An Open Letter to American College Students, Part 2: Does College Really Let You Think for Yourself?
In Part 1, we discussed how the presence of controversial public speakers on campus can give rise to unjustified anger among the student body. We revealed the physical effects that this anger can have on individual students, and why crowds might get so out-of-hand. Now we'll further explore this “let’s do what’s popular” reaction and consider the implications.
Most students are passionate about advocating free speech. But by shutting down a campus speaker, you may have just shut down someone else’s free speech because it was different from “the main one” that’s accepted on campus. These events that turn into chaos also prevent other students from hearing what they came to hear. Maybe deep down, even you wanted to hear it, but got caught up in an emotionally charged situation.
You consider yourself an independent person. You come to your own conclusions. You don’t let other people tell you what to do or think.
Really? While you want these three statements to be true, it may be the case that you didn't fully make your own choice. Ouch!
Ask yourself these questions:
- Prior to the event, did you research the speaker or their topic to gain knowledge about why they may stand on the side they are on?
- If so, did you use a variety of resources or just the most popular media source? Or…
- Did you simply join the protest on hearsay and encouragement from other students or information from a professor, the school’s newspaper, or social media?
- If you were just a bystander, did you wonder why your stomach was still churning for a good while afterward, or why the anger still lingers on campus but it accomplished nothing?
An example of blindly following the crowd into “mob mentality.”
The internet is ripe with lists of speakers who’ve been kept off campus due to protests or riots. And it happens on both “sides.” But one of the most well-known cases is that of the controversial gay conservative speaker Milo Yiannopoulos who was prevented from speaking at UC Berkeley. Twice.
Yiannopoulos was supposed to speak at Berkeley in February of 2017, but his appearance was cancelled due to protests that turned violent on campus. That protest is now known to have been started by a group of agitators from the outside who got the students all riled up.
In the 2017 fall semester, UC Berkeley scheduled “Free Speech Week,” and conservative groups again tried to schedule Yiannopoulos. This time, “to avoid security problems due to unwanted speech on campus,” the administration cancelled the entire week of events.
Here’s the irony: Simply because Yiannopoulos considers himself a conservative, many Berkeley students who pride themselves on being “tolerant and open-minded” went against their own “diversity” agenda in order to keep him off campus.
But wait – here’s another kicker – because so many students just followed the crowd to protest him because he is a conservative, some never even realized or were told that he is also gay – they had no knowledge of the fact that they were going against their own ideal of accepting everyone as they are.
How does this stem from what I’m learning at college?
At Ratio Christi chapter meetings, we often hear stories like this from our students:
"It was the first day of the fall semester. I walked into my first class. The professor came in and, before even saying hello, wrote three words on the whiteboard: God, Jesus, Creation. Then he said, 'None of these three things will be discussed in my classroom or you’ll automatically get a failing grade'."
"My (whatever subject) professor keeps telling us that being a conservative is stupid and being a Republican is even more ignorant."
Wait a minute… are these lines from one of the God’s Not Dead movies? Nope. In the case of those movies, art was imitating life. This is happening on American campuses every day.
Colleges and universities which claim to be progressive will boast that they want their students to come out the other side as “independent, free thinkers.” But in reality, your college experience is not structured this way. You are learning to be “socially conscious and tolerant.” On the surface, this sounds like a really good thing, yet there’s a good chance you are being influenced and dumbed down to conform.
Again, an example: Is there pressure in your classes to believe “there is no absolute truth?” Think about it – that’s a contradiction of itself. The “no absolute truthers” are trying to put the very idea that there is “no absolute truth” forward as an absolute truth!
If there is “no absolute truth,” why is the theory of evolution now considered the only truth with no discussion allowed about the idea of Divine Creation? Why do all your teachers and professors tell you “evolution cannot be denied?”
Studies show that for about the last 20 to 30 years, there is an average of 12 to 23 professors who speak out against religious faith to every one professor who believes in God or the possibility of God.1 (The wide range in numbers of the nonbelieving professors is due to the subject they teach, with professors in the sciences and humanities on the highest end of the scale.)
Among those 12 to 23 “faith free” professors, a high number of them are outspoken atheists, with 51 percent of professors describing the Bible as “an ancient book of fables, legends," while only 6 percent said the Bible is “the actual word of God.”2
And if you don’t like having Christians “ram their ideas down your throat,” then here’s something to consider – many of the atheist professors from the late twentieth century through to today are part of the “new atheist movement” – i.e., they don’t only believe what they believe, but they are in a very “evangelical” movement to:
- Convince you to give up any prior opposing beliefs or personal principles.
- Get you to believe what they believe.
- Cause rifts between you and your parents or other people to whom you look up.
- Make your parents’ or church’s ideas seem silly.
Here are some quotes from atheist professors:
Daniel Dennett, professor at Oxford:
“They will see me as just another liberal professor trying to cajole them out of their convictions. And they are dead right about that – that’s what I am, and that’s exactly what I’m trying to do.”3
Richard Rorty (deceased 2007), professor at Sanford and Princeton, to parents:
“So we are going to go right on trying to discredit you in the eyes of your children, trying to strip your fundamentalist religious community of dignity, trying to make your views seem silly rather than discussable.”4
Peter Boghossian, professor at Portland State University, in a book written for his students:
“Your new role is that of the interventionist. Your target is faith. Your pro bono clients are individuals who’ve been infected by faith.”5
(See photo slides of these three quotes at the end of this article).
Boy. These guys sure have a lot of faith that there should be no faith. While claiming that Christian professors have no right to voice their personal faith to students, the new atheists are bold about using their own platform to influence students.
Maybe it’s not your professors. Maybe you’re being pressured by other students who are already sold out to the most popular ideas. Some of you have reached college age without ever experiencing what the world was like without “political correctness.” There was a time when we had the freedom to discuss things, to share opposing viewpoints, to weigh different sides of topics and really use our own critical thinking skills, without every little word being called “offensive,” “racist,” or “intolerant.”
But now it’s so prevalent, that any which way you turn somebody’s being offended by something. And you’re ready to give up. You’re thinking, “What’s the use? I’m tired of fighting the popular trend.” And you decide to stop caring which way things go.
Welcome to the world of apathy. When you become apathetic, when you lose your own convictions, that’s when you become easy to control and easy to convince of other things. “Stand for something or you’ll fall for anything,” as the saying goes. This new campus culture, this new freedom you’re experiencing away from home, these ideas that seem exciting, can change your whole way of thinking in one single semester. Progress is usually a good thing. But embracing “progressivism” – sometimes not so much.
Well, all of this movement to sway college students away from traditional things and former mindsets didn’t start yesterday. But efforts have certainly increased – especially with the invention of modern communication technology – since George Orwell wrote these prophetic words in the proposed preface to his book, Animal Farm (1945):
“Unpopular ideas can be silenced, and inconvenient facts kept dark, without the need for any official ban.” … “censorship also operates in books and periodicals, as well as in plays, films and radio. At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is ‘not done’ to say it, just as in mid-Victorian times it was ‘not done’ to mention trousers in the presence of a lady. Anyone who challenges the prevailing orthodoxy finds himself silenced with surprising effectiveness. A genuinely unfashionable opinion is almost never given a fair hearing, either in the popular press or in the highbrow periodicals.”6
There is another saying: “What’s right is not always popular; what’s popular is not always right.” This is sometimes attributed to physicist Albert Einstein, and sometimes to sportscaster Howard Cosell – two very different guys – but no matter who said it, it’s as appropriate now as it was in either of their times.
Make up your mind. Are you really your own person? Do you really draw your own conclusions? Are you going to give in and let other people tell you what to think and what to say?
Ratio Christi Campus Apologetics Alliance gives students the historical, scientific, and philosophical tools to discuss something very unpopular – The Bible. The Gospel. The Resurrection of Christ. We discuss these things using intellect and reason, without necessarily “spouting Bible verses.” Whether you are a Christian or not, you are welcome in our meetings. We have chapters at colleges and universities all over the country. Pick one. Or help us start one at your school. You don’t have to stand alone.
However, if you are still interested in what the Bible has to say about not conforming to the “most popular” ideas, here are a few verses:
It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans.
Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
2 Timothy 4:2-3:
Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear.
But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.
“What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.
“Crucify him!” they shouted.
“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate. But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
What will you sacrifice to satisfy the crowd? ▪
1Professor statistics taken from "Faculty Voter Registration in Economics, History, Journalism, Law, and Psychology", Mitchell Langbert, Anthony J. Quain, and Daniel B. Klein, September 2016 study. Accessed 2/1/17.
2Professor statistics taken from "How Religious are America’s College and University Professors?" Neil Gross, Solon Simmons, The Social Science Research Council, February 2007. Accessed 8/24/18.
3Daniel Dennett quote is from his book Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, as quoted in the review on the book's Amazon page from The Scientific American. Accessed 8/24/18.
4Richard Rorty quote is taken from Rorty and His Critics, Robert Brandom (Blackwell Publishing, 2000), p. 22, as found at "Who's Waiting for Your Kids?" YM 360. Accessed 8/24/18.
5Peter Boghossian quote from his book, A Manual for Atheists, as found at Faith and Self Defense, “Street Epistemologists on Guard,” March 2015. Accessed 8/24/18.
Slides of these three professors' quotes provided by Stand To Reason apologetics, str.org.
6George Orwell: ‘The Freedom of the Press,’ preface intended for Animal Farm, discovered and first published in The Times Literary Supplement, September 15, 1972.
Bible verses cited are NIV.