As a follow-up to my earlier post about how Evangelical culture has not escaped the culture wars and wokeness, I’d like to say the same is also true for Christian universities.
I was looking through the course catalog for my alma mater (a very large Christian university) as part of a research project for a book I am planning to write in the future. This is a place that was so culturally conservative that dancing was not allowed on campus until the 1990s, dorms were segregated by gender with strictly enforced visiting hours, drinking was not allowed, and cohabitation was banned for students even off campus. Fraternities and sororities were not allowed to have permanent campus housing.
Naturally, I checked out the section for the Classics Department. I was not a classics major, but I did take several years of Latin at the university level and participated in my school’s Intensive Latin Institute one summer. Suffice it to say, I knew the classics department well in my time. (And, yeah, I am a real nerd.)
My initial reaction was a sense of shock at how few classics courses were even being offered at all. It’s obvious the department has been downsized since I was there. That in itself is remarkable, as this is a Christian university that has a massive seminary. How do you not have many courses in Greek when you specialize in a book that was originally written in Greek? What the heck happened there?
But then I started looking at what they were offering. Of the very few electives open to undergraduate classic majors, here are two (sorry for the image – yes, I did just snap a picture of my computer screen):
Race and gender in antiquity? For real? You have so few classes available overall, but you manage to carve out a large percentage to discuss identity politics of all things? How do you even talk for a semester about how women and other cultures were given essentially no rights in the ancient world? And then I read “includes modern debates.” So that’s how you fill it. You use a course on the classics as an excuse to carry on about critical theory, something none of these cultures could have even contemplated. (And one can only imagine how the Greeks and Romans would judge the modern university, where students have lots of opinions but are too illiterate to express them thoughtfully. The disdain would definitely flow both ways.)
A single generation of administrators did this to my alma mater. When I left school, these were indisputably strong programs. I feel sometimes like I received my college education “just in time” – when the Greatest Generation still influenced what was happening on campus. Then the 1960s generation took over, and they pretty much gutted the rigor and prestige of the humanities. What a shame.