Archive for the ‘ Snyderian Truisms ’ Category

Higher Education Sometimes Isn’t

Let’s compare the myth with what is all too often the reality about what occurs in a college education.

The myth is that the four years spent in the arena of higher education is a time when the student will be able, under wise direction from professors, to sift through a variety of worldviews and learn how to become discerning in a quest for what is genuine and what is not.

That has been somewhat fictional all along, simply because the culture will be a strong determinant in what is taught at colleges and universities. The idea that all sides will be fairly presented is not the usual fare. We need to remember that value-neutral education is a myth; everyone teaches from a distinctive worldview.

The reality is that parents who go into debt in the hope that college will round out their child’s educational experience may instead find an entirely different child when the experience has been completed:

What Did You Learn

Now that the radicals of the 1960s and 1970s are filling most of the professorial posts in the liberal arts programs of the universities, what else should we expect? They are now attempting to clone themselves through this new generation. They haven’t done this alone, of course; they’ve had the help of the public school system nationwide and the larger entertainment culture.

Everything now offends some students (and I use that term loosely).

Trigger Words

Well, perhaps we should provide a trigger warning for those who are now embarking on their new path in life:

Trigger Warning

There’s always this possibility, though:

Grad School

All of this is quite disturbing to me, since I teach at a university. I’m not at your typical university, fortunately. Although Christian colleges and universities are not immune to these forces, there remains more sanity when you are at an institution that continues to hold up God’s Word as the standard for learning.

Sadly, though, what we see spreading across the nation is the epitome of what I have called Snyderian Truism #11: “Higher education sometimes isn’t.”

What People Don’t Know

Teaching about Andrew Jackson and his faith in the common people the other day, I noted another of my Snyderian truisms: “Public opinion polls are not the fount of all wisdom.” I mentioned to my class that it really would be nice if voters had some concept of how our government was set up in the Constitution and what limitations there are on the federal government’s authority before allowing them to vote.

Of course, it would be rather unwieldy to quiz each voter as he or she approaches the voting booth, but one can dream, right?

And then, shortly after commenting on this in the classroom, I came across a couple of comic strips that addressed that very problem. I thought you might like them today; they may provide a few minutes of profitable meditation:

Small Test

Voting Test

And then there’s our citizens’ knowledge base about the rest of the world:

What's Canada

If you think my blog today betrays the weariness of a professor attempting to enlighten the current generation of college students, you are a person of great insight. I have to keep in mind the encouragement of this Scripture:

And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary.

Thank you, Lord, for the reminder.

Snyderian Truism #13–Sincerely Wrong Beliefs

Well, at least he’s sincere. How many times have you heard that? It’s a cliché that’s supposed to cover all sins. The problem is that we equate sincerity with truth, or at least we say we “respect” someone who is trying to follow what he/she believes.

There is one thing we need to keep in mind, though:

A sincere belief can be sincerely wrong.

That’s Snyderian Truism #13 in my ever-expanding list of what I think ought to be undeniable truths.

One man sincerely believes Jesus is the only way to establish a relationship with God; another claims Allah is the one to obey; still another follows the Buddhist path, while yet another says there is no God.

All might be sincere. All cannot be correct. And there are eternal consequences if you are wrong.

I take my stand on the words of Jesus:

I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man comes to the Father except by Me.

Being sincere is not enough. Hell is populated with sincere people. If that offends you, I can’t be sorry for saying it. I don’t respect any belief that sends people into an eternity separated from the presence of their Creator.

Heaven & Hell

Snyderian Truism #12

The word “compromise” can give off both positive and negative vibes. Is it a good word or one to avoid? Well, the answer is “yes.” What do I mean? It depends on the particular compromise. Here’s how I try to encapsulate it in one pithy statement:

A compromised principle leads to unrighteousness, but a principled compromise is a step closer to the principle’s ideal.

Constituitonal ConventionThis comes up when I teach about the Constitutional Convention. At one point, the Convention was locked in a disagreement that threatened to bring an end to the attempt to write a new constitution. Large states said that since they had more people, representation in the new government should be based on population. Smaller states responded that if population were the basis for representation, they would always be outvoted and their interests never taken into consideration.

Which position was more correct? Which one was more valid?

I ask my students those questions and then have them vote for which position they support. The vote is always divided. Why? Because both positions make valid points. Yes, states with more population should have a greater say in lawmaking. Yet it would be unfair for smaller states to always be in the minority and lose every vote. That kind of domination would lead to constant friction and resentment.

It was at this juncture at the Convention where a compromise was reached: the delegates decided to have a two-chamber legislature—the House of Representatives based on population and the Senate with an equal vote for each state.

This was a principled compromise. Both sides had good reasons for their positions, and the compromise allowed both to be achieved, providing a balance of the two.

If a compromise, however, throws out a principle, then it should be rejected. For instance, Obamacare’s supposed accommodation for religious liberty doesn’t recognize the basic principle that government cannot override religious beliefs and force people to abandon their beliefs to achieve the government’s objectives. All such “compromises” need to be opposed.

CompromiseThere are some Christians who don’t grasp the essential nature of a principled compromise. Take abortion, for instance. I believe it should be banned totally. Some who agree with me on that have stated they can never support any law that doesn’t go the entire distance and ban all abortions. They say to settle for anything less would be unrighteous. I disagree. If a law reduces the number of abortions, it’s a law trending in the right direction. More lives will be saved with such a law; we will be closer to the ideal of our principle. We will have made progress. Therefore, I would support any law that lessens abortion’s hold on our nation.

The line is not always as easy to find, and there are instances when honest and conscientious people may come to different conclusions as to what they can support. Yet I believe it is a truism that we can achieve principled compromises, and we should seek them actively.

Snyderian Truism #11

Another semester comes to a close tonight with the fall commencement at Southeastern University. I’m in my twenty-fifth year of teaching at the college level and have now witnessed a multitude of these. As I watch the graduates cross the stage and receive their diplomas, I hope that the four years they have invested were worth all the effort and the money that was spent. At least I have a higher comfort level at a university like SEU, knowing that a significant portion of what they received came from professors, for the most part, who are dedicated to providing a Biblical grounding for their subject matter. But that’s not the norm nationwide, which is what leads me to share another Snyderian truism. This one’s quite short and to the point:

Higher education sometimes isn’t.

Harvard CollegeA new report has just been made public. At Harvard College, the undergraduate school for its Arts and Sciences program, the most common grade is an A and the average grade is A-. Back in 2001, 91% of its students graduated with honors; the grading system has become even more lenient since then. Even in 2001, the Boston Globe called Harvard’s grading system “the laughingstock of the Ivy League.” And this is supposed to be the “gold standard” for university education in America?

I’m sure this story could be repeated at a great many of our institutions of higher education. Personally, I believe that university education as a whole has been dumbed down over the last few decades. The basic American history courses I teach are what students should have learned in high school, yet most of my students are fairly ignorant of even the most noteworthy people and events in our history. A college education now can be equated with a high school education of yesteryear. Now you need a master’s degree to obtain the type of education you would have received at the undergraduate level decades ago.

We’re also on a “critical thinking” bandwagon. We say students need to be critical thinkers, but we don’t offer them any solid worldview from which to do their thinking; most wander in the realm of moral relativism and nihilism, without any grounding at all. Critical thinking degenerates into uninformed, but firmly held, opinions.

Another hobby horse is “diversity.” We apply it externally to admissions policies, focusing on percentages of minorities entering the institution; internally, we say we value diversity of views in teaching. Right. Do you really think most public universities would welcome my views on American history and government, complete with Biblical principles for arriving at those views? Diversity is a sham, but it’s trendy.

Thought Diversity

Of course, as the above comic reveals, real diversity must operate within a certain framework of general agreement. That’s why a Christian university comes closer to the real definition of the term—we have a Biblical framework within which we can hash out different views in our subject areas. The secular university is a no-holds-barred free-for-all with no unity at all, except for a general disdain for the Biblical worldview.

So, anyway, those are some of my thoughts today as another commencement looms. I want to do all I can to ensure the students who pass through my courses are challenged to do their best, are grounded in a Biblical worldview to enable them to do critical thinking, and when they graduate, are closer to the ideal of what a higher education should provide for them.

Snyderian Truism #10

When I talked about the dangers of government-controlled education last week at a 9/12 Project meeting, I shared with the group one of the truisms I use in my American history survey courses. It goes like this:

Value-neutral education is a myth; everyone teaches from a distinctive worldview.

Education CollageWhen certain groups wanted to change education in the nineteenth century, one of the goals was to take education away from the influence of the churches. They said it was wrong to have what they called “sectarian” education. Instead, they promoted a more general approach that everyone could agree with, leaving out the distinctives of Biblical principles.

Later on, as the government education system gained greater favor and spread to every state, an even bolder demand was made: all education should be devoid of values; it should have no reference to religious beliefs; students can get what they need without the intrusion of the Biblical worldview.

That demand wasn’t entirely honest. The desire to remove Christianity from a student’s education was real enough, but it wasn’t going to be replaced by anything value-neutral. The agenda was to replace it with various brands of secular humanism.

A value is always being promoted. If one says education should be separate from religion, one is promoting the “value” that education is a completely secular endeavor and that religion has no role to play. That’s hardly neutral. In fact, neutrality is a value in itself—an unattainable one, but a value nonetheless. No one teaches in a vacuum; all educators, even if they don’t realize it, teach from a worldview of some kind.

TextbooksSo let’s quit trying to fool others and ourselves. We all have certain ideas/beliefs we claim as truth, even those who say there is no truth. For them, their “truth” is that there is no truth.

Instead of masquerading agendas behind spurious claims of value neutrality, let’s be open and above board. What we really need in this nation is a competition of ideas. Allow the free flow of teaching from whatever worldview one possesses. Let the market determine who is doing the best job of explaining how their worldview best fits the reality of the disciplines we teach.

That is one of my dreams: a nation in which we divest ourselves of the false concept that government is the arbiter of education and we put all education on the same playing field. Stop taking taxes from those who don’t believe in using the government system and let them use their money to buy the type of education they seek for their children. The education establishment would be aghast at the suggestion; the National Education Association would fight it to its last breath. I know that. But I would relish the opportunity to tackle and eventually topple the failing system to which we are currently chained.

Snyderian Truism #9

How about some controversy today, since I’m normally so non-controversial? I’ve periodically presented what I call “Snyderian Truisms.” If you’ve missed the first eight, there’s a category on the right sidebar you can click to see them. It’s time for #9.

When I teach about the 1960s, a decade of radical change culturally in many ways, one of my topics is the self-titled Women’s Liberation Movement. So that students will know where I’m coming from as we discuss this topic, I give them this truism:

Femininity and feminism are not the same: God created the first; those who didn’t like God’s creation devised the second.

Feminine MystiqueWhile I readily understand that some will not consider this a truism, I stand by it. The presumed liberation movement that women needed was kickstarted by author Betty Friedan in her book The Feminine Mystique. It was the opening salvo in the attempt to remake the image of women.

Anytime women are mistreated, you will find me on the front lines defending them. God created both male and female, both are in His image, and both are to be treated with respect. Sometimes, though, rage is manufactured.

Rage became a salient feature of this liberation movement, as it does with all movements so named. Women, we were told, are an oppressed minority. Ignore the fact, for the moment, that women are not a minority at all; according to the movement, they can claim that status due to the way in which they have been treated.

What has been the source of this maltreatment? Why, society’s rigid stereotyping of the roles of men and women, of course. And the bedrock institution that furthers this injustice is marriage, a convenient setup that allows men to dominate all other areas of society while women are forced to stay home and take care of the children.

NOWThe remedy for all this oppression is threefold: abolish traditional marriage; accept lesbianism as an equally valid lifestyle; allow unfettered abortion. Only by sanctioning these three via law can true equality of the sexes be achieved. A new organization devoted to these goals appeared in 1966, dubbed the National Organization for Women (NOW). Even the acronym stressed the “urgent” nature of the movement. The first goal was accomplished with Roe v. Wade. Ever since, the “right” to an abortion has been the cornerstone for this radicalism. Touch that presumed right and you are the enemy.

Today, the other two goals are rapidly coming to pass: homosexuality has been given protected status and traditional marriage is constantly under attack. You could say this has been one of the most successful revolutionary movements in history.

Yet it means the death of a Christian culture. Once the roots of marriage and family are ripped out of a society, moral chaos and national decline will follow. Children will be considered a burden; genuine male/female love in marriage will be laughed at as old-fashioned at best, subversive at worst; all boundaries based on Biblical morality will be erased. We will have entered the brave new world so many rebels against God’s laws have always sought.

Yet there remains this gentle reminder for those of us who are Christians, a reminder that needs to be transmitted to this new generation:

Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. . . . Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her. . . . He who loves his own wife loves himself. . . . For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. . . . Each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.

Some will object to the word “subject” in the first sentence. That’s because they misunderstand the nature of Biblical subjection. For the real definition, go to the last sentence, where respect is the key. The entire passage focuses on mutual love and respect. God’s prescription for marriage, if followed, never leads to oppression.