The Catholic far-right’s fantasies of education: on the online mobbing of Stephen Lewis

The Catholic far-right’s fantasies of education: on the online mobbing of Stephen Lewis January 11, 2019

my own incendiary books – photo by me

As far as I understand it, there is currently a hubbub over at Franciscan University of Steubenville about the chair of its English department, Professor Stephen Lewis, being sacked from his position as chair of the department, though he is still on the faculty. Professor Lewis is a Full Professor, which means that he is not only tenured, but has also received the highest rank of the professoriate. The furor seems to have to do with the ultra-conservative Catholic website, Church Militant, and their allies at LifeSiteNews raising hell over him assigning a book that did not accord with Catholic teaching. However, in sounding the battle cry, they reveal their own philosophy of education, which is that teaching is about indoctrination, not about the posing of problems to students for growth in the capacity to dialogue and to be agents of history in the world.

I agree with my friend and colleague Sam Rocha when he says that such developments present trouble for both secular and religious colleagues throughout academia. I am also appalled that these outlets continue to spread libel about my editor Rebecca Bratten Weiss regarding her work with the New Pro-Life Movement. It is especially concerning that the cesspool of Catholic Internet has made the knees of administrators at Steubenville go weak. The problem is that in doing so, they are ceding academia from what it is as a capacious place of universal learning to the fantasies of those who know nothing at all of the intellectual life and thus impose on it their imagination of the academy as a site of indoctrination. It is, in a word, fantasy attacking reality and winning. May the Holy Archangel Michael and All the Bodiless Powers of Heaven protect Franciscan University of Steubenville, Professor Stephen Lewis, and all of academia, secular or religious, from the disturbances of this kind of demonic delusion.

This post began as a Facebook posting and has been reshared enough times to warrant a permanent spot on this blog. My interest in this case has little to do with Steubenville and more with the importance of maintaining the integrity of academia as a public good.

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