Most College Humanities and Social Science Programs Have Become Enemies of Freedom and Reason
By JOHN ZMIRAK
In the wake of the riots that have silenced free speech on one campus after another, it is clear that few colleges or universities still offer a real liberal arts education. Nor have most even lapsed into simple careerism, aiming solely at getting students ready to support themselves and their families. That would be bad enough, a grim decline from the reason that the Church created the first universities back in the Middle Ages: forming the “whole person,” as West Point still aims to do.
No, things are much worse than that. The reason that most students go to college is grimly careerist — it’s like getting a green card that permits you to work at most jobs in America. But the schools have kept the infrastructure of old-fashioned Western liberal arts institutions, adding on the apparatus of 19th-century quasi-sciences like sociology and history. However, the ideas about human nature, politics, economics, morality and culture that have captured most humanities and social science departments are aggressively hostile to the culture of the West, especially Christianity, limited government, and economic freedom. Even the unique value of human life is no longer taken for granted, thanks to the explosion of ecological fundamentalism in the name of “sustainability.”
So we have the worst of both worlds: schools that keep up the pretense of forming young people in humanistic disciplines, while the teachers who’ve grabbed control of the relevant departments are doing exactly the opposite. So students pass statues of Homer, Dante, Milton, Shakespeare and Washington, en route to classes whose teachers and texts sneer at every value any of those men would have treasured.
Your average humanities department is thus like a seminary whose theology department has been captured by tenured atheists. Even in schools that still retain a Western core curriculum, there are influential teachers like the late Edward Said of Columbia, who boasted that he taught the “canon” of Western literature as a means of exposing our culture as the oppressor of most of the world.
Rejecting Reason, Freedom and Objectivity
Even worse than that, whole disciplines have turned against ideals of reason, free discourse and objectivity, and rest their conclusions instead on untestable, aggressively political dogmas whose premises are unquestioned. In fact, if a student or teacher attempts to question them, he will simply be punished, academically or professionally. Thus they operate less as intellectual fields of inquiry than intolerant, man-made religions — or ideologies. That word means more than just “worldview.” It’s a term for a set of intellectual rationalizations for positions you chose for non-rational reasons, such as the craving for money, power, privilege, or revenge. An ideology is a half-baked idea with a fully loaded pistol.
Marx allowed no room in his system of materialistic determinism for the possibility of God. When students asked him about that, he told them that in a future socialist paradise, the question of God would never come up. (Indeed, future Marxist governments would send the secret police to make sure of that.) Of course that is not an answer but an evasion. It’s the response not of a philosopher but of an ideologue.The great critic of Nazi and Communist totalitarianism, Eric Voegelin, explained how to distinguish a legitimate, grounded worldview from an ersatz religion, or ideology. In The New Science of Politics, he noted that ideologues defend their systems not by anticipating objections and answering them, but instead byforbidding the questions.
Whole Disciplines Without Dissenters
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