06 May 2008

Freshmen Forewarned.

Stephen Webb, professor of religion & philosophy at Wabash College (and author of Dylan Redeemed: Highway 61 to Saved), addressing the incoming freshmen of the class of 2012:

Christians believe that God became human in Jesus Christ. If so, it follows that there is something called humanity. That is, humans have a nature, a shared or common nature. Human nature is not just a social construction. Human nature is real. And if it is real, then it is the same everywhere and at every time. It is, in a word, universal.

The idea that human nature is universal might seem simple to you, and it is. All true ideas are simple, because anyone can grasp them. Yet, believe it or not, you are about to enter a world that treats the idea of a universal human nature as simple-minded foolishness. The really sad thing is that your professors will not try to complicate this idea. To complicate an idea, you have to first take it seriously. Rather than argue about this idea, most of your professors will simply ignore it. You see, the idea of a universal human nature is contrary to everything most professors, at least in the humanities, believe. And that makes it one of the most radical ideas you can hold as a student.

The central dogma of higher education goes by many names, but its basic thrust is as easy to grasp as it is hard to miss. Whether it is called multiculturalism, social constructionism, or left-leaning liberalism, the bottom line is that higher education in America these days promotes cultural relativism. Colleges do not advertise this fact for obvious reasons, but look closely at what they say in their promotional literature. Colleges talk about broadening your perspective, expanding your horizons, and offering you new experiences, but they do not talk about teaching you how to make moral judgments, how to distinguish the beautiful from the ugly, and how to seek the truth. That is because secular liberal-arts colleges and public universities do not believe you should make moral judgments, contemplate the beautiful, or acknowledge universal truths. And they don’t believe these things because they do not believe there is something called human nature.

The college you have chosen to attend is no worse, and probably a little bit better, than most colleges when it comes to multiculturalism, but it is always wise to be prepared when you go to school. What you most need to know is that the “higher” in higher education no longer refers to the high culture of the greatest works of Western civilization. In fact, higher education has been trying to dismantle this culture for decades. Higher education today is all about lowering the great books and great ideas of the past to the same basic level. Rather than ask you to climb the great heights of the classics, professors these days will ask you to tear them down. Rather than ask you to test your intellectual strength by pitting yourself against the greatest thinkers of the past, professors will teach you the intellectual equivalent of etiquette and manners. You will learn how to talk without embarrassing yourself in polite, educated company. You will learn what to say, not how to think.

Here's the whole thing.


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