by Adrian Sobers
While reading The University We Need by Warren Treadgold, I kept thinking to myself, “No mercy huh.” (Which is fine because he is right.) To be fair, Treadgold did provide a “trigger-warning” by declaring that his book is “more candid than most books written about higher education by professors.” He writes because “We need good universities in the same way that we need reliable electricity and safe drinking water. We can do without them if we must, but before long the disadvantages and dangers of doing
without them will become more and more evident.”
He also writes because silence, like hope, is not a strategy. He argues that silence leads to an “academic omertà” which gives outsiders the “false impression that all is well, or at least not so terribly bad.” In addressing the “sorry state” of American higher education he deals with several issues, but we want to focus on one aspect that matters to everyone (including those outside America). I am always mindful of Robert P. George’s idea that the university is one of the pillars of a “decent and dynamic” society.
I am even more mindful of the point he made immediately after, “At the same time, ideologies and practices hostile to the pillars of a decent society can manifest themselves in higher education.” Therefore, “these institutions can erode the social values on which they themselves depend not only for their own integrity but also for their long-term survival.” This is a problem. It bugs the heck out of me, but more importantly, because of the Dominical utterance in Mark 3:24-25.
One reason why societies are not flourishing as they should is because, at various levels, they are being destroyed from within. Forget critical thinking, Treadgold says campuses now seem more interested in teaching “only leftist writings and ideas.” To paraphrase Thomas Sowell: The next time an academic lectures you about diversity, ask them how many conservatives are in their sociology department. Or any department for that matter. Treadgold cites Harvard’s former president Derek Bok, “It does seem clear beyond dispute that faculty members whose political orientation inclines to the liberal side far outnumber those whose views lie to the right or the conservative side.”
Treadgold recounts the case of a young Jesuit professor who was forced out because he was “detrimental to the mission of the university” (code for failing to comply with the current campus consensus). Since this has implications off campus (public life and policy), we should understand the roots of this ideology. The current campus consensus is rooted in Marxism and post-modernism. According to the latter, there is no such thing as objective truth (or morality), therefore, we can create our own narratives (preferably in Marxist terms of oppressor/oppressed).
This is most evident in issues pertaining to the acronym that doubles as a weak password: LGBTQ+. Having abandoned categories of objective morality (until our homes are burglarized) the only way we can speak about LGBTQ+ (or any lifestyle) is in terms of oppressors/oppressed. (Although, if we recast the thief as the “oppressed” then perhaps they have a legitimate claim to our possessions if we read their theft in a less “non-judgmental” way, that is, as a revolt against the “oppressive” capitalist system and breeds patriarchal dominance.)
This damned nonsense (and we mean that literally) relies on persons not wanting to be “on the wrong side of history” (the oppressors). Therefore, issues pertaining to LGBTQ+ (or anything else) have nothing to do with right/wrong but are best framed as – oppressors/oppressed (and who wants to be cast as the former?). Who are these oppressors? Take your pick: whites (preferably American or European), males, heterosexuals, Evangelicals or Orthodox Catholics to name a few.
If you dare deviate from the current campus consensus, you will be branded as an oppressive, narrow-minded bigot (you know how it goes). The primary purpose of this shallowness is that by resorting to ad hominem its adherents are freed from having to engage with (gasp!) rational arguments (and Holy Writ). So that the only acceptable “sophisticated” or “enlightened” understanding of the Bible is that it is a misogynistic, xenophobic, racist, patriarchal, homophobic text. Oh dear.
So forget thinking for yourself: xenophobia is the only possible reason for wanting to limit immigration (or Brexit); racism, sexism (not to mention, Russia!) are the only reasons Hilary lost; Islamophobia is the only possible reason for fearing Islamic terrorists and, of course, homophobia is the only plausible reason for not supporting same-sex marriage in particular and the LGBTQ+ lifestyle in general. Caitlyn Jenner is brave but to celebrate the rescue of the Thai boys is to celebrate “toxic masculinity.”
I leave the final word to Robert P. George (who speaks to everyone no matter where we fall on the religious spectrum): “It’s hard for human beings to actually be countercultural, and Christians are human beings just like everybody else. So when Marxism is trendy, there will be self-proclaimed Christian Marxists… We human beings are naturally influenced by the ways of thinking favoured by those who are regarded in a culture as the sophisticated and important people… We make a million excuses for going along with what’s wrong, and pretty soon we find ourselves going along with calling it right.”