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Saturday, April 19, 2008

A papal message about academic freedom


I became my own story last week when I got word that a large Catholic University in Minnesota, University of Saint Thomas, denied permission for me to speak there as part of my college speaking tour.

How could this be happening? A Catholic university, which has played host to talks from left wing Al Franken and a transgendered woman named Debra Davis, nixes a presentation on abortion from a conservative black woman?

Conservative blogs were soon aflame. Then stories in print. Plenty of flak started reaching the university and soon a representative was on the phone to put me back on their calendar.

I'm glad things worked out, regardless of why.

I've been speaking on university campuses for years. Over 150 of them. I know firsthand their left-leaning bent and what a conservative has to deal with walking into the belly of the liberal beast.

But this incident had a more bitter tinge than usual. This was a Catholic university and my topic was abortion.

Plus, the rejection came just as Pope Benedict XVI, who has called abortion "today's greatest injustice," was scheduled to arrive in the United States for his "teaching" visit.

How could I not feel irony when, shortly after receiving the call to reschedule my presentation, a few miles from me, at Catholic University in Washington, D.C,. the Pope was talking about the importance of Catholic universities aligning themselves with church doctrine?

Pope Benedict XVI has talked about the "dictatorship of relativism." This accurately captures what we're dealing with on our campuses.

The Randolph Foundation funded a survey a few years ago of university professors' political leanings. The work was done by professors from George Mason University, Smith College, and the University of Toronto.

Seventy two percent of American university professors identified themselves as liberals and 15 percent conservative. Fifty percent self-identified as Democrats and 11 percent Republican.

In a recent column, Michael Barone of US News & World Report, analyzing Democratic primary voting patterns, noted that Barack Obama's support has been particularly strong in university towns.

And, not surprisingly, our youth is becoming ever more firmly planted on the left. According to the Pew Research Center, 58 percent of 17-29 year olds call themselves liberals and 76 percent identify as Democrats.

Recent Gallup polling shows that in a match-up between Barack Obama and John McCain, Obama wins by 20 points among 18-29 years olds.

Young people are naturally inclined to be open, to experiment, to try anything once.

But there is a world of difference in openness in the pursuit of truth and openness in a world in which there is no truth.

The Pope, in his remarks at Catholic University, noted his appreciation for the importance of academic freedom. However, he points out that there is no inconsistency between faith and academic freedom.

Key here is his observation that "in a world without truth, freedom loses its foundation."

Too often what we now call academic freedom is in fact the politicization of our campuses. Openness with no truth becomes politics and the exercise of power. What, or who, becomes the arbiter of what is wisdom?

Not surprisingly, the Randolph Foundation study found that where truth is the most subtle professors are most consistently on the left. Eighty-one percent of humanities professors identify themselves as liberal and 75 percent of those in social sciences do.

To state the obvious, our youth is our future. There are 42 million Americans in the 18-29 age bracket. Many will move from the left as the experience of life gives them the dose of truth that they are not getting in their formal education. But how many and at what cost?

Have abortion, divorce, and sexually transmitted diseases become our primary educational tools for learning about the sanctity of life, of family, and the meaning of love?

As stated by the wise Pope who now graces us with his visit and teaching, our materialism leads us "to lose sight of our dependence on others as well as the responsibilities we bear towards them."

And that "freedom is not only a gift but also a summons to personal responsibility."


Star Parker is president of the Coalition on Urban Renewal & Education and author of the new book White Ghetto: How Middle Class America Reflects Inner City Decay.

Prior to her involvement in social activism, Star Parker was a single welfare mother in Los Angeles, California. After receiving Christ, Star returned to college, received a BS degree in marketing and launched an urban Christian magazine. The 1992 Los Angeles riots destroyed her business, yet served as a springboard for her focus on faith and market-based alternatives to empower the lives of the poor.


Anonymous said...

Have abortion, divorce, and sexually transmitted diseases become our primary educational tools for learning about the sanctity of life, of family, and the meaning of love?

Are there really no better reasons to become a conservative? I'm not sure you understand what a POLITICAL conservative is.

Carrie K. Hutchens said...

I'm very happy that you were rescheduled! Let's hope we are entering into a period of awakening, where truth regains it rightful position!

Bob Ellis said...

Anonymous, unfortunately abortion, divorce and STDs have become battlegrounds on the civil war of worldviews going on America today.

Ideally, these subjects should be discussed and values regarding them taught at home. Unfortunately, everything from the public education system to the media to the legal system has made them a war zone.

America was founded on a Judeo-Christian worldview which was very synonymous with what we know today as conservative values. Christians and others were asleep at the wheel in the mid to late 20th Century, thinking things would always be this way, and while they were snoozing, liberals stepped in and began to radically change the culture.

We have since moved away from a culture based on transcendent objective values to one where we make it up as we go. We’ve moved away from a Judeo-Christian culture based on individual freedoms and responsibilities, to one characterized by social welfare and personal license.

There are any number of facets and types of conservatives: social, economic, cultural, etc. Some people embrace economic conservatism at the same time they embrace social liberalism; there are several variations.

I prefer a consistent ideology across the board, however. I am socially conservative (believing in the sanctity of human life, the family as the basis of social order and child welfare, and personal responsibility), economically conservative (I believe in small government, public spending within the confines of the Constitution, minimal government interference in the free market, etc.), national conservatism (America first, America best, American sovereignty, strong national defense, etc.), and religiously conservative (recognizing that America was founded on Christian principles, the free exercise of religion in the public square, and that religious values should guide not only our everyday lives but the values of our nation).

There are any number of reasons to become a conservative, many of which are found in the values I mentioned above. In summary, I believe the greatest reasons are: conservative values are the closest to the way in which our nation was designed to operate, they are the most harmonious with the Christian faith, and have proven themselves to work well by creating the most free, affluent and powerful nation in human history.

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