There is nothing quite like the start of a new academic year on a college or university campus. Streams of students and faculty return to the timeless patterns of academic life, summoned by the desire for learning and a commitment to teaching. Among the thousands of college students arriving on campuses at this time of year are freshmen, representing the most eager and excited new members of the academic community. The transition from high school to college is one of the most significant seasons of a young person's life, and the energy and youthfulness they add to the campus is immeasurable and invaluable.
The faculty also return to their calling, and most begin the new year with a sense of satisfaction and eagerness that can almost match that of the incoming freshmen. There is exhilaration in the experience of teaching. One of the greatest privileges offered to a college or university professor is the stewardship of learning and teaching, as well as having influence over the minds and worldviews of young people at one of the most formative periods of life. Most new professors find the experience to be nearly intoxicating, and even the most seasoned professors find the experience of teaching to be both deeply satisfying and personally challenging. The power of a professor in a classroom is immense, and most teachers are deeply committed to their disciplines and their calling. The classroom and the campus are where so many lives are shaped and where minds come alive. What could possibly go wrong? A great deal, as it turns out.
Even as most professors see themselves as stewards of the teaching profession and fellow learners with their students, others see their role in very different terms -- as agents of ideological indoctrination. All teaching involves ideology and intellectual commitments. There is no position of authentic objectivity. Every teacher, as well as every student, comes into the classroom with certain intellectual commitments. Some professors set as their aim the indoctrination of students into their own worldview, and many of these worldviews are both noxious and deeply troubling. A professor who acts as such an agent of indoctrination abuses the stewardship of teaching and the professorial calling, but this abuse is more widespread and dangerous than many students and their parents understand.
For Christian parents and students, this should be a matter of deep concern and active awareness. The secularization of most educational institutions is an accomplished fact. Indeed, many college and university campuses are deeply antagonistic to Christian truth claims and the beliefs held by millions of students and their families. Furthermore, the leftist bent of most faculty is well-documented, especially in elite institutions and within the liberal arts faculties. On many campuses, a significant number of faculty members are representatives of what has been called the "adversary culture." They see their role as political and ideological, and they define their teaching role in these terms. Their agenda is nothing less than to separate students from their Christian beliefs and their intellectual and moral commitments.
A good many of these professors deny this agenda, but from time to time the mask is removed. Writing at the "University Diaries" column at the site InsideHigherEd.com, a professor of English revealed this agenda with amazing candor. Responding to an argument about the power of intellectual elites, this professor dropped any effort to hide the real agenda:
"We need to encourage everyone to be in college for as many years as they possibly can," this professor wrote, "in the hope that somewhere along the line they might get some exposure to the world outside their town, and to moral ideas not exclusively derived from their parents' religion. If they don't get this in college, they're not going to get it anywhere else."
This professor minces no words. The college experience, the argument goes, is the best (and perhaps last) opportunity for someone to break students' commitments to the moral convictions "derived from their parents' religion."
Similarly, writing in a Seattle newspaper, a teacher of English and college adviser at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois reveals this ideological agenda in even more shocking terms. Bill Savage reacts to the fact that the so-called conservative "red" states are "outbreeding" the "blue" states, which are more liberal in voting patterns. Identifying himself as a political liberal with no children of his own, Savage acknowledges that he and his fellow liberals have a lower fertility rate than conservatives. Nevertheless, he insists that educated urban liberals need not despair. He expresses confidence "that blue America's Urban Archipelago can grow larger, more contiguous, and more politically powerful even without my offspring." How?
"The children of red states will seek a higher education," he explains, "and that education will very often happen in blue states or blue islands in red states. For the foreseeable future, loyal dittoheads will continue to drop off their children at the dorms. After a teary-eyed hug, Mom and Dad will drive their SUV off toward the nearest gas station, leaving their beloved progeny behind."
Then what? He proudly claims: "And then they are all mine."
And then they are all mine. That's right, a significant number of professors are happy to have parents spend 18 years raising children, only to drop them off on the campus and head back home. These professors are confident that the four or so years of the college experience will be ample time to separate students from the beliefs, convictions, moral commitments, and faith of their parents.
Even after expressing these truly breathtaking agendas, these professors go on to claim that they do not seek to indoctrinate their students into their own beliefs and worldviews, but no one can believe them now.
The college experience is, of necessity, a time for the development of critical thinking. It is a season of tremendous intellectual formation that produces lasting effects. Students should learn the disciplines of critical thinking and analysis, and in this transitional period of life, they will determine whether they will hold to the beliefs and commitments of their parents.
But they should not be subjected to the ideological indoctrination and intellectual condescension that is found in far too many classrooms and on far too many campuses. If nothing else, these remarkable statements of professorial intention should awaken both students and parents to what passes for education within much of higher education. The open hostility and contempt toward Christianity and Christian convictions is truly horrifying.
And then they are mine. It is hard to imagine words more alarming than those.
Bill Savage, "Lessons Learned," The Stranger [Seattle, Washington], June 9-15, 2005.