Reaping the Whirlwind in Higher Education
We reap what we sow, as revealed in Galatians 6:7, and everyday experience teaches us that lesson. If you plant carrots in your garden, you expect a crop of carrots, not cabbage. And yet, our nation's most highly educated elites in our most prestigious universities appear defiantly ignorant of this commonsense wisdom.
The full Biblical verse in Galatians is: "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap."
Societies sow seeds as well. If our schools teach moral relativism and "self-actualization," and if this secular relativism quickly morphs into doctrines of self-entitlement devoid of self-discipline and moral virtue, we should not be surprised if the crop lacks sufficient numbers of patriots and statesmen, to say nothing of stable homes with children and two loving parents.
What is often overlooked is that the wisdom embodied in scripture about sowing and reaping applies not only to individuals; it applies equally to the institutions which sustain nations, cultures and civilizations. It applies especially to a nation's schools.
We can see these lessons illustrated clearly in the decline of standards in our nation's colleges and universities--- and most spectacularly in the near total eclipse of academic freedom in too many our country's most prestigious colleges and universities.
Let's compare today's crisis in educational goals and standards in our colleges to a recent national debate on the decline of standards in our elementary and secondary schools. I refer to the intense 1983 investigation of the cause of the documented decline in reading and mathematical achievement scores of students in our elementary and secondary schools.
In 1982, President Reagan's Secretary of Education, Terrell Bell, convened a distinguished bipartisan panel of education leaders, which held public hearings all across the nation. That enterprise resulted in a 1983 report, A NATION AT RISK, which was widely hailed as a giant step toward the recovery and strengthening of academic standards.
Contrast that achievement of a mere forty years ago to the tragic downward spiral of today's' universities, where no public inquiry or debate over academic standards is permitted outside the faculty lounge, and university trustees and regents are relegated to a cheerleader role in raising funds. Regents are seldom invited or allowed to "drop anchor" and evaluate the collapse of academic standards and freedom of speech.
There are exceptions, of course, but they are found almost exclusively among private church-related institutions governed by Trustees committed to preserving standards, not "reimagining" them.
To give credit where credit is due, today our elite colleges and universities do perform two related functions fairly well -- credentialing and indoctrination. Those functions now take precedence over true education and critical thinking skills. If you think that university departments and programs in the physical and medical sciences are exempt from the influence of these ideological pathogens, you would be wrong.
How did this happen? A better question is, how could it NOT happen given the steady abandonment of academic standards since the 1960s and the transformation of so many colleges into institutions of social engineering and "social justice?”
And yet, there is more to the story than the takeover of educational institutions by radical professors and weak administrators. Our universities' downward spiral into ideological hothouses could not have happened but for the abandonment of substantive oversight responsibility by private institutions' trustees and public universities' publicly-appointed regents. So, again we must ask, how did THAT happen?
It happened when a mistaken concept of academic freedom displaced the historic social contract between universities and society. Universities, like all corporations and human enterprises, have obligations to the society in which they are allowed to thrive. Academic freedom is the freedom to seek knowledge and teach the fruit of independent research uncensored. It is not a firebase from which to advocate violence against opponents or to plan insurrection against the community which is the silent partner in that quest for new knowledge.
For three generations or more, that historic social contract has been first ignored and then forgotten. It is time to rediscover and refurbish those existential obligations.
Sadly, tragically, and ominously, far too many of our nation's universities are adrift on stormy seas with no compass and no destination other than a dystopia born of narcissism and nihilism. As God will not be mocked, we will reap what has been sown, and our colleges will reap the whirlwind unless they return to the timeless principles found in the Word of God.
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