Higher education is, in general and across the nation, the headwaters for the river of political correctness and moral relativism in which our culture is adrift, at least that’s my opinion based on 20 years in the public square. It is washing away the roots of Western Civilization to which we once were anchored. And sadly our public institutions of higher learning in Tennessee are contributing to the erosion.
As an alumnus of the University of Tennessee system, I take no joy in saying that public higher education in Tennessee is doing its part to hasten our cultural demise. But it’s time to get past the romanticism of yesteryear, realistically look at what is going on, and get to work fixing it.
I don’t make such charges lightly, but if public higher education in Tennessee were Humpty Dumpty, then it is lying broken and in pieces at the foot of the wall. And I’m not sure the pieces can really be put back together again. We may need to start over.
I realize those are strong words, but sometimes you have to start over to fix something that’s horribly broken. From what I see, a little glue here or there will not make public higher education “whole” again. Here are the reasons why I think that and my thoughts on where the fix must begin.
Signs of Foundational Decay
First, to my knowledge, every bill for the last several years that would protect religious liberty on our public college campuses has been opposed by the lobbyists that are funded by taxpayers.
A couple of years ago I actually listened as one lobbyist for our public institutions told a legislative committee that it shouldn’t pass a bill to protect groups like the Fellowship of Christian Athletes because students would begin to make up religions, and it would be too hard to say which were real religions.
Then last year I heard a psychology professor who teaches in our public institutions testify that part of her job was to ensure that her students learn to “lay aside” their personal religious beliefs in order to effectively counsel a person to spiritual and emotional health. I’m sure the belief that religion is okay if you can learn to set it aside is not limited to psychology departments.
Second, after the hue and cry last year over the University of Tennessee’s Sex Week, we’re about to have another one. Apparently, neither the administration nor the UT board of trustees could muster the moral energy over the last year to figure out how to make it harder to promote perversion, pornography, and sexual promiscuity on campus.
If half of what a public college psychiatrist had said in her book, Unprotected, is true about what our public colleges tell kids about sex, then students should be filing malpractice lawsuits against some of our campus health practitioners and negligence lawsuits against the administrators who let it happen.
Those are just a couple of things, you say, but they reflect a systemic problem among those in control of higher education: moral confusion fueled by disrespect and disregard for the Christianity that propelled Western Civilization forward. And systemic change will only occur with a change of leadership at the top and pressure from the bottom.
At the top, we need two things:
- A string of Governors who understand the problem and will appoint members to our higher education governing boards that will ensure that the First Amendment is respected, and understand that the objective of higher education once again needs to be the pursuit of truth, not the promotion of sexual license and moral confusion. Those persons can then ensure that we have people in leadership of individual institutions who have not contracted the cultural crud that is going around.
- More legislators willing to rein in largely unaccountable education bureaucrats and the unaccountable accrediting agencies that often are complicit in “requiring” moral confusion and political correctness as the standard for acceptance.
And from the bottom, it’s going to take people like you and me – average citizens – finding out what is really going on, loudly insisting on change, and electing candidates who will fight for the change that’s needed. And if there aren’t any such candidates, then running for office ourselves.
Public higher education has fallen off the high pedestal on which we placed it years ago. It has used its position of influence and respect to propagate ideas and beliefs in our children that are foreign to our nation and our heritage. And until we fix it, we can expect our society to continue to fall to pieces.