Wokeness at Christian universities

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.

15 thoughts on “Wokeness at Christian universities

  1. Mary Lefkowitz is a classicist who specialized in women in antiquity. https://www.writersreps.com/author.aspx?AuthorID=123

    But, she’s retired now from Wellesley. She was reviled for this book, which is a great expose of what was going on in academe, which has only gotten worse: https://www.writersreps.com/History-Lesson

    And this book https://www.writersreps.com/Not-Out-of-Africa, is her utter devastation of Martin Bernal’s Black Athena, a book that popularly claimed that Western Civilization stole everything from Africa. Bernal by the way, a Maoist, who converted himself after Deng Xiao Ping adopted capitalism for China into an “Africa studies” speciality, was the son of the physicist J.D. Bernal, who was famous during the Cold War for following every twist and turn of the Stalinist party line. Mary hadn’t even known that. But she could tell that he was no classicist. I let her know who he was after Miriam London, a USSR and China scholar who was good friends with Pierre Ryckmans (Simon Leys, pen name) and Father Ladany, whose China News Service was for years the only honest reporting out of China, informed me of who Martin Bernal really was, as she had known him in China. The Chinese government, I recently discovered, by the way, now owns and uses the name China News Service as a CCP outlet. Sad. It seems that Ladany’s contribution to truth is now preserved only by the Catholic Church. Though sometimes I wonder about it, as I hear the Jesuits have gone all woke.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is so indescribably sad. Sure, there are some small “conservative” colleges out there, mostly Christian, that haven’t succumbed, but most of them are – well – not that good. My list: Hillsdale. Oh, and then there’s Hillsdale. One of my 5 children went there. They have recently reasserted their (original) identity as a Christian college, although honestly, there are many there who aren’t Christian, including some professors. But it’s a REAL liberal arts education. There’s also a small, new college called Constantine College in Houston, run by Dr. John Reynolds, the Eastern Orthodox scholar who used to run the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola (the only good thing about Biola, and why my son attended there), but – it’s very small. I don’t even know if it has any accreditation yet.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My goal is to give our daughter a college-level liberal arts education before she’s off to college. Then whatever she does in college can be focused on building a career.

      Three generations of our family attended this school. It’s insanity that this has happened.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I graduated from Westmont College, and another of our daughters also did, about 6 years ago. At that time they didn’t have any of these courses, but I think they were heading in that direction. It’s all about looking “legit” so they can be seen as “academic” and get students, when really, it’s just – NOT. Plus, since they (and almost all of these colleges) take federal funds for student loans – the handwriting is on the wall. And like the hand which wrote on the wall about Belshazzar in the book of Daniel, these schools will be “weighed and found wanting” when we get a sane, genuinely scholarly academic milieu back.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The student loan easy money machine has been responsible for so much of the dumbing down of college. From the perspective of someone who worked in investment banking, I can say that whenever you have a situation where money becomes very easy to come by, standards decline. This is true for every debt bubble. If you look at the mortgage industry, when interest rates were kept low forever, they started making bonkers loans to people who should have never been able to get a mortgage. Same with junk bond bubbles. Same with auto loans. And then you have colleges. A lot of money flows into the schools who turn college into a second infancy.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. The binge in federal borrowing for student loans began under President Obama. Two factors influenced student borrowing. First, student loan borrowing was consolidated under the federal government (taken away from private lenders and nonprofits) as part of the Affordable Care Act legislation. (Yes, student loans have nothing to do with health care. But that piece of legislation was what is called a “Christmas tree” in public policy. Anything policymakers desired was hung on it.) So basically all student loan borrowing became funded by federal taxpayers through the issuance of Treasury bonds, and policymakers keep jacking up the debt ceiling. (Yes, our country is borrowing money from Japan and China to fund the issuance of student loans in virtually unlimited amounts, with no interest in whether kids can even repay them.)

      The second factor that drove borrowing is the 2008 Financial Crisis was so bad that most of the kids in school could not go out and get a job. So they parked themselves in colleges instead. And colleges willingly sold them degrees, all the way up to the PhD level. There are so many people with PhD’s now who will never, ever have a career in academia. There are so many people with law degrees who will never be lawyers. Etc.


      1. In fact, this phenomenon showed up in statistics for quite a while. Kids who are away at college are listed in government statistics as living with their parents. Hence the phenomenon of Millennials living with their parents until they were 30.


      2. And obviously, the point here is that at some point, a private lender is going to cut you off on borrowing. Chase is not going to lend an unemployed student six figures unless their father is Michael Bloomberg.


  4. I’ll take a guess this is Baylor. When I lived in Longview, TX (1982-91) all my co-worker’s who were Baptist aspired to send their college-bound children to Baylor. I always had a good impression of the school.

    I went to Georgia Tech (1969-74) and my wife went to a small all-girls schools nearby, Agnes Scott. For our freshman year our courses of instruction were almost the same except for science – she had biology, I had chemistry. We had almost the same 3 quarters of English – American short stories, American drama, American poetry – reading much of the same material, and the same calculus texts. We both took the same foreign language and used some of the same material. We diverged a little our sophomore years as I began to pick up some beginning engineering work. But I still had 3 quarters of Humanities which was basically Western Civ, with Q1 focused on Greek and Roman lit; Q2 early to mid-European lit (Beowulf through Shakespeare/Milton/Dante, etc.), and then European lit from that point forward to early 20th century. I had humanity elective hours my first two years which I was expected to use for courses like languages, history, poli sci, or philosophy. I had classmates who decided engineering wasn’t for them but who could easily transfer to a liberal arts college because so much of the coursework would transfer. Standard core curriculum just about everywhere. Most basic engineering core courses and then major courses were only in the last two years.

    That is now all gone and we as a society are much the poorer for it. Before I retired I was shocked at how little many of our recent college hires knew when it came to non-technical subjects. You could barely talk to them about anything non-technical. It was like we were from different universes. I traveled a lot in my job and worked in 13 different countries in Europe and Asia during the last 25 years of my career and I can’t overemphasize how important those first two years were.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Excellent guess. I went back and forth about whether to say the college, because I think it is part of a larger phenomenon.

      One element that may be contributing to this is that later generations may simply not be prepared for that kind of study, having not received a good education in K-12. (A professor was telling me recently that most of the kids that come to college are incapable of writing anything longer than a five-paragraph essay.) So the humanities departments are melting away on their own, and the identity politics malcontents are moving in to fill the vacuum because they can.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I too often feel grateful that I went to school when I did, from elementary school to college. It’s a gladness and a sadness at the same time. It seems that all that we held up as great and good, from scientific integrity to the classics, is all gone now.

    Liked by 2 people

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