I knew when leaving the University there were going to be detractors, I had been warned of them my entire life. Growing up in an affluent area to a less than affluent family, the same expectations were required of us all by our educators. 97% of those that graduated from my high school attended college. 91% completed it. Although I would join the majority of my classmates in the first category, it took barely a year-and-a-half to fall into the 9% of the second. COVID-19, remote learning, and general depression made me decide that complacency was not an option. I realized when deciding to leave, that it would be the first time in my life I defied an expectation. If the gut feeling did not do it, my father crying surely did.
I found myself disenchanted with online learning because the education provided did not deliver a sufficient reason to keep myself awake for very long. The action of going to classes, merely showing up and flirting with girls (or trying to outsmart the teacher), I quickly found to be the only reasons keeping me there. When the social veil of this routine was lifted, and the content of the courses was the only remaining variable in the equation, the meaninglessness of it all began to settle in.
I was not learning anything of value, and I do not have much more to comment regarding that. It went past my head entirely because it was useless. We were not doing deep analysis or discourse about Plato in civics class, we were assigned busywork. The students that gathered around me were disinterested zombies, and I was too. It was utterly miserable, and I wish it upon nobody. From that point forward, my idealized view of the University was destroyed. I was not attending a comparable institution to the alma maters of the great statesmen and writers of yesteryear that fostered the most incredible works of art, architecture, and governance. The institution I attended was a lab room for STEM graduates, that carried its liberal credentials with it as passionately as a soldier carries his hulking equipment. What an utterly distasteful way to treat the incredible feats of architecture many of these STEM labs inhabit. If it does not make you sick, it should!
Perhaps we are just living in Plato’s nature of the city, as Cicero put it, in which we are abstracting the worst possible ideas. Regarding the University, this would be first economism and second scientism. But materialistic abstractions do not belong anywhere in the human mind.
For a moment, interpret Plato’s Republic as Cicero or Strauss – that Plato’s city was unnatural, only possible by the abstraction. Perhaps, then, we should replace the materialistic and vapid economist and scientist abstraction of the University with a new, virtuous abstraction. Should such a virtue be undergirded in the liberal diversity of ideas? Probably not! As supported as an idea can be throughout history, it has failed incredibly. Yet, it may still be possible to realize it differently. The liberal virtue must shine in the diversity of Universities we can choose to attend, but the inter-institutional virtue of said University must be to inhibit the spread of bad ideas and promote the spread of good ones.
Make it easy, attend Hillsdale (classical education), Berkeley (neo-Marxist indoctrination), or MIT (economism and scientism). The half measures to combine all these prototypes into one super-institution have created a distorted mess. We have a plethora of Universities already displaying these specialized focuses, so attend one that does. Yet, you must understand once attending that you are at the behest of their values, that you are subservient to their constitution of acceptability.
Such an understanding will benefit my Christian brothers and sisters immensely. The Reformed thinker J. Gresham Machen makes a similar point in his What is Christianity? And Other Addresses:
A Christian boy or girl can learn mathematics, for example, from a teacher who is not a Christian; and the truth is truth however learned. But while the truth is truth however learned, the bearing of truth, the meaning of truth, the purpose of truth, even in the sphere of mathematics, seem entirely different to the Christian from that which they seem to the non-Christian; and that is why truly Christian education is possible only when Christian conviction underlies not a part but all, of the curriculum of the school.
Why has such a simple idea escaped us? This policy should not simply be available, as it already is in great fashion, such a policy must be normative. The University’s liberal Christian education must exist in easy access to every man and woman that chooses to pursue it, unimpeded by foreign leftist ideologies. The greatest failure of our time has been the idea we can inculcate universal values to those that do not accept the preconditions. Either the precondition remains, in which you should not continue attending, or you adopt the universal value. These appear to be equally undesirable.
It is the distorted mess from this half-measure status quo that is creating a generation of Universities utterly incapable of properly teaching the liberal arts (of any rendition) or the sciences. 21 countries’ 15-year-olds achieve superior math and science literacy than ours. Harvard is sounding the alarm on civic illiteracy. What meaningless concoction of the material abstraction are we hoping to accomplish at the university? We are failing at all of them.
Do not attend a university unless they understand their values. You will find yourself disenchanted and bored if you fail to do this. If you cannot find one, then do not attend University. Go into a trade, that is what I did, and I am much happier for it. The managerial regime will not address this crisis, as they benefit from talented individuals being pressured into spending thousands to obtain a diploma. The best way to counter this is not to spend thousands to obtain a diploma – or, to direct it wisely at institutions you trust. God & Man will never return to Yale, they already inhabit your study, and they find unmolested comfort there.
“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20 REV).