Content of subject matter and intolerance of diverse opinions are two major concerns.
Content of Subject Matter
Too many colleges have abandoned required courses—no foreign language, no language arts.
What great literature and poetry are students studying? A prevailing attitude sees the Great Books Tradition as little more than the political opinions of dominant groups.
What of philosophy and religious studies? Why aren’t students exposed to the ancient philosophers who wrestled with perennial questions: Who am I? What am I doing, and why am I doing it? What is the purpose of my life? Few colleges offer a course in world religions.
As for history and American government, they’re bunk. War after war—it’s all an inventory of political grievances; our American government is composed of corrupt politicians.
And what of art and music history? Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Bernini? Are they the preserve of dead white males, a phrase used by collegiates? Is the answer offering the “gutter phenomenon” of Rock, Rap, or Hip-Hop which use orgiastic and foul language and offering shock art like the photograph, “Piss Christ,” by Andres Serrano? A few years ago, why did Syracuse University offer a course called “Hip-Hop Eshu: Queen B*tch 101?” To exalt Lil’ Kim?
Parents are willing to spend generously on education that expands the mind with a classic education but not for studies whose content is without purpose. Why should they squander hard-earned dollars on a core curriculum that is a sham or on courses that entertain pubescent students with a degraded popular culture? Such institutions are caricatures of what used to be referred to as higher education.
Until the 1990s, the phrase: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it" was operative on college campuses. Today, those who speak what is opposed to the majority must refrain from giving their opinions that are open to critical and healthy discussion.
In former days, institutions required students to challenge each other to think clearly and logically about a topic. In class, the Socratic methodology was employed to insure that students’ views could be articulated without reprisal. In Jesuit education for example, students are required to argue both sides of an issue, including those topics that are abhorrent to defend or condemn.
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To give one example, if a person holds to what he or she considers a good action, does intention alone make for a moral act? As students work their pros and cons, eventually someone will cite Hitler whose good intention was to exalt the German people beyond all others. However, he ostracized German Jews whom he derided as polluting the German race. This view led to the barbaric means he took to achieve his end—their annihilation. The conclusion to the discussion? The immoral end does not justify a moral means or intention. The intention and the end must together be moral acts.
Since the 1990s, intellectual diversity has gradually muffled honest debate.
A Confession of Liberal Intolerance
Recently, the liberal columnist, Nicholas Kristoff, published two essays in the New York Times on the present status of liberal thinking in this country: Nicholas Kristoff’s “Confession of Liberal Intolerance” and “The Liberal Blind Spot.” Some of his observations apply to what unsuspecting freshmen might find on certain campuses with varying degrees of intensity. Increasing numbers of liberal professors and students pride themselves on their diversity and their tolerance of diversity—diversity of various minority groups but not of conservatives—Evangelical Christians, and practicing Catholics. Kristoff calls this “liberal arrogance”—“the implication that these groups don’t have anything significant to add to the discussion.”
The unwritten motto may be: “We welcome people who don’t look like us, as long as they think like us.” Or, “I disapprove of what you say, so shut up.” Or I close my mind to what you may want to say because it’s not worthwhile saying, in my view. Thus we hear: “We’re tolerant. You are entitled to your truth, but keep it to yourself. And don’t force it on me.”
What Is Truth?