Mar 11 2010

The Left At Christian Universities, Part 19: Losing it?

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 8:49 am

The previous post in this series is here.

I’m posting this  without much comment.   Some of you may have seen it, and some not, but it speaks for itself.  Even if you allow for some percentage of hyperbole, if it’s even HALF true, Wheaton is in big trouble.  I suppose the logical question is this: is any of this going on at your Christian institution of higher education?

There’s hardly an evangelical who doesn’t know about Wheaton College. Alma Mater of the Reverend Billy Graham, Wheaton boasts a student body of superior intellect and an education rivaling much of the Ivy League. Wheaton College graduates can boast of presidential speech writers and Speakers of the United States House of Representatives along with doctors and executives and professors and missionaries and pastors across the globe.

But Wheaton is different. Founded by an anti-slavery father and son, Jonathan and Charles Blanchard, Wheaton was established as a chain in the Underground Railroad to help runaway slaves. Wheaton’s distinctive has always been to educate students not only with knowledge but with wisdom. All truth is God’s truth. The knowledge of God brings greater understanding, not less … the acknowledgement of Him brings order from chaos in science, mathematics and economic systems. To be a Christ follower can bring the highest of intellectual pursuits, not the Bible thumping ignorance Hollywood would portray.

So imagine the dismay of many to learn that, in an effort to educate its students, Wheaton has moved to the left, so much so that in a survey by the Wheaton Record, 60 percent of its faculty voted for President Barack Obama, the most pro-abortion, pro-homosexual agenda, spiritually confused president the nation has ever elected.

How can this be? Perhaps much of it can be attributed to a movement widely embraced by the campus known as “social justice.” In its truest form, justice is synonymous with Christian teaching. Why else would Christians through the ages have left the comfort of their home and culture to go to remote villages and treat the sick and preach the “good news” of a universal savior, Jesus Christ. Why would the William Wilberforces and the American abolitionists have sacrificed so much to eliminate the slave trade? Why would most hospitals trace their beginnings to founders compelled by their faith to treat the sick? Soup kitchens … homeless shelters … inner city missions the same? Why if not for the cause of justice?

But as is often the case for the Left, words are co-opted and meanings changed. To be “gay” is to be homosexual. To abort a baby is to exercise “choice” and to exercise “social justice” is to identify the oppressed and the oppressors and define all of history past and present as a series of injustices. Whites oppress blacks … even 6-year-old white children are intrinsically racist. Big business oppresses the working man…even business owners who are honest and generous. To be successful in business is to oppress and the score must be evened to obtain justice. Heterosexuals oppress homosexuals with no allowance for moral objection. According to this definition of “social justice,” the oppressor and the oppressed must be identified and actions taken accordingly.

In the current document known as the “conceptual framework” of the education department at Wheaton College which must be endorsed by each of its faculty, the thinkers cited include among others, the father of the social justice movement, Brazilian Marxist, Paulo Freire and former Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers. Just a glimpse at Freire’s foundational treatise “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” will clearly display his sources: Marx, Lenin and revolutionary murderers Mao Tse Tung, Fidel Castro and Che Guevera (see, “Pedagogy of the Oppressor,” March 28, 2009, in National Review by Sol Stern).

Professor Bill Ayers, co-founder of the Weather Underground, wanted the violent overthrow of the United States Government. Now elevated as a teacher of teachers, Ayers publicly states he has no regrets for his violence and only wished he had done more. The overthrow of the capitalist society was the goal of all these men and violence was their method. Today’s radicals condense their rage into college curricula under the guise of “social justice.” The method is more cunning, but the goal no less sinister.

Why would Wheaton College embrace such a philosophy? “…these are people you can learn from because they’re going to teach us Christians that maybe we have some blind spots here, that we’ve been oblivious to certain areas of injustice,” said President Duane Litfin.

Dr. Jillian Lederhouse, chairman of the department of education defended the conceptual framework by saying “we don’t teach our students to be afraid on an ideology as long as we give them a critical perspective. We do not have a list of people we do not read. Our goal is to produce a thinking Christian teacher.” And that is as it should be in an institution of higher learning, except for one thing. Lederhouse went on to admit that the people who were foundational to Wheaton’s conceptual framework were all on the far left.

There is deep concern by Wheaton graduates over the current trajectory at Wheaton. They are lobbying the board and the administration to make the deep changes necessary to pull Wheaton back from academic fads that threaten its future and guide it back to its true foundations, the wisdom of the ages displayed beautifully at the entrance to the campus: “For Christ and His Kingdom.”

If you wish, discount the quotes by assuming they are “out of context.”  The author of the piece didn’t link to a source for the quotes.  Maybe she made up the president’s comments.  Maybe she did the same to Professor Lederhouse.  Maybe she lied about the faculty survey that said 60% voted for Obama.  (I’ve looked a bit, and can find no evidence that anyone from Wheaton is denying the quotes or data about Wheaton.)

The problem is that none of this is surprising in the modern upwardly mobile Christian institution, which craves high USNews and World Report ratings, and has to teach the dogma of the state education establishment in order to produce credentialed teachers.  Keeping in mind that Illinois is a pretty left-liberal state, the fact is that the education establishment of most states is quite far left of center, more or less by definition.  The revolving door, reverse handshake, and high five, shared by the NEA, state/federal education bureaucracies, and university education departments everywhere, is well documented.  It is quite simply impossible to GET an education credential, almost anywhere, without mouthing at least some proportion of liberal-left pieties, force fed to future teachers under the guise of “teaching how to teach.”

Stockholm Syndrome sets in after awhile, and many of these “teachers in teacher training” begin to believe it all, if they didn’t when they began.  It’s hard to “live a lie” when you’re under the academic inquisition.  It’s far easier to convince yourself that you’ve become a new convert, and hey, this can’t be heresy, because it just feels right.  And look around; doesn’t everyone else agree, too?

Christian university education departments ought to be providing future teachers (and current ones back for graduate degrees) with the tools to really think critically about the education establishment and its postulates.  There ought to be a class in “keeping your head and surviving the ideological indignities” of teaching in the public schools.  It could be called “Self-Possession 501.”  Graduate numbering, you know.  Instead, the “critical thinking” that is taught is mostly about how to criticize traditional assumptions about students, the nature of teaching and learning, the role of families and the church in education, and the development of moral values.  And make no mistake about it, the schools (and university education departments) are teaching moral values, though you may not recognize them as such.

There are many fine Christian education professors, in both secular and Christian universities.  The problem is that they are in the grip of a system (government and education establishment) that sometimes forces them to teach things that they suspect are lies, or forfeit their careers.  It’s a bitter choice, one they will not often acknowledge having made, particularly by the time they’ve climbed the ranks of the establishment.

An interesting side-note: I know of quite a few professors in Christian universities who are homeschooling their own children.  Some of them even teach in the Departments or Schools of Education.  Think about that.  And add to that the number of public school teachers who send their own kids to private schools….

But hey, Wheaton isn’t doing so bad, if only 60% of faculty voted for Obama.  At UCLA it’s probably more like 95%.

Unfortunately, Wheaton and too many other Christian institutions are busy trying to catch up.

The next post in this series is here.