- Sunday, May 5, 2024

The week’s news was dominated by the antisemitic protests taking place on college campuses across the nation. Columbia, Yale, Berkeley, Harvard. Over 120 American institutions have reported disruptions to the point that classes have been canceled and police have been called in to restore order.

So how did we get here? Who caused this mess? The answer is simple. All these childish antics and temper tantrums dominating the headlines can be traced back to one key source: the terrible ideas we have been teaching our children for the past 50 years.

What we’ve taught in our schools is now bearing itself out in the behavior we see in our streets. As Abraham Lincoln said, “The philosophy of the schoolroom in one generation will become the philosophy of the government in the next.” Even Hitler understood this when he said, “Let me control the textbooks, and I will control the state.”

What we teach in colleges will be practiced in our culture. Solomon was clear: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart.” The moral to this is that there is great power in ideas and that power can be wielded for either noble or nefarious ends.

Richard Weaver warned of the same in 1948 when he wrote his seminal work, “Ideas Have Consequences.” His thesis was so simple that you hardly need to read beyond the cover to understand it. Ideas matter. They always bear fruit. There is no such thing as a neutral idea. All ideas are directional. Good ideas bear good culture, good government, good community, good church and good kids. Bad ideas bear the opposite. If you want to live in a good society, you must teach your progeny what is good. It’s like your grandmother said: “Garbage in, garbage out.”

In my book, “Not a Daycare: The Devastating Consequences of Abandoning Truth,” I tell the story of how, in 2015, as a university president, I confronted my students and told them that if they wanted to be coddled rather than confronted, they needed to go someplace else.

More specifically, I said: “This university is not a ’safe place,’ but rather, a place to learn: to learn that life isn’t about you, but about others; and that the first step in saving the world is to repent of everything that’s wrong with you rather than blame others for everything that’s wrong with them. This is a place where you will quickly learn that you need to grow up. This is not a daycare. This is a university.”

Education today is in crisis. The Ivory Tower has become the Tower of Babel. It is no longer in the business of pursuing truth but rather is more interested in celebrating tolerance. Ideological fascism now stands on the grave of the academy’s proud tradition of academic freedom.

Today’s colleges and universities look more like Orwell’s Ministry of Truth than they do institutions of higher learning. We are teaching students to worship their feelings over facts and to parrot the self-refuting nonsense of saying they can’t tolerate those they find intolerable and that they hate hateful people. Good has become evil, and evil is good. The villains are dead Jews who simply wanted to protect their country, and the heroes are those who invaded that country, raped their women and beheaded their babies.

But lest we think there is no way out of this mess, there is an answer. It is found in returning to and teaching Truth with a capital T. It’s found in those moral laws that have been tested by time, defended by reason, validated by experience, and endowed to us by Revelation.

The solution is good ideas versus bad ideas: ancient ideas rather than new, ideas of freedom over fascism, ideas of selflessness rather than self, ideas of personal responsibility instead of personal grievance, and ideas of virtue versus victimization.

Put simply, we will never stop the childishness we are watching on the evening news until we return to teaching the enduring ideas upon which the American academy was initially founded, ideas like these are found in Harvard’s original mission statement: “Let every student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the main end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning.”

There was a time when universities across the country had the words “You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall set you free” etched in stone over the entrance to their libraries. Because these same universities have long since abandoned their mission, they now have to deal with a monster of their own making: a mob of immature students who don’t even know these words are Christ’s and that he is the only way to stop the chaos.

“Cursed is all learning that is contrary to the cross of Christ” (Princeton University, 1746).

• Everett Piper (dreverettpiper.com, @dreverettpiper), a columnist for The Washington Times, is a former university president and radio host.

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