Christianity Today Op-Ed: The Christian Liberal Arts Tradition Can Appeal to Christians and Non-Christians Alike, by Joseph Claire (Dean, College of Humanities, George Fox University) (adapted from his chapter in The Liberating Arts: Why We Need Liberal Arts Education (2023)):
College and university professors in the liberal arts (humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences) are almost entirely left-leaning, liberal, or progressive, and this is especially true among faculty in the humanities and social sciences. The trend is even more pronounced in certain selective schools.
Students who attend liberal arts colleges or universities often adopt more liberal or progressive points of view as a result of their education. ...
Is this phenomenon accidentally related to the demography of the professoriate or somehow intrinsically related to the craft and content of the liberal arts themselves and the culture and atmosphere of the campus?
The terms “liberal” and “progressive” represent different political traditions in the West, and, when applied to the liberal arts, represent different approaches to education.
“Liberal” liberal arts education represents a modern vision of an Enlightenment-style view of objective truth pursued by rational and empirical methods. The “progressive” model, on the other hand, is often associated with postmodern visions of education, ones suspicious of privileged categories such as knowledge, truth, and understanding. It aims at dismantling systems of illegitimate power, ensuring equal outcomes, and achieving other goals connected to the mission of social justice.
New York University social psychologist Jonathan Haidt argues that these visions of the liberal arts are ultimately incompatible and that universities should choose between the aims of objective truth and social justice. He calls the “liberal” approach “Truth U” and the progressive approach “Social Justice U.” He notes that most major liberal arts institutions in America today have become Social Justice Us by default, owing simply to the makeup of their faculties.
Haidt notes that some religious colleges present themselves as pursuing an entirely different telos, or guiding purpose. As an example, he points to the evangelical Wheaton College, whose mission statement mentions “serv[ing] Jesus Christ and advanc[ing] His Kingdom.” Haidt calls this exceptional case “Jesus U,” but he doesn’t seem to take it seriously, given his commitment to an Enlightenment-style vision of the liberal arts.
December 3, 2023 in Faith, Legal Education | Permalink