- Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Dear Dr. E: You apparently spent your entire career in higher education, yet you seem very critical of today’s universities. Can you explain why? Surely, you’re not opposed to young people pursuing higher education, are you?  — FELLOW PROFESSOR FROM PENNSYLVANIA 

Dear Fellow Professor: Of course, I’m not opposed to extending one’s education beyond our high school years. In fact, it was by doing so that my life was immeasurably changed for the good, as I am sure was yours. 

It was through attending college that I learned to read, to write, to communicate, and to think more clearly. It was through education that countless career paths opened up to me. And it was through education that I entered a world of which a blue-collar kid from a working-class family could scarcely dream. I am forever grateful for the opportunities afforded to me by a liberal arts education. I am a huge champion of the classroom and its importance to liberty and freedom. I agree entirely with the warnings of Thomas Jefferson, who said, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be.” 

No, my problem is not with education but with what it has become.  

The American academy was unquestionably founded to perpetuate a Christian culture. As I have commented before in this column, every Ivy League institution, save one, was chartered to “lay Christ at the bottom, as the foundation of all sound knowledge and learning” (Harvard) and to instruct students “to know God in Jesus Christ and to lead a godly and sober life” (Yale). As G.K. Chesterton rightly said, “Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another,” and the soul of America during its founding era was unquestionably Christian. 

If you need more evidence, consider the following. Noah Webster once said, “Education is useless without the Bible. The Bible was America’s basic textbook in all fields. God’s Word, contained in the Bible, has furnished all necessary rules to direct our conduct.” John Jay added, “The Bible is best of all books, for it is the Word of God and teaches us the way to be happy in this world and the next.” James McHenry joined in: “The Holy Scriptures … can alone secure to society order and peace, and to our courts of justice and our constitutions of government purity [and] stability.” And then there are these words of Teddy Roosevelt over a century later: “The teachings of the Bible are so interwoven and entwined with our whole civic and social life that it would be literally impossible for us to figure to ourselves what life would be if these teachings were removed. We should lose almost all the standards by which we now judge both public and private morals. Almost every man who has added to the sum of human achievement of which the [human] race is proud has based his life work largely upon the teachings of the Bible.” 

SEE ALSO: Ask Dr. E: What was the most important thing that Martin Luther King, Jr. ever said?

I could go on and on. Contemporary scholars by the dozens admit that America, from its founding in the mid-1700s until the early 20th century, was largely a nation of Christian morality because our educational enterprise was largely committed to a biblical worldview. Likewise, most agree that the Judeo-Christian glue that once held our culture together has substantially degraded because the ivory tower is now a hotbed of anti-Christian sentiment. 

Ideas matter, and the pagan ideas of today’s colleges and universities are bearing terrible consequences in our classrooms, courtrooms, and corporate boardrooms from coast to coast. As C.S. Lewis rightly cautioned, “Education without values, as useful as it is, seems to rather make a man a more clever devil.” Yes, I believe in the power of education, but, like any weapon, it can be wielded for good or ill.  

I’ll close with a couple of additional quotes that speak for themselves.

“The first step in liquidating a people is to erase its memory. Destroy its books, its culture, its history. Then, have somebody write new books, manufacture a new culture, and invent a new history. Before long, the nation will begin to forget what it is and what it was.” ~ Milan Kundera 

“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” ~ Ray Bradbury

“There is no such thing as amoral education. All education teaches and shapes morality. It is impossible to separate one’s view of God, man, truth, knowledge, and ethics from the educational process… We cannot continue to send our children to Caesar for their education and then be surprised when they come home as Romans.” ~ Voddie Baucham

If you are seeking guidance in today’s changing world, Higher Ground is there for you. Everett Piper, a Ph.D. and a former university president and radio host, takes your questions in his weekly ’Ask Dr. E’ column. If you have moral or ethical questions for which you’d like an answer, please email askeverett@washingtontimes.com and he may include it in a future column.

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