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New Virtue #2: Academic Freedom and things you’re not supposed to question

Sometime during the enlightenment, a new virtue was minted called “academic freedom.” Aristotle famously said “The sign of an educated mind is one that can entertain a thought without accepting it.”  But, it took modernity to say “a professor is allowed to teach whatever they want.”  G.K. Chesterton said “All education is dogma.”  Of course, the illuminati in education rail against this idea.  In the process, they show the dogma of their own.  Where institutions once employed faculty who supported the vision of the institution, colleges now cannot escape the vortex of bad ideas espoused by their own people.  Take Wheaton College, as an example.  Wheaton’s Larycia Hawkins decided to sympathize with muslims to the point of running afoul of Christian doctrine.  The school took aim at Hawkins as out of step with its values.  The faculty council jumped to her defense (unanimously).

Now, the idea is that we wouldn’t want the thought police in administration dictating to scholars what they can teach. Of course, Gallileo, Copernicus, and a few other stake-fried saints could be trotted out as exhibit A in what happens when a dogmatic church controls eduction.  But, said dogmatic church might trot out the vast wastelands of modernism and postmodernism as its exhibit A for those academics who will not work under authority.  Authority may occasionally yield error.  But does “freedom” yield something better?  It seems to have yielded about every crazy idea under the sun, theologically and philosophically.  The only field that seems to follow orthodoxy is natural science.  Of course, those orthodoxies may not be challenged– ever– until they fall apart.  If, on one side of the scale, you have the “orthodoxy” of dogma, you have a few weighty errors over 2000 years.  On the other side you have the “orthodoxy” of academic freedom and its bending the scale’s arms with the weight of its errors.

What is “Wheaton College” if it doesn’t represent any specific truth system?  And, if they do represent a particular view of Christian truth, can its agents (professors) run far from that truth system without harming the institution?  It’s a self-destructive system.  And that’s what the education illuminati want.  They don’t like truth anyway, especially when Christian institutions claim it.  A similar thing happened to Robert Sloan at Baylor.  And, Christian colleges worldwide are on a slide down a fast descending slope.  Even those that hold on tight are slipping daily downward as their grip weakens.  It’s a one-way slide.  Soon, all the “established” Christian colleges that have enough gravity on their faculty to drag them down will be unfit to educate Christian kids.  As with the Worldvision debacle over homosexuality a few years ago, the internally obvious answer will only further depress the institution in the long run.

What is the answer?  Christian institutions must remember that they exist under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  He told us a few things.  If agents of their institutions run afoul of those instructions, the person accountable will be the leadership of the college.  We may reject the structures of authority that Christ placed on earth, but I believe Christ will look squarely at the regent in charge and ask “why didn’t you do something.”  Especially with what He said about millstones and all.  I don’t think “Academic Freedom” will be in his list of sympathetic virtues.  But I do know he’ll view the boards and leaders of these institutions as accountable to Him.

The cost of “protest” as a new virtue

Hey Hey, Ho Ho, those 60’s virtues have got…ten us right where we should be– looking like fools.  That muddy field in Woodstock leads straight to a junk-heap in my home town of Boise– a pile of tents and other refuse called “Cooper’s court.”  To prevent anarchy, the city has been trying to ‘move on’ the over 100 campers that are infringing on local businesses.  The displaced showed up in force at a regular city counsel meeting and shouted until they forced the meeting to adjourn.  No arrests were made.  The mayor offered a special meeting for them the next day.  More shouting.  Read about it:

At that point, the attendees started speaking over the mayor — one person shouted a profanity while calling the mayor a “fascist” — and Bieter closed the meeting.

Of course, this is happening all over.  Especially on college campuses.  After all, college is all about protests, right?  Read Breakpoint:

On campuses everywhere, students are turning on each other, their teachers, and administrators. Even some liberal commentators are asking: What kind of monsters is American higher education creating?

Somewhere along the way, “protesting” became a virtue.  We had the riots and the protests of the 60’s over some good, and some bad causes.  But today, the protest itself is virtuous.  It doesn’t matter what it does or what it advocates.  Or even if it makes sense.  It’s just about shouting the other guy down.

What happens when someone disagrees with you in a college setting?

Douglas Wilson speaking on sexuality at a college lecture

Hamlet’s mother could not help but decry that the collective college culture “Doth protest too much.” Aristotle said that the sign of an educated mind is that one can entertain a thought without accepting it.  His progenitor, Socrates, did have to contend with hemlock, and fools, but no Millennials.  So where did this mysterious new virtue of “protest” originate?

Education is the cultivation of virtue.  And, education has been cultivating the virtue of “protest” in America since the Baby Boomers landed those first teaching jobs in the 70’s.  A generation ago, it was a new virtue.  Now, it’s baked into Generation X and Millennials.  Maybe we should refocus education on Christian virtues.  How about a little justice with peace, temperance, fortitude, and prudence mixed in and a strong dose of faith, hope, and love?  It would take a while to reset the civility meter, but we’d best get started.  We might not survive this.  Classical Christian education has never been so important.


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