In 1948, Richard Weaver told us that ideas have consequences. A few short years earlier, Hitler said, “let me control the textbooks and I will control the State.” Huxley and Orwell followed, warning of dystopias where education would be used as a means to total power and total control. Ideas do matter. Yes, ideas clearly have consequences. Good ideas lead to good places and bad ideas lead to bad places. As your grandmother said: “Garbage in garbage out.” She was right. Education matters!
Today, however, it seems education has become more interested in what is common than what is exceptional; in acquiring more information rather than more ethics; in teaching the student how to get a career and use a condom rather than how to build character and have a conscience. Education has lost its way and consequently, our country has lost its soul and our culture has lost its sense.
Much of the contemporary academy is known not for pursuing truth, but rather for its celebration of tolerance, and in the name of tolerance we are told our intolerance is intolerable. Education’s elites actually parrot this pabulum: “I can’t tolerate your intolerance.” “I am sure nothing is sure.” “I know nothing can be known.” “It is absolutely true that there are not absolutes.” And they do so with a straight face. It would be humorous if this self-refuting duplicity weren’t so sad.
The result of this nonsense is that the banner of tolerance has become a dark flag of tyranny almost overnight. What was academic freedom just yesterday is ideological fascism today. Rather than celebrating liberty, liberals now demand conformity. Campuses are now bastions of speech codes rather than free speech. Students are more interested in “trigger warnings” than they are in pursuing truth. Disagreement is now synonymous with hate.
The bottom line is this: Education is in peril. Run by the State and its thought police, colleges across the land have become centers of indoctrination more so than campuses of open inquiry. Propaganda and power now reign where there used to be a pursuit of truth.
The solution to this absurdity is found in the historical liberal arts academy; in classical “liberalism” and its assumption of freedom, liberty, and liberation: that there are ideas that are right and just and true: tested by time, defended by reason, validated by experience and endowed to us by our Creator! As far back as Moses, we are told that only in trusting in such Truths and “teaching them to our children…” will mankind ever be set free.
Freedom trusts in Principles rather than people, power, or politics. Freedom honors the debate because it knows there is an Answer – a true north – a measuring rod outside of those things being measured. Freedom trusts in the First Things, in what C.S. Lewis calls a “holiday at the beach” rather than “mud pies in the back alley.”
In the days ahead, as you sit stunned in front of your television watching the “snowflake rebellion” and the concurrent chaos of the “Student Spring” sweeping across our college campuses, remember what G.K. Chesterton once told us: If you get rid of the big Laws of God, you don’t get liberty but rather thousands of little laws that rush in to fill the vacuum. Freedom – true and lasting freedom – is not found in the endless rules of government or in the increased power of men but rather in the simple laws of God. The answer to anarchy is not found in Caesar, but in Christ.