rutgers played Princeton in 1869, four years after Appomattox. In 1878, one of Princeton’s two undergraduate student managers was Thomas — he was called Tommy — Woodrow Wilson. For the rest of the 19th century, football appealed as a venue for valor for collegians whose fathers’ venues had been battlefields. Stephen Crane, author of the Civil War novel “The Red Badge of Courage” (1895) — the badge was a wound — said: “Of course, I have never been in a battle, but I believe that I got my sense of the rage of conflict on the football field.”

Harvard philosopher William James then spoke of society finding new sources of discipline and inspiration in “the moral equivalent of war.” Society found football, which like war required the subordination of the individual, and which would relieve the supposed monotony of workers enmeshed in mass production.

College football became a national phenomenon because it supposedly served the values of progressivism, in two ways. It exemplified specialization, expertise and scientific management. And it would reconcile the public to the transformation of universities, especially public universities, into something progressivism desired but the public found alien. Replicating industrialism’s division of labor, universities introduced the fragmentation of the old curriculum of moral instruction into increasingly specialized and arcane disciplines. These included the recently founded social sciences — economics, sociology, political science — that were supposed to supply progressive governments with the expertise to manage the complexities of the modern economy and the simplicities of the uninstructed masses. [Read more...]

College does not cause students to lose their faith

Presidential candidate Rick Santorum has been saying that 62% of college students lose their faith by the time they graduate.  Calvin College sociologist Jonathan P. Hill takes a look at the dubious source of that statistic and cites better studies that point to a different conclusion:

We know that some measures of religious belief, and quite a few measures of religious practice, decline as young people move from adolescence to emerging adulthood. In order to decide if blame should be laid at the feet of higher education, we need representative data that follow the religious trajectories of young people as some head off to college and others do not.

And this is precisely what we have. Studies using comparable data from recent cohorts of young people (for example, the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997, the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, and the National Study of Youth and Religion) have found virtually no overall differences on most measures of identity, practice, and belief between those who head off to college and those who do not. The one exception to this is the consistent finding that college graduates attend religious services more frequently than those who do not graduate from college.

This doesn’t settle the matter, though. As is often the case with social-science findings, there are many exceptions and caveats. And there are some differences in student religious trajectories that appear to depend on the religious affiliation of colleges attended. For example, both evangelical colleges and public institutions tend to curb the decline in church attendance while Roman Catholic and mainline Protestant institutions are more likely to exacerbate it.

Over all, though, this is good news for the faithful. College is clearly not the enemy of religion. Students are not abandoning their faith commitments because of their godless college professors.

via Parsing Santorum’s Statistic on God and College: Looks as if It’s Wrong – Commentary – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

In fact, there is evidence that college graduates actually go to church at a higher rate than those who did not go to college.

HT:  Jackie


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