5 Perks of Attending a School with Which You Disagree

Some people say you should only attend a school if you have a great deal of agreement with them. Certainly, if I were to further pursue post-graduate studies, I would seek a school of the Reformed tradition. There are many perks to doing so, not the least of which is being thoroughly grounded and reinforced in what you will be teaching at the local church level. However, my undergrad experience at a school with which I had major areas of disagreement was not all bad.

Know What You Believe

“For a man to come shuffling into a College, pretending that he holds his mind open to any form of truth, and that he is eminently receptive, but has not settled in his mind such things as whether God has an election of grace, or whether he loves his people to the end, seems to me to be a perfect monstrosity. ‘Not a novice,’ says the apostle; yet a man who has not made up his mind on such points as these, is confessedly and egregiously ‘a novice,’ and ought to be relegated to the catechism-class until he has learned the first truths of the gospel,” (C.H. Spurgeon, Lectures to My Students. Zondervan, Grand Rapids. 1954, pg. 39).

Before I started going to The College at Southwestern, I had already come to hold some pretty solid convictions in my theology. I grew up in church but, only in 2007, I came to be convinced of both Covenant Theology and Amillennialism. I also began hearing about a doctrine of salvation that was comparable to what I was already reading in Scripture, namely that regeneration necessarily precedes faith in the conversion of sinners.

Then, in early 2008, I was deployed to Kuwait where I met a group of young men who called themselves Calvinists. When they explained to me the Doctrines of Grace (the Five Points of Calvinism or T.U.L.I.P.), I immediately recognized these doctrines as lining up with what I was already seeing in Scripture. Finally, after returning home in 2009 and joining a Calvinistic Baptist church, I was introduced to Cornelius Van Til and his transcendental approach to defending the faith (apologetics).

As such, Calvinism had come to take shape in my understanding of the faith in a very holistic way. I understood Calvinism as more than just a soteriology, but rather as a holistic, thoroughly biblical worldview. These were matters on which I was settled. Thus, I determined that I would not budge on these issues as, in late 2009, I began acquiring a higher education at The College at Southwestern, which providentially teaches against all of these positions.

Grow in What You Believe

As I continued on in college, I took every instance of disagreement, between my professors and me and between my fellow students and me, as an opportunity to learn more about my own tradition. I began to research the earliest Calvinistic Baptists, a group of men in England who called themselves Particular Baptists. I was delighted to discover that they saw themselves as being in the same theological vein as the British Reformers and Puritans, a group from which I had already derived great spiritual benefit.

As I studied these men, I discovered that they had written a confession (The Second London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1677 / 1689), and I also discovered that their confession was part of a much larger confessional heritage in the Reformed tradition. I began to study this confession and the others within the Reformed tradition. In studying these confessions, I came to realize that Reformed theology was much larger even than what I already knew. It spanned far beyond a Calvinist soteriology, Covenant Theology, Transcendental apologetics, and Amillennialism. Reformed Baptist theology also extends into ecclesiology, worship, Christian liberty, and other matters.

I also discovered that the early Particular Baptists and Reformed Baptists had written several catechisms, including some of the earliest catechisms for children. In the Calvinistic Baptist tradition (I was not yet confessional), one often hears about catechisms such as The Westminster Shorter and Larger Catechisms and The Heidelberg Catechism. It was truly delightful to learn that Hubmaier, Luther, and Calvin all had developed catechisms in the early days of the Reformation and, following the British Reformers, Particular Baptists such as Hercules Collins, William Collins, and Benjamin Keach had also developed catechisms for the Baptist tradition.

So it was that, as I was challenged in my views at Southwestern, I was forced to research my own tradition. The more I became familiar with my own tradition and was forced to defend it, the more Reformed I became. So I entered this Dispensational, Traditionalist Baptist seminary as a Calvinistic Baptist, but I left as a thoroughly confessional Reformed Baptist.

Grow in Your Knowledge of What Others Believe

Lest anyone be mistaken, I must take a moment to explain that I did not merely shrink back into my own theological bubble. I am sure that, at times, it may have seemed that way to some of my classmates. I was unapologetic about my beliefs, and would openly question some of the assertions made about Reformed theology in class.

I recall staying after class one afternoon to talk with one of my professors. I apologized to him for pushing back as hard as I sometimes do. He told me not to apologize, but that he actually found my interactions in class to be a breath of fresh air. He lamented the fact that many Millennials are too reserved about their opinions preferring to float through their college years without ever participating much in classroom discussions. I did notice that the Gen Xrs in my classes did express their opinions a lot more freely while Millennials often tended to sit toward the back of the class and treat the classes as just a grade. This is not an indictment on all Millennials. For all the cons one might highlight about any given generation, there are many pros to make up for it.

On my part, I made the most use I could out of my professors. In fact, the more I disagreed with a professor, the more likely I was to stick around after class and talk with him. I learned a lot in this season of my life about Christians who think differently than me. For instance, I am less inclined to call someone who is not a Calvinist an Arminian. Rather than simply assigning someone a title on the basis of what they are not, I am now more inclined to find out from them what they prefer to be called on the basis of what they affirm.

Also, having sat through lecture after lecture where terms like “Replacement Theology” were used without apology and the Doctrines of Grace were grossly misrepresented, I learned the value of honest representation. If Reformed Baptists desire for others to represent us fairly, it is important that we do the same in representing others. This is not to say that we cannot represent those with whom we disagree in a negative light. However, if we do, we need to be prepared to back up our conclusions with facts.

Grow in Areas Where You Are Wrong

One area where I was surprised to find that I had changed by the time I left school was in the area of ecclesiology. Going in to Southwestern, I was a staunch proponent of elder-rule ecclesiology. However, as I read up on the issue and talked with my professors about it, I soon discovered that my ecclesiology was just as reactionary as the worst arguments from the other side. I would hear people complain about the abuses of elders in an elder rule system, and I would counter with experiences I had seeing people use and abuse the congregational system.

Once I honestly stopped and looked at all of the arguments from Scripture for elder-led congregationalism (or, as I’ve heard it put, elder-rule congregationalism), I found this take on congregational ecclesiology to be thoroughly biblical. I had formulated a doctrine of church government on the basis of personal preference and pragmatic arguments, and I was unwilling to hear arguments from Scripture. Were it not for my education, I might still hold to the other view. I certainly never would have desired to have changed on the view were I not convinced otherwise.

Develop Friendships with People with Whom You Disagree

Now, I was a bit of an outcast among my classmates in college. I gather that some of the more Calvinistic students did look up to me a bit. I was a cofounder of an apologetics club, I started a Bible study with several students off campus, and I still talk with some of my fellow students from time to time. However, for the most part, I did not primarily hang with my fellow students. I preferred to talk offline with my professors.

Sometimes I would stay after class for over an hour to talk with my professors. Though we disagreed on a great deal of theology, I found that we were able to get past that and focus on the areas where we found agreement. Sometimes, after more than an hour of conversation, I would look at my watch and realize that I had missed chapel. Sometimes, that would happen even on days when the chapel speaker was someone I was really looking forward to hearing. Overall, I left school with a great love and admiration for—though still a great deal of disagreement with—my professors.

Really, the only reason I gravitated to professors with whom I disagreed rather than fellow students with whom I disagreed was generational. Generationally speaking, I did not feel I had as much in common with my fellow students. This was quite a learning experience for me. There are probably no two back-to-back generations that are more different in temperament and life experiences than Gen Xrs and Millennials. Somehow, though, I was able to forge a handful of friendships with Millennials as well.


Well, these were the five things I found most beneficial about going to a school with which I harbored great disagreement. I would not say it is for everyone, especially if you are not settled in your theology. What are some of the perks that perhaps I missed? I would be interested to hear the positive aspects of your experience attending a school with which you had great disagreement.

The State of Higher Education



Recently, I’ve finished a blog series in which I examined the state of college education from a Reformed Christian perspective. The goal of this mini-series was to address how the decline in morality and ethics, along with the abandonment of a Christian worldview of education, has affected the quality of our college education system. This was accomplished by answering two basic questions: (1) How have the noetic effects of sin directly and indirectly impacted the current state and trajectory of American education? (2) What should be the Christian’s response to the current state and trajectory of American education?

As Christians, we know that the discipleship of the mind and the heart are inseparable. In other words, it is impossible to separate morality and education because they both are part of the discipleship process and thus they mutually influence each other. My basic thesis is that the darkening of the American culture (due to its rejection of God’s moral law and a Biblical worldview) has invariably led to the darkening of the American college education system. This post breaks up that series into seven basic parts:


Part I: The Effects of Sin on Higher Education

Part II: Higher Education and the Discipleship of the Mind

Part III: The Autonomous Self and Higher Education

Part IV: Morality and Education

Part V: Naturalism and Education

Part VI: Liberalism and Education

Part VII: The Cost of Higher Education

The Cost of Higher Education

In this blog series, I have been examining the effects of sin on the quality of American college education. In particular, we have addressed the growing lack of mental discipline from students, the promotion of the autonomous self, the promotion of a morally neutral education, the lack of balance in undergraduate natural science education, and the lack of genuine rigor in the liberal arts within the American college education system. The last issue that I want to address is the most obvious issue in college education and, in many ways, is the culmination of many of the topics discussed previously: the unnecessarily high cost of education.

The Higher Education Bubble

A college degree once looked to be the path to prosperity. Like the housing bubble of the 2000s, the higher education bubble is about security and insurance against the future. Both whisper the same seductive promise into the ears of Americans: Do this and you will be safe. It is thought that a student will gain knowledge and seasoning in college that will make him or her more productive and a candidate for a high-paying career. The investment of time and money in knowledge pays through higher productivity and is translated into higher income. Thus, higher education is meant to be the higher-order means to a successful career.

https://mises.org/sites/default/files/styles/slideshow/public/static-page/img/EducationBubble.jpg?itok=nnVrQsJzThe reality is that our core national belief on the value of college education has many of the same irrational thought processes as home ownership. In any economic sector, a true bubble is created when something is highly overvalued and intensely believed. In the 2000s, the prevailing belief among Americans was that housing prices would always go up and no matter what happens in the world, houses were the best investments you could make. The housing bubble has shattered that myth. However, there is still a rather persistent belief among Americans: no matter what happens in the world, education is the best investment you can make. In other words, you will always make more money if you are college educated. Sounds familiar?

Similar to the housing bubble, we can say that there is significant malinvestment in higher education, which has led to the overinflated cost of college education today. According to Bloomberg News, college tuition and fees have increase 1,120% since records began in 1978 and state school tuition is rising even faster – 50% faster at state schools versus private in roughly the last decade. Similar to the housing bubble, this higher education bubble is fueled by easy debt, totaling $1.2 trillion outstanding. In other words, student loan debt is easy to get, but hard to get rid of. The low interest rates for loans (based in part to perceived demand for college degrees) have continued to create a favorable environment for colleges to expand, increasing the debt of major universities. Since the cost of these expansion projects are partially passed on to the students, the higher education bubble continues to inflate.

As mentioned previously, students are willing to tolerate this increase in cost for two basic reasons: (1) high paying jobs will require a college degree and (2) high paying jobs will be plentiful when the student graduates. Both of these assumptions are being challenged today based on the high unemployment rates of recent graduates. The painful reality is that there are many college graduates today that are baby-sitters, sales clerks, telemarketers, and bartenders. In other words, college education for many is a significant malinvestment. The higher education bubble also has had an unintended social cost. Because of the economic constraint placed upon them, these debtors are postponing marriage and childbearing and, in many cases, severely limiting the number of children that they will have.

An even more critical question is whether students will graduate in the first place since only about 40% of full-time students earn a degree within four years. To quote economist Doug French, unfinished college education is as useful as an unfinished house.

Vocation and Higher Education

From what we have discussed above, the essential cause of the higher education bubble is the public’s perceived belief in and value of traditional college education. As discussed in previous blogs, a culture’s perception of value stems directly from their worldview. We have been told in numerous places that college education should be a right that should be guaranteed to every America. This raises an obvious question: should all Americans even go to college? Or more directly, should all current college students be in college?

The reality is that the expansion of college education has opened the door to students who are unqualified based on their lack of interest or lack of an appropriate skill set for college. In doing student advising as a professor, one of the common statements that I hear from students is: “I don’t want to do that type of work.” This statement is usually said with a sense that certain types of work (usually blue-collar jobs) are beneath them. Today, there are few students entering college who desire to be elevator repairers, electrical power line installers, transportation inspectors, boilermakers, and electricians. In other words, we have a large amount of students who are not necessarily interested or gifted enough to do intellectually demanding work, but who refuse to do “menial work”.

It is at this point that a good understanding regarding the Protestant doctrine of vocation is quite helpful. Much discussion in our culture has been given to the dignity of living the life of the mind and pursuing white collar jobs as the careers of the future. In the same breadth, there has been mere lip service given to blue-collar work. This has given the impression that a person only works blue-collar jobs because they are not fortunate enough to obtain better employment. As Christians, we recognize that there is inherent dignity in ALL forms of lawful work that’s beneficial to society. In other words, there is inherent dignity with jobs that require significant manual labor. These blue-collar jobs are legitimate and honorable callings for those who are qualified and trained. This implies that there should be qualitative differences between the various types of higher education that we offer. In other words, there should be distinct differences in mission and in purpose between colleges/universities, technical schools, community colleges, and trade schools.

In developing the multiversity structure for higher education, many current universities are guilty of “mission creep” by attempting to do the job that community colleges, trade schools, and even formal apprenticeships use to do. In my view, this has caused a large disjunction between the real purpose of colleges/universities and the sort of students that they attract. This “mission creep”, coupled with the administrative apparatus needed to handle university expansion, also helps to explain the rising cost of higher education. Moreover, there is a large disjunction between the skills developed in university education and the skills demanded by employers. The truth is that everyone does not need to go to college to be well-educated or to find a good job. The availability of knowledge from the internet (such as MIT OpenCourseWare) suits many students quite well so that they can determine what they are called to do. Furthermore, more American companies are moving towards the apprenticeship model in order to attract qualified potential employees.

The Morality of Debt

There is also a significant moral element to this discussion: is it ethical for 18-19 year old adults to incur $100K of debt? The Scriptures teach us that it’s usually dangerous and unwise for a person to incur large debt (cf. Proverbs 6:1-5; 17:18; 20:16; Romans 13:8) because debt essentially makes us a slave to the one who provides the loan. Moreover, the contractual nature of loans makes them similar to taking oaths. Just as we are commanded not to take oath rashly, we should not enter into financial debt rashly as well.

The unfortunate reality is that many students simply take out loans indiscriminately without counting the necessary costs, which is antithetical to a Christian worldview. This attitude towards debt helps to produce the economic miscalculation that fuels higher education costs. Moreover, a culture in which debt is taken lightly is also a culture in which defaults are inevitable and plentiful. Some college graduates even take the position that defaulting on debt is morally good.

From a Christian worldview, defaulting on student loans is akin to stealing. The 8th commandment requires us to act truthfully, faithfully, and justly in our contractual and business relationships with our fellow man so that we give to all what they deserve (cf. Romans 13:7). As testified by older college graduates, there use to be a time in which a student could pay their tuition in cash by working a summer job or by working while in school. This meant that any loan that was taken out for education was paid for as soon as possible. Thus, Christians today should carefully consider whether having the “college experience” and the illusory prospect of high-paying future employment is worth potentially violating the 8th commandment in the future. This is not only a message to individual students and their parents, but it’s a message to our general culture: if we have an educational system that encourages stealing, then it’s a system that needs to be called into question.

Liberalism and Modern Education

In the previous blog, I gave a critique on the biggest problem facing the standard STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education across the country – namely the lack of philosophical self-reflection and training. Because of this, many undergraduate STEM majors graduate with good scientific training, but they overwhelming adopt a worldview of naturalistic materialism as a methodological assumption without thinking through its implications and foundational assumptions. This leads to the unbalanced education of many scientists observed by many commentators. Now in making this critique, it is assumed that the liberal arts wing of the university system is doing its job to add the proper balance to the STEM fields. This is the ideal, but unfortunately, it is not the reality. In this blog, I want to focus my critique on the humanities and liberal arts. In my view, the fifth major issue associated with contemporary education is the devolution of liberal arts studies.

Now, some who are reading this blog may claim that I am presenting a biased view of modern liberal arts education because I am a faculty member in the STEM fields. This complaint is not only observed among STEM faculty, but it is observed across the academy. Consider the commentary from University of Notre Dame Professor Patrick J. Deneen concerning the decline of the liberal arts:

The scandalous state of the modern university can be attributed to various corruptions that have taken root in the disciplines of the humanities. The university was once the locus of humanistic education in the great books; today, one is more likely to find there indoctrination in multiculturalism, disability studies, queer studies, postcolonial studies, a host of other victimization studies, and the usual insistence on the centrality of the categories of race, gender, and class. The humanities today seem to be waning in presence and power in the modern university in large part because of their solipsistic irrelevance, which has predictably increased students’ uninterest in them.

Now there are numerous reasons for Deneen’s conclusion, but I want to focus on two: (1) science and global competition have hallowed out the liberal arts and (2) liberalism has led to self-destructive tendencies within the liberal arts.

The Old Science and the University

When most people today think of science, they usually think of the natural and physical sciences. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, this is a relatively new definition of science, which occurred sometime during the 18th century at the time of the growth of rationalism and the Enlightenment. The “old science” finds its classic definition as “knowledge acquired by study, acquaintance with or mastery of any department of learning.” The old science was pre-modern in origins, mostly religious and cultural, deriving its authority from the faith traditions and cultural practices that one generation sought to pass on to the next. The vestiges of this older tradition still exists on campuses today, such as the Gothic buildings; the titles “professor”, “dean”, and “provost”; and the robes worn at graduation.

For centuries, the humanistic disciplines were at the heart of the university. The “old science” recognized that a unique feature of man was his capacity for liberty – in other words, man was unique for his ability to choose and to consciously order and direct his life. Anchored by a Biblical worldview, it was acknowledged that this liberty was subject to misuse and excess. Thus, to understand ourselves was to understand how to use our liberty well in light of the sinfulness of man. Thus, the liberal arts sought to encourage that hard task of negotiating what was permitted and what was forbidden, what constituted the highest and best use of our freedom, and what actions were immoral and wrong. Hence, to be free (or liberal) was itself an art, something that was learned not by nature or instinct, but by refinement and education.

At the center of the liberal arts were the humanities, the education of how to be a human being. Thus, each new generation was encouraged to consult the great works of our tradition (the vast epics; the classic tragedies and comedies; the reflections of philosophers and theologians; the Word of God; etc.) to teach us what it was to be human. This means that one of the core skills learned in the liberal arts is how to properly analyze worldviews. While the modern sciences were an integral part of the original liberal arts education, they were considered the main avenue towards understanding the natural and created order of which mankind was the crown. This was the original vision of the university and as it can be seen, the humanities were guided by a comprehensive religious vision.

The New Science and the Multiversity

The current dilemma concerning the humanities began in the early modern period (1500-1800s) with the basic argument that a new science was needed to replace the “old science” of the liberal arts. The “new science” is synonymous with the natural and physical science and thus is restricted to those branches of study that relate to the phenomena of the material universe and their laws. Historically, this new science no longer sought to merely understand the world, but to transform it. This impulse gave rise to a scientific, industrial, and technological revolution. The success of the modern scientific revolution in bringing unprecedented prosperity provided the motivation to reject the “old science” with its claims of tradition and culture. This debate also changed the way in which we viewed the philosophy of higher education. Consider the words of Deenen

In the nineteenth century, U.S. institutions of higher learning began to emulate the German universities, dividing themselves into specialized disciplines and placing stress on expertise and the discovery of new knowledge. The religious underpinnings of the university dissolved; the comprehensive vision that religion had afforded the humanities was no longer a guide. What had been the organizing principle for the efforts of the university—the tradition from which the faculty received their calling—was systematically disassembled. In the middle part of the twentieth century, renewed emphasis upon scientific training and technological innovation—spurred especially by massive government investment in the “useful arts and sciences”—further reoriented many of the priorities of the university system.

Thus, the original vision of the university was considered archaic and the multiversity vision was adopted, which was presented in the 1960s as “central to the further industrialization of the nation, to spectacular increases in productivity with affluence following, to the substantial extension of human life, and to worldwide military and scientific supremacy”. This creates new incentives and motivations for the faculty, not to study classic works, but to create new knowledge. Hence, innovation and progress are the virtues of the multiversity and the past was understood to offer little guidance in a world oriented toward future progress. The prominence of the library (the central place of the university in the transmission of culture and tradition) was replaced by the laboratory (the central place of knowledge creation in the multiversity). The core curricula at universities – formed originally out of an understanding of what older generations had come to believe necessary for the formation of fully human beings – were displaced increasingly by either “distribution requirements” or no requirements whatsoever, in the belief that students should be free to establish their course of study according to their own wisdom.

Liberalism and the Liberal Arts

In response to these changes, the humanities began to question their place within the university. Did it make sense any longer to teach young people the challenging lessons of how to use freedom well, when increasingly the scientific world seemed to make those lessons unnecessary? Could an approach based on culture and tradition remain relevant in an age that valued, above all, innovation and progress? How could the humanities prove their worth, in the eyes of administrators and the broader world?

In my view, this is the background behind the transformation of many liberal arts programs. Modern liberal arts are very much characterized by liberation from tradition. Liberal arts faculty could demonstrate their usefulness and progressiveness by showing the backwardness of the classical texts; they could “create knowledge” by showing their own superiority to the authors they studied; and they could display their irrational anti-traditionalism by attacking the very books that formed their discipline. Thus, instead of teaching students how to weigh conflicting views of the world for themselves, too many liberal arts courses (and departments) have simply indoctrinated students into adopting this anti-traditionalism, which is another form of chronological snobbery.

In the 1960s, there was still a desire to read the classic texts (usually for the purposes of critique); today, the classical texts of the humanities have largely been discarded. For example, a recent study have shown that the average English major is not required to take courses on the classic works from Shakespeare and Chaucer. Instead, we now have classes in English departments such as Literature, Food, and the American Racial Diet, Punk Culture: The Aesthetics and Politics of Refusal, The Politics of Hip Hop, Gender, Sexuality, and Literature: Our Cyborgs, Our Selves (for more information on the typical liberal arts curriculum, see this work from Peter Wood and Michael Toscano). After rejecting the objective anchors in the academic canon of classical texts, these fields succumbed to passionate group thinking and self-absorption. The liberal arts have devolved into a free-for-all, as witnessed by the plethora of departments categorized by identity politics.

Our Response

From a Christian perspective, underlying the devolution in the liberal arts was an acceptance of the modern understanding of liberty. For the “old science”, liberty had long been understood to be the achievement of hard discipline – a victory over appetite and desire. In the 20th century, the humanities adopted the modern, scientific understanding, which holds that liberty is constituted by the removal of obstacles, by the overcoming of limits, and by the transformation of the world – whether the world of nature or the nature of humanity itself. Education thus came to be a process of liberation, not the cultivation of self-restraint. Moreover, the postmodernism that is typically associated with the humanities has led many to believe that all of our natural conditions are socially constructed. Thus, if man had any kind of “nature,” then the sole permanent feature was the centrality of the autonomous will and thus the raw assertion of power over any restraint is definitional of mankind (a topic discussed in a previous blog).

The humanities of old (fostered with a Christian worldview) can muster a powerful argument against this tendency. The warning in essence is simple: at the end of the path of liberation lies enslavement. Liberation from all obstacles and self-restraint is illusory because human appetite is insatiable and the world is limited. Without mastery over our desires, we will be eternally driven by them, never satisfied by their attainment. What we are seeing is the excesses of modernity – the flattening of the soul and the theft of transcendent meaning and value. Thus, the only way to reclaim the proper usefulness of the liberal arts is to reclaim the religious underpinnings of liberal education and the comprehensive vision that religion has afforded the humanities. Liberal arts can find its proper place in the academy if it returns to its original intention of studying the true nature of man and serving as a corrective to the philosophical hubris of the philosophy of modern science. A restored liberal education would be an education in the limits that culture and nature impose upon us – an education in living in ways that do not tempt us to live for ourselves. Thus, we would learn a proper understanding of liberty: not as liberation from constraint, but rather, as a capacity to govern ourselves well, living in our Father’s world.

Naturalism and Education

In this blog series, I have been examining the effect of sin on the quality of higher education. In particular, I have been examining how worldview changes (and their subsequent effects of society) have led to a change in the quality of higher education as well as the mission of higher education. Most of these changes can be described by examining how the presence of sin in our hearts negatively affects and undermines the human mind and intellect (otherwise known as noetic effects of sin). In previous blogs, I addressed general problems with higher education, but in this blog I want to focus my critique on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education. In my view, the fourth major issue associated with contemporary education is the growing neglect of philosophical self-reflection and training in the STEM fields. One important aspect of contemporary education which needs to be recovered is the belief that all college students, including STEM majors, need to receive a thorough philosophical training so that they can understand the proper usefulness and limitations of their academic discipline.

Our Current View of the Philosophy and the Humanities

Historically, one of the pillars of higher education was the study of philosophy and the application of philosophy to the other sciences. However, as rising tuition and mounting student debt makes prospective income a bigger part of choosing a major, disciplines such as philosophy and history are under attack in favor of fields as engineering and business, which are more likely to lead to jobs and salaries that justify the cost of four-year college education. Now, the debate concerning the cost of education will be the subject of another blog, but the usefulness of the humanities is no longer just an academic conversation as only 8 percent of students now major in the humanities, according to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, down from a peak of more than 17 percent in 1967. Humanities professors contend that what would be lost in eliminating humanities majors is exactly what employers say they really need: the kind of education that teach students how to think, innovate, work in teams, and solve problems. In other words, humanities professors are concerned that we have become shortsighted because we are more concerned with the cost of education rather than the value of education. So far, the humanities are losing the argument.

Now, the debate concerning the cost of education will be the subject of another blog, but it is quite clear that many people have quite a low view of the value of the humanities and the other classical fields of education. In addressing the argument concerning the value of the humanities majors, consider the comment from a non-humanities major

And how exactly are they going to solve problems when they don’t have any skills with which to do so? After all, they have just spent four years reading books by old dead white men and then arguing about it. They have also listened to four years of professors telling them that “the life of the mind” is something that can’t be taken away from you by the soulless vocational professions. Maybe they should just eat their books when they are done with them… maybe then they would have realized that reading old poetry doesn’t really prepare you to be a contributing member of society.

Generally speaking, when STEM majors hear that there are certain critical thinking skills that are not learned within the STEM fields, the response is usually very defensive. Consider the comments in the above article from physical scientists and engineers:

I’m sorry, but this REALLY irritates me.  I’ve got nothing against the humanities, but I really get annoyed by this idea that the ONLY place you can learn critical thinking, communicating, and problem solving is through them.  Yes, a good liberal arts background will help teach you these skills.  But so will a good engineering or science background (and surely other degrees as well which I know less of).  I’ve been working on a multinational science satellite mission for the past decade.  You’re really telling me that because I got an engineering degree, I don’t know how to work with a team, pose complex and creative problems, and think critically about how to solve them?

A Major Flaw in Science Education

From my personal experience, the opinions expressed in the comments section from the above TIME magazine article are generally consistent with how STEM majors view the humanities. Most STEM majors believe that there are many valuable insights that a STEM education can offer to society (and to other fields), but there is relatively little insight offered in the humanities that cannot be gleaned in a standard STEM education. In my view, this has contributed to a very unbalanced science education in America. Today, the prevailing view seems to be that if a STEM major takes their general education courses in psychology, sociology, history, English, and philosophy, then they have learned everything that they really need to know about those fields. It is quite true that STEM majors learn critical thinking abilities, but it is also quite true that STEM majors are usually quite non-reflective on the philosophical basis for the STEM fields. The intellectual ignorance and faulty perspectives on this matter are usually self-inflicted, but it is also true that this ignorance is promoted by the general culture around us. We live in a society in which it appears that moral reality is created by the observer, while things that are “scientifically proven” are considered formally true. To some, this gives the impression that what scientists do deals with reality, whereas what philosophers and others do is speculation.

In my view, the biggest flaw in STEM education today is the lack of philosophical reflection. Working scientists (and science students by implication) usually take for granted a set of basic assumptions that are needed to justify the scientific method: (1) there is an objective reality shared by all rational observers; (2) This objective reality is governed by natural laws; and (3) These natural laws can be discovered by means of systematic observation and experimentation. These are all assumptions that need to justified philosophically and the philosophy of science seeks a deep understanding of what these underlying assumptions mean and whether they are valid.

A cursory examination of the 20th century discussion on the philosophy of science should bring a sense of self-reflection to modern scientists concerning the formal validity of the scientific method. Moreover, a cursory examination of the critiques of the scientific method (i.e. the problem of induction) should produce a sense of humility to modern STEM majors concerning the limitations of the scientific method. Most STEM students are not introduced to the limitations of science until graduate school. Moreover, most STEM majors have been taught that nothing is to be accepted unless it has been “scientifically proved”, and nothing has any claim to be called true unless science acknowledges that claim. Obtaining a deeper background in philosophy will give STEM majors hesitancy before they make vacuous statements such as “it has been scientifically proved”. When STEM majors accept these statements without thinking through the critiques and limitations, it’s only a matter of time before a worldview of naturalistic materialism is accepted as a methodological assumption.

Our Response

Unfortunately, this is the state of science education around the country and the general outlook from STEM students and professionals. It is at this point in which a Christian view of education and knowledge is superior. The Christian worldview informs us that supernatural revelation is the only objective source of truth and this supernatural revelation is given to us through the Bible. Thus, this worldview compels us to address the philosophical grounding and implications of other knowledge claims, including the claims of modern science. This means that a rigorous philosophical education is necessary for each student to have so that he/she can properly assess the difference between that which is formally true and that which is useful. For the case of STEM majors, philosophical training and self-reflection will helps us to know the difference between falsification and verification or the relationship between metaphysics and science, both of which have implications for the working scientist. Thus, for the quality of American education to improve (particularly in the STEM fields), we (i.e. those of us in the academy) need to insist that it is insufficient for any student to leave college without undergoing deep philosophical reflection on the nature and usefulness of their academic discipline.

Morality and Education

In the previous blog, I addressed the second major issue regarding American college education – the promotion and fostering of the autonomous self. Although most social and academic commentators tend to believe that the entitlement mentality of the current generation of students is a relatively recent phenomenon, I believe that this is the fruit of a deeper problem that extends back multiple generations. Over the span of less than 60 years, the mission of college education has dramatically changed. We have abandoned the view that education is a virtuous endeavor (which seeks to train and disciple the mind) and have replaced it with a pragmatic view of education that primarily trains us for future jobs.

Moreover, the morality of education has also taken a rather dramatic shift and this shift has been consistent with the promotion of the autonomous self. Coupled with this moral change, I want to address the third major issue: the promotion of a morally neutral education. One important aspect of contemporary education which needs to be recovered is the belief that there is a transcendent, unchanging moral structure to our world.

An Overview

Throughout Western history, one of the primary goals in the philosophy of education was the transmission of morality or virtue. Furthermore, many people believed that there is a deep connection between academic learning (i.e. the development of mental aptitude) and moral learning (i.e. development of virtue and character). In other words, early education theorists understood that the development of the intellect and the development of moral character are intimately related. Just as there is orderliness in nature (which has been summarized in the laws of natural science) and in reason (which has been summarized in the laws of logic), so too there is a moral structure to our world. For many theorists, this implied it is necessary to determine the objective moral order of our universe and to restore it to a central place in the educational process. For this reason, many early education theorists strongly believed that moral education belongs in schools. Furthermore, many took this to mean schools are partly responsible to educate children in morality.

Now, this final point has been the subject of intense controversy, especially over the last 50 – 60 years. Both Christian and secular education theorists acknowledge that teachers and professors represent an important adult authority figure in students’ lives and are therefore capable of making a huge impression upon students. Additionally, both Christian and secular education theorists recognize that teachers spend a large portion of the day with the students, often more than even the children’s parents do with their children. Therefore, the teacher has ample opportunity to educate children not only in important academic subjects, but in character and values as well. For some Christian educators, this has been an argument for the Christian homeschool movement. For many secular educators, this has been an argument for why educated societies become inherently more secular.

The Myth of Morally Neutral Education

Within recent decades, the belief in a morally neutral education has grown in popularity and I believe that it is linked to the emergence of the autonomous self. The logic is inescapable: if I can autonomously define my own reality, then surely I can define my own values and moral beliefs. Hence, subjectivity applies not only to my personal identity, but it also applies to morality. The essential argument of a morally-neutral education is as follows: we live in a pluralistic society and so we can no longer stress the values of some, while ignoring the values of all. Therefore, in order to avoid these problems and to promote fairness in our schools, we must all agree to ignore all moral values. For this reason, moral education is no longer explicitly taught in colleges and college students believe that they are only receiving academic training.

The claim of a morally-neutral education is a myth precisely because many college professors openly acknowledge that they intentionally choose to promote certain values and to reject other values. We have all read articles in which professors intentionally speak about the incompatibility of evolution and religious faith. We have all read commentary in which universities intentionally promote LGBTQ lifestyles. We have all read stories of hostile environments towards Christian faculty. The honest reality is that the specious argument for a morally-neutral education is an intentional and morally secular approach to education.

There are two important consequences to this approach to education. First, college students today are surrounded by an allegedly academic setting in which the things they find most obvious are confusing, conflicting claims and the absence of any fixed points of reference. In a nutshell, America’s colleges have become centers of intellectual disorder. Moreover, since a morally-neutral education is typically mandated within college education, this usually means that universities confirm the intellectual prejudices of those who control the agenda of public discourse – the tenured-faculty within the universities. In other words, a morally-neutral education does not actually foster independent thought – it becomes channels of indoctrination.

Second, college students today have not developed the rational faculties needed to make proper moral and ethical decisions. Since moral education is no longer seen as a vital component to a proper college education, students typically tend to ignore its value as well. For many students, the required philosophical ethics course at many universities is just simply a general requirement that they have to take. Another way to state this general observation is that modern students generally do not believe that there is an objective basis for making ethical decisions. For this reason, many students do not take the time to rationally think through moral and ethical decisions. Again, this is consistent with the subjectivism that is promoted in today’s world and this also explains the widespread documented claims of college student cheating. This cheating epidemic is so insidious that it has led to a black-market industry of custom-essay companies.

An Assessment

From a Christian worldview, the issues discussed above are simply the outworking of the noetic effects of sin, primarily intellectual prejudice, faulty perspective, and dogmatism. We should expect that these types of sins will only become more accentuated as our culture continues to embrace this modern post-Christian worldview.

As mentioned previously, important Christian thinkers have always contended that there are transcendent norms (like moral norms), that human happiness is dependent on living our lives in accordance with this transcendent order, and that human flourishing require respect for this order. The most important task of education is to continually remind students of the existence and importance of this transcendent order as well as of its content. This is primarily done by training the mind to properly interpret and understand this transcendent order. If educators are doing their job properly, they serve as an essential link in the chain of civilization because educators are the preservers and transmitters of culture. Without this link, the chain cannot hold and there is an inevitable devolution of culture.

With the morally-neutral approach to education, modern American education has severed the link between virtue, knowledge, and reason. One of the goals of education is to pursue and discover the objective natural order to our world. However, we must not forget that there is also an objective moral order to our world as well and we are all subject to it. Modern American education seems to believe that it is profitable (and possible) to train the mind of a student without training the heart of a person. From a Christian worldview, we recognize this as nonsensical. An adequate education dare not ignore either the mind or the heart. Like any important human activity, education has an inescapable moral component and any effort to produce a morally-neutral education is merely the substitution of one set of moral commitments for another.

It is at this point in which a Christian view of education is superior. When a culture’s moral commitments have no fixed points of reference or objective basis, this means that moral education will become subjective, arbitrary, and irrational (as we are seeing in American education). However, when a culture acknowledges the objective moral structure that God Himself has built in this world, this means that we can recover the view of education as the discipleship of the whole mind and the training of our full rational faculties.

The Autonomous Self and Higher Education

In the previous blog, I addressed the first major issue regarding American college education – a growing lack of mental discipline from students. Although most social commentators focus on the negative impacts of video media upon college students, I believe that the root cause of these issues stem from the fact that we have re-defined education. We have moved from a view of education as a means of discipleship to education as a means of job training. Thus, it can be said that we have undervalued the need to discipline and train the human mind. Coupled with this change in education, I want to address the second major issue: the promotion of the autonomous self.

The self is our interior world, made up of our own thoughts, private intuitions, desires, yearnings, capacities, particularities, and all other elements that makes us distinct from other persons. In essence, it is the sum package of ourselves that makes us unique from all other people. I believe that the promotion of the autonomous self has had a profoundly negative impact on higher education, and I believe the development of the autonomous self is the consequence of three noetic effects of the Fall: faulty perspectives, intellectual pride, and vain imaginations.

As mentioned previously, we are all subject to these issues in varying degrees because of the Fall. We all have various intellectual prejudices that cause us to misunderstand and misinterpret the world around us (as well as the people around us). These intellectual prejudices also cause us to misunderstand ourselves as well. This suggests that prejudice is somewhat axiomatic. However, there is a difference between recognizing our inherent prejudices ourselves and claiming that reality is defined and shaped by the observer. This is a perspective that is being promoted throughout our society, particularly in education. What cultural forces have contributed to this and what impacts do these have on the quality of college education?

The Emergence of the Self

In his book The Courage to be Protestant, David Wells address how the self-esteem movement has dramatically changed the fabric of American culture. In commenting about the 1960s, Wells notes

In a nutshell, what happened was that our individualism, which had always been a potent factor in American life, turned inward in this decade. It withdrew from the outside world and during the 1960s, a new worldview emerged. To a great majority of Americans, it now became clear that the self had become the source of all values. The pursuit of the self was what life was all about.

In other words, the old world individualism has morphed into a new type of individualism. The older individualism in which you should think for yourself, decide for yourself, provide for yourself, and work to serve others in personal and civic ways has turned inwards. Now, individualism is about “finding yourself”, discovering your inner potential for your own benefit, developing positive self-esteem, and developing new ethical rules that serve the discovery of the self.

In this new style of individualism, self-esteem is elevated even above actual performance. This is a trend that is tracked by numerous academics in which virtually all students view themselves as “above average” in all ways. In this regard, we are producing a generation of students who are “cured” of their inferiority complexes, but whose academic performance lag behind that of many other nations. In therapeutic terms, we have all become adept at being our own healers and our own counselors, dispensing wisdom and comfort to ourselves. In other words, we are not challenging ourselves; we are soothing ourselves.

In our version of individualism, we have the emergence of the autonomous self. Instead of esteeming objectively-defined virtues, we have prioritized good subjective values. Instead of developing objectively-defined inner character, we have prioritized self-marketing, image, and personality. We have replaced an understanding of human nature (which is based on a presupposition of a common shared identity) with the new concept of self. We have drifted from what we all have in common to what is unique to each individual.

The promotion of the self has been the message delivered to many of us for the past several decades. When a child grows up, he or she is taught to embrace their distinctiveness and uniqueness. We are taught to develop our own values and that each person needs to be respected for their values. Moreover, each person is entitled to express who he or she is and each person should define the meaning of his or her life. The prevailing theory is that a poor development of the self explains all sorts of bad behavior and also explains failing academic work. We can now examine some of the impacts that this philosophy has had on higher education.

The Impact on Higher Education

There are numerous consequences of the promotion of self upon college education. The first obvious consequence is a growing sense of entitlement and overconfidence. College faculty members tend to believe that this sense of entitlement is fostered into college students because of grade inflation throughout high school education, but there is plenty of evidence of grade inflation within colleges and universities. This means that the quality and respectability of an undergraduate degree is rapidly declining – to the extent that some degrees are not worth the paper that they are printed on. If the statistics in the above link are correct, this means that all college students are literally above average (with an average GPA of 3.1). Because of these trends, there is a genuine sense that if a student fails a course, then it is the fault of the professor rather than the student.

The promotion of self in higher education has also led to an increase in the hiring of student affairs professionals while freezing or delaying the hiring of full-time faculty members. Furthermore, to meet this ongoing need, more colleges and universities are beginning to develop graduate degrees for Student Affairs, and these programs are even being expanded to the undergraduate level. Therefore, we are witnessing an increase of programs aimed at training people to guide, aid, and facilitate the “personal identity” development of students. And what all of these theories have in common is the promotion of the autonomous self. For evidence of this, please see the following cheat sheet of student development theories.

The expansion of student affairs professionals in higher education also indicates a shift in the financial priorities for colleges and universities. It has been documented that the financial endowments of many academic institutions have flatlined or decreased over the past few decades. Thus, the funding for these new programs/departments have come from four likely sources: (1) students (through increases in student fees and/or tuition); (2) private donors and/or grants; (3) at the expense of academic affairs programs; or 4) through cutting the budgets of current student affairs departments to create new departments/programs. In my view, the creation and/or expansion of student affairs has led to the growth of adjunct, non-tenured faculty within most universities as a cost-cutting measure. This is one of the key indicators that colleges have begun to prioritize the development of the self over the development of the mind.

Our Response

From a Christian worldview, we should see this, not as just a fad in modern American culture, but a rejection of the Christian view of man. The truth is that Western societies want to think only in terms of the self, and they want to use this psychological world as an alternative to the older religious world. This myth of the autonomous self is so well-established, preserved in place by so great a public desire to keep it there, that it borders on heresy to question it. Nevertheless, we should question it and confront it.

The question that we should be asking is whether or not we have the ability or the right to autonomously define themselves. The answer is emphatically no! We do not have the right to dictate who we are because we are creatures, not the Creator. We are not self-created beings who choose to define our own reality; our identity has already been prescribed as creatures made in the image of God. Our lives are not a grand experiment in order to discover our unique identity; we are a part of God’s work of creation and providence, which means that our purpose and function has been determined by God. This is our Father’s world, and reality is set and defined by Him. Consider the commentary by David Wells

To speak of virtue, then, is to speak of the moral structure of the world God has made. Rebellious though we are, we have not broken down this structure, nor dislodged God from maintaining it. It stands there, over against us, whether we recognize it or not. We bump up against it in the course of life and we encounter its reflection in our moral makeup. And from all sides a message is conveyed to our consciousness: “Beware! This is a moral world that you inhabit!”

God’s work of creation does not consists only of the physical structure of the world, but it also includes the moral structure of the world. This also implies that we do not have the ability or the right to define the reality that we live in. Therefore, education should not be a means to liberate our minds from prejudices so that we can discover our true selves in our own inner world. Education should be a means to confront our intellectual prejudices so that we can understand the world that God Himself has made.

Higher Education and the Discipleship of the Mind

In the previous blog, I mentioned that there are several noetic effects of the Fall that have a direct impact on the quality of our American college education. In this blog, I want to address the first major issue regarding American higher education: a growing lack of mental discipline from students.

This growing lack of mental discipline is observed in three basic ways: ignorance, distractedness, and fatigue. Because of the noetic effects of the Fall, we are all subject to these issues in varying degrees. The Fall has clouded our ability to understand the world around us and has weakened the mental capacities of our mind. Therefore, to some extent, a sense of ignorance, fatigue, and distractedness is axiomatic.

However, it does appear that our intellectual ignorance is growing, despite the claims of a more enlightened society. What cultural forces have contributed to “dumbing down” of the American mind and what impacts do these have on the quality of college education?

A Common Diagnosis

Many commentators have monitored these issues and the most cited cause of this is the transition from print media to video media. Unsurprisingly, print journalists are among the loudest voices that decry our current situation and they were among the first to note that this trend has accelerated with the past decade or so because of the explosion of social media. Journalist Charles Pierce, author of Idiot America, adds his perspective:

The rise of idiot America today represents–for profit mainly, but also and more cynically, for political advantage in the pursuit of power–the breakdown of a consensus that the pursuit of knowledge is a good. It also represents the ascendancy of the notion that the people whom we should trust the least are the people who best know what they are talking about. In the new media age, everybody is an expert.

I believe that Pierce has targeted a symptom of a deeper problem in his above statement. The social media revolution in particular (and the internet revolution of the 1990s in general) has given us unprecedented access to information and news, but it has also devolved the American mind in its wake. Despite having 24/7 access to news and events, we remain ignorant of many basic things and we tend to only have a surface-level/partial understanding of the things that we know.

The age of social media has trained us to become very adept at skimming large amounts of information, but it has also deteriorated our ability to think critically. Since we are losing our critical analysis skills, this means that we are also losing our intellectual discernment. We are losing the ability to determine what is intellectually valuable, who is intellectual credible, what is trivial, and what is purely speculative. In essence, we are the generation that is “always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth.”

Since our minds our withering away, we are now much more prone to distractedness and mental fatigue. This is not merely a commentary to the young generation, but it also applies to many of us who went through higher education before the internet revolution and have become progressively dumber due to its gradual impacts on our mind. Many of us have gotten to the point where we would agree with the modern adage of our day “Why spend time learning about history and dates when you can google it?”

A New Diagnosis

While it’s convenient to point the finger at the current generation because of its addiction to the internet, I want to ask a question that is rarely asked: Why has this change in media become so attractive? If it has been documented that the internet is dumbing us down, then why are so many still drawn to? I believe that the honest answer is that this mentality is the fruit of a long history of pragmatism and anti-intellectualism within American life. In other words, we have forgotten the primary and central purpose of formal education – the discipleship of the mind.

If we would be honest, the social media revolution (as well as the internet revolution of the 1990s) caters to what the modern American mind wants: a desire to know things and to appear intelligent without having to apply the necessary mental work.

The modern American mind seems to have a strong aversion toward deep, challenging, and penetrating thought and the media revolution gives us a way to remain constantly distracted without being focused on anything in particular. Because we have abandoned the very notion of the discipleship of the mind, it’s easy to understand why technological innovations that allow us to bypass the mind would become popular. The progression of anti-intellectual and pragmatic thought has borne their fruits in our generation. Those who thought that it was unnecessary to demand intellectual rigor and discipline from their children have produced a generation of unthinking, uncritical, and ignorant young adults.

Now, before we point the finger at the outside world, it’s important to realize that these cultural forces have also invaded young Christian minds. In many places, young Christian minds are just as vapid as their secular counterparts. How many of us have heard the expression: “Don’t give me theology. Give me something practical”? As mentioned previously, the mode of Biblical spirituality is more intellectual than mystical and the Christian faith places significant importance on the value of the mind for the purpose of godliness. However, the pragmatism of previous generations has led to the stereotype of the slow-witted, willfully ignorant Christian.

The Present Trajectory

This trajectory that we have observed has a very profound effect on the state of higher education. If we no longer value intellectual discipline as a nation and would rather google search all of our information, then it will be reflected in our colleges. In many ways, this means that the very mission of colleges and universities has changed. To put it bluntly, we don’t desire to educate people anymore… we train them to get jobs. This means that many degrees will be considered as worthless (i.e. most humanities) and many degrees will be created simply because the job exists (i.e. construction management).

We are already seeing these trends at the college level. There have been numerous reports on historic small liberal arts colleges that are closing their doors because they are “outdated”, whereas there continues to be rapid growth for for-profit institutions (who are notoriously known for producing shoddy education) and steady growth for technical schools. We continue to read reports of students with advanced degrees in humanities from respectable schools working as a barista, while trying to pay off $100K in college debt (a blog for another day). From the academic affairs side, it is truly sad and troubling to see that most of the faculty at colleges and universities are adjuncts because their work and skills aren’t important enough to hire them as tenure-track faculty. If trends continue as they are, then colleges and universities will be qualitatively no different than trade schools, which is a fundamental change in the mission of the university system.

In my view, this trajectory will not change unless our culture repents from its disposition towards the mind. The Christian faith exhorts us to seek wisdom and to turn from folly and to the extent that we abandon that foundation, we will reap its reward. The God who made our bodies also made our minds, and thus, He knows how it should be properly maintained. For this reason, education is not merely training to obtain employment – it is a means of discipling the mind. In other words, education is not merely a vocational issue, but it is an issue of morality. If our culture continues to throw off this connection between education and the discipleship of the mind, then we can only expect to continue to see the “dumbing down” of the American mind and the quality of American education.

This is also an exhortation to self-identified Christian colleges and seminaries. As Christians, part of “not conforming to this age” means that our disposition concerning the Christian mind and Christian education should dramatically change. If we abandon the call to diligently train our minds by yielding to the anti-intellectual disposition of our age, then our graduates (and our future pastors) will become intellectually vapid – much like the culture around us. Our witness to the world not only pertains to matters directly related to salvation, but it involves how Christ transforms the whole man – including the mind.

The Effects of Sin on Higher Education

As mentioned in previous blogs, I am a professor by vocation. Apart from research and teaching responsibilities, one of the important aspects of my daily job involves college service activities, which usually involves serving on campus-wide academic committees. One of the committees that I serve on is called the First Year Experience (FYE) committee. The FYE is an academic program designed to integrate new students into the academic and cultural community of the College. The courses in this program give new students an opportunity to work closely with faculty, smooth their transition to college, and provide them with the skills that will help them succeed throughout their academic careers.

During our normal meetings, there is a question that arises without fail: why are incoming students so bad? Most often, undergraduate faculty like to believe that all of the problems lay with the failures of high school education. However, we also have to look at ourselves because faculty that teach in graduate school programs, professional masters programs, and even seminaries, ask the same basic questions: Why are incoming students so bad? Why haven’t students developed sound critical thinking skills and effective learning strategies? Why do so few students take personal responsibility and initiative for their own educational and intellectual development? Why do so many students possess an infantile view of education in which they must be spoon-fed in order to learn? Why aren’t we producing the types of scholars and skilled professionals that are needed in a highly competitive global economy? These questions are not for secular institutions only. Faculty members at Christian universities pose the same types of questions as well.

There are many answers to these questions that usually deal with funding, institutional effectiveness, and innovative teaching methods. However, I want to address this question from a distinctly Christian perspective. From the numerous answers that I’ve read, I have not heard many commentators discuss how the obvious decline in Christian morality and ethics has affected the quality of our education system. As Christians, we are aware of how sin affects the whole man. In particular, we know that the presence of sin in our hearts negatively affects and undermines the human mind and intellect (otherwise known as the noetic effects of sin). In a sermon given at 2012 National Conference for Ligonier Ministries, R. Albert Mohler gives 14 different noetic effects of the fall

  1. Intellectual ignorance
  2. Intellectual distractedness
  3. Forgetfulness
  4. Intellectual prejudice
  5. Faulty perspective
  6. Intellectual fatigue
  7. Intellectual inconsistencies
  8. Faulty deduction and induction
  9. Intellectual apathy/laziness
  10. Dogmatism and closedmindness
  11. Intellectual pride
  12. Vain imagination
  13. Miscommunication
  14. Partial/incomplete knowledge

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but it is clear that many of these noetic effects describe the state of the typical American undergraduate student. We also know that there has been a noticeable decline in morality and ethics as our nation continues to reject the law of God as the absolute standard for morals and ethics. Because sin affects the whole man, it stands to reason that a culture that willfully turns away from Christian truth, morality, and ethics will have their hearts, minds, and intellect darkened. Consider the words of Paul

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to Him, but they become futile In their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Romans 1:21

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. Ephesians 4:17-18

As Christians, we know that the discipleship of the mind and the heart are inseparable. In other words, it is impossible to separate morality and education because they both are part of the discipleship process and thus they mutually influence each other. My basic thesis is that the darkening of the American heart (due to its rejection of God’s moral law) has invariably led to the darkening of the American mind in higher education. My goal in this series is to analyze how each noetic effect of sin has a direct impact on the current state and trajectory of modern American undergraduate education.

With this study I also want to offer a Christian response to the current problems in modern American education. I would like to state upfront that I will not be advocating for Christians to take over institutions of higher education (particularly for public, state-run institutions). However, there is legitimate Christian responsibility concerning these matters and these will be addressed in future blogs.

[HSLDA] Building the Machine: The Parent Interviews

Watch the first video here.

We live in Texas where the prevailing thought is often, “Well, that’s those other states. Here in Texas, we are free.” Knowing that this type of thinking can lead to blindspots, I did a little research (shorthand for, “I googled it.”).


ht: Breitbart –

“DALLAS, Texas — It is like a Texas sampler platter of the 2014-15 Common Core offerings served up around the state — Sadlier “Common Core Enriched Edition” Vocabulary, Springboard and Carnegie Math. There is even a kindergarten handout that defines the importance of the term “Common Core.” Parents are up in arms. More so, they are worried. They have heard endlessly that there is no Common Core in Texas. It is the law. Yet, this is what is coming home in the backpacks.

To her surprise, a Boerne Independent School District (ISD) parent pulled out the ‘6 Math Terms to Know (in primary grades)’ from her kindergartener’s Fabra Elementary take home folder in the Texas Hill Country. Apparently, ‘Common Core’ itself is a math term that five year olds need to know.” Read more here… And you know if it’s happening in Texas, it’s only a matter of time before it’s at your doorstep. How do you want your child to be educated?