A silent campus does not mean a less radicalized campus. The radicalization takes place in the classroom and the dorms. In the 1960s campus turmoil was taken to the streets. Today, the radicalization process is taken to our nation’s corporations, universities, courts, and political parties. Our nation is being radicalized from the inside out.
Our nation’s colleges and universities do not reflect the values of the general population. While a majority in American is trying to throw off the last remnants of liberalism, the college establishment “has become the last refuge for the defeated protestors of the Vietnam era. And where these academic holdouts from the Sixties could not exercise their political will over the rest of the country, they are attempting today to impose it on the college student.”1 What was true in 1984 is even truer today. You can still find remains of the suicidal worldview of the counter culture on a number of college campuses.
The early years of the decade [1980s] found many students personally supporting such issues as the nuclear freeze (which won at Princeton by almost two to one), but only a few involving themselves in protest. . . . By the mid-1980s protests began to mount in number and to attract more undergraduates. Brown students voted a request to the university to stock suicide pills in the case of nuclear war. A number of Brown students attempted to put recruiters from the CIA under citizen’s arrest.2
At the moment, it does not seem as if the tumultuous decade of the 1960s is about to return to campus. My concern is what students are getting in the classroom.
Though the university has always fought with the surrounding society, modern student movements are vastly different from the medieval conflicts. During the Middle Ages, the university fought for its own privileges and rights. In the modern era, student movements are genuinely revolutionary. They do not simply seek greater freedom for the university, but actually strive to change society in fundamental ways.
Sociologist Lewis Feuer has isolated some of the common elements of all modern student movements. There is, for example, disenchantment with the “establishment,” the older leaders of the university and of society in general. The modern radical student sees himself as a member of an elite class that will change the society for the better. Student radicals think their elders have failed and seek to erect the rule of the young. Modern student movements always seek the support of the people, the working classes, and the poor. The mostly middle class students hate themselves and their society, and seek to free themselves from guilt by self-sacrifice, often literally committing suicide.3
The radicalism of the 1960s was a major turning point in American education. The period revolutionized the lifestyle of students, and even influenced American politics. The effect on the university’s sense of purpose was profound and entirely negative. Allan Bloom has written,
About the sixties it is fashionable to say that although there were indeed excesses, many good things resulted. But, so far as universities are concerned, I know of nothing positive coming from that period; it was an unmitigated disaster for them.4
Christianity provides intellectually viable answers that enable students to develop a true, unified, and consistent world and life view. Long-term, Christianity alone protects against the radicalism of the Left. Unfortunately, too many Christians capitulate to the belief that neutrality and common ground are the best intellectual policies in dealing with modern thought and its cultural consequences. Christians discard their faith in order to argue for their faith. Do they thing rationalists discard reason in order to argue for reason? Cornelius Van Til wrote, “It is clear that they will either stand upon the foundation of a sovereign God and his providential revelatory word or they will stand on air.”5 Too many Christians stand on air and wonder why they are losing the intellectual, moral, and cultural argument.
- Benjamin Hart, Poisoned Ivy (Briarcliff Manor, NY: Stein and Day, 1984), 20. [↩]
- Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz, Campus Life: Undergraduate Cultures from the End of the Eighteenth Century to the Present (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1987), 282. [↩]
- Lewis Feuer, The Conflict of Generations: The Character and Significance of Student Movements (New York: Basic Books, 1969), chap. 1. [↩]
- Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987), 320. [↩]
- Cornelius Van Til, The Doctrine of Scripture, In Defense of the Faith, vol. 1, (Nutley, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing, 1967), 2. [↩]