Friday, February 24, 2012

Faculty Friday: OBU an Indoctrination Station?

One of the most surprising, frequent, and outrageous claims our critics make is that OBU's professors are too liberal and that they are seducing students away from their faith commitments with the allure of worldly knowledge.

When this preposterous idea stopped being funny, I realized that it's actually pretty sad, paranoid, and frankly a big part of what enabled and sustains the new status quo at OBU.  Forget the fact that OBU professors would be seen as conservatives (or even extreme conservatives) on any state or most nonsectarian private university campus.  Forget the fact that almost every OBU graduate credits one or more of their professors with strengthening their religious faith.  Forget the fact that OBU professors go out of their way to try not to offend, shock, startle, or oppose the many avowedly fundamentalist 18 year olds who appear in their classrooms each August, but rather nurture them in the pursuit of knowledge and truth.

The bizarre thing here is that someone, somewhere, is giving people the idea that OBU has liberal professors.  And that professors somehow separate students from their religious beliefs.  And the people pushing these falsehoods have been so successful at promoting these lies and irrational fears that there is enough cover for administrators to now actually hire and fire based on ideology/doctrine rather than achievement.  In any normal world, administrators who acted so brazenly, irresponsibly, and unethically would be laughed out of town.  Instead, they are rewarded with pats on the back from their Baptist Building buddies.

I decided to do some digging.  Who is planting the fear in people's minds that professors are leading young people away from the Right?  Turns out it's a pretty common delusion.  To cite just one example, here is a column from the Rev. Dr. Albert Mohler.  Al Mohler is the man Southern Baptist Theological Seminary's newly fundamentalist Board of Trustees elected president in 1993 at the ripe old age of 33.  Fundamentalists gained control of the Board in 1990, gave students permission to tape professors' lectures, and eventually became so hostile to longtime Baptist educational administrator Rev. Dr. Roy Honeycutt that he finally resigned.

Playing to fundamentalist fears, Mohler sounds the alarm on professors' sinister agenda:
They see their role as political and ideological, and they define their teaching role in these terms. Their agenda is nothing less than to separate students from their Christian beliefs and their intellectual and moral commitments.
Mohler goes on to explain that "a good many of these professors deny this agenda, but from time to time the mask is removed."  He cites as evidence one professor who wrote an opinion column suggesting that students should spend as many years in school as possible in order to gain exposure "to the world outside their own, and to moral ideas not exclusively derived from their parents' religion."  Another faculty member suggested elsewhere (in the context of comparing demographic trends in "red" vs. "blue" states) that even if conservatives have more children earlier in life, many of those children will pursue higher education in "blue" areas.

Watch how Mohler takes one flippant comment from one professor and ascribes it to pretty much the entire academic community:
“The children of red states will seek a higher education,” [the professor] explains, “and that education will very often happen in blue states or blue islands in red states. For the foreseeable future, loyal dittoheads will continue to drop off their children at the dorms. After a teary-eyed hug, Mom and Dad will drive their SUV off toward the nearest gas station, leaving their beloved progeny behind.” 
Then what? He proudly claims: “And then they are all mine.” 
And then they are all mine. That’s right, a significant number of professors are happy to have parents spend 18 years raising children, only to drop them off on the campus and head back home. These professors are confident that the four or so years of the college experience will be ample time to separate students from the beliefs, convictions, moral commitments, and faith of their parents.
Mohler isn't talking primarily here about Christian universities, but I've heard people express the same or even more paranoid concerns about sending young people to OBU.  The truth is, now that Mohler and people of his ilk control what remains of "Christian" higher education, we have some even greater concerns (that are based on actual evidence) to worry about.  I couldn't help but think of OBU when I read Mohler's conclusion:
But [students] should not be subjected to the ideological indoctrination and intellectual condescension that is found in far too many classrooms and on far too many campuses. If nothing else, these remarkable statements of professorial intention should awaken both students and parents to what passes for education within much of higher education. The open hostility and contempt toward Christianity and Christian convictions is truly horrifying. 
Yet here we are, faced with a university run by people who seem intent on indoctrinating to the greatest degree possible, hold increasingly blatant contempt for (or at least badly misunderstand) academic freedom (and, ironically, other Baptist freedoms as well), and frankly seem to want to step in where parents and churches have failed and make students more fundamentalist, not less.

While OBU faculty continue to do the very fine job they've done for all these years, they are under increasing scrutiny and pressure from the BGCO-controlled administration.  While I'm sure it's tempting for Mohler and others to peddle their baseless fear-mongering, the truth is that the tables have finally turned.  If fundamentalist college administrators think what happens in an alarming number of college classrooms has been debased, the need to look in the mirror.  There's indoctrination, condescension, and contempt all right.  But it's coming from the young fundamentalists, not the aging moderates.  And administrators cannot escape the fact that this time, they're the ones who caused it.

1 comment:

  1. Real Baptists are not afraid of the Truth.


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