I recently took to the Twitter, and in less than one day I was subject to more insulting condescension than I have encountered IRL in the past year. What did I do to incur such rabidly hostile feedback?
I had the gaul to respectfully disagree with Matt Walsh’s* sentiment that conservatives / Christians should stop sending their kiddos to college because colleges are so liberal / secular.
Here is my inflammatory tweet:
I thought my tweet was pretty docile. But apparently, Matt himself found this offensive, and replied —
Then I started getting all these snarky replies, like “can you honestly say you have never compromised your faith in that environment?” and “academia attracts lazy, entitled, meal tickets lefties …”
It seemed that the vast majority of tweeters on this thread considered academia to be the pit of darkness, was intrinsically flawed, and something we should shield the precious minds of our little ones from.
I want to talk about this carefully, because I don’t want to condescend parents or over-generalize my own experience. But, I do think I may have some useful insight into this prominent trend of conservatives/Christians demonizing academia. Look y’all – I was homeschooled from grades 1-12, and went to a Southern Baptist church twice on Sunday AND Wednesday night, too! I know conservative Christian culture. This will enrage some, but I love a lot of things about conservative Christian culture. But also, on my way to attaining my PhD at a state and then at a private almost-kinda-maybe-might-as-well-be Ivy League school, I was surrounded by far-left and/or non-Christian ideologies. It made me .. uncomfortable at the least, sometimes angry, sometimes a little confuzzled. It made me re-think my values and beliefs -did I only believe them because I was brain-washed by my family, church, and safe little suburban town — or were they actually true?
Was this process pleasant? No. It was stressful. Do I have the exact same values and beliefs that I did when I was a 17 year old freshman**? No. My political views have become more moderate, for sure, although the average leftist would still gasp in horror at my voting record. My faith has been through the ringer. But it seems that every time I dig deeper into whatever issue instigated the latest round of doubts, I come out the other side with stronger faith.
The point of me telling you all this isn’t to emphasize what a dynamo faith I have, but to urge Christians and/or conservatives – whether you are thinking about going to college or sending your kids to college or whatever – to not shrink back from environments where your beliefs will be poked a little.*** It’s not the end of the world. It may actually increase your ability to talk to other people about your faith, because you have a better understanding of their doubts, questions, baseline assumptions. etc.
Okay. I’m going to do this blog French new wave style, and grossly violate the blogging/writing norms because I’m FRENCH****
After that way-too-long preamble, here are a few common misconceptions / ideers that many conservatives / Christians seem to push about academia, and my brilliant responses.
- Academia as a whole is an irredeemable den of sinister liberalism and secularity
You guys, come on now. Let’s look at the states purpose and goals of some of the top academic institutions —
Harvard University is devoted to excellence in teaching, learning, and research, and to developing leaders in many disciplines who make a difference globally.
Since its founding in 1701, Yale has been dedicated to expanding and sharing knowledge, inspiring innovation, and preserving cultural and scientific information for future generations.
Knowledge for the greater good | We [at Cornell] have taken to heart the revolutionary spirit that founded our university and encourage each other to pursue unpredicted lines of thinking in order to effect change on local and international scales.
Oh yes… Excellence, learning in order to change the world for the better, encouraging creativity and individualism, preserving culture… What evil …. NOT! Honestly, what great goals, some of them directly biblical, and I will go even farther to say ALL of them are indirectly biblical. So we may not agree with how some academics want to change the world, but please stop acting and talking as if academia itself is inherently corrupt and irredeemable, and something to flee from.
- Academics are actively trying to lure innocent undergrad Christians away from their faith
I won’t be so bold as to claim that I know the hearts and minds of all professors. But I will speak on my experience with interacting with many, many professors first as their underling, then their minion, and now more of their colleague —- many of them are kind. Practically all of them are nerds. Many of them are so wrapped up in their own little agnostic atheist bubbles they probably have no idea how inflammatory or upsetting their course content may be to a conservative &/or Christian. I would also say most of them don’t care what you believe in your heart of hearts, but they do want you to understand what they are presenting — and not reject it simply because you don’t like it. So for example, a sociology professor may ask you to offer a Marxist solution to a social problem – even if your little capitalist soul burns in fury as you write out your answer – to show that you even understand what Marxism is, and not just say “that won’t work because it’s communism and communism doesn’t work! Uncle Harry died to defend our country from communism!”
- Anyone who wants to go into academia is an anti-capitalist, pretentious snoot
Again, let me reiterate – almost everyone in the highest ranks of academia is nothing more than a focused nerd. I didn’t get my PhD because I revel in being indirectly paid by taxpayers – I did it because I wanted to do good research that would help bring us closer to understanding (and ultimately preventing and treating) the most devastating, pervasive neurodegenerative disease in the world. I imagine most of my colleagues had similar motives. And I can honestly say that at my University, almost all of the faculty I encounter display a remarkable amount of humility and down-to-earthedness. Obviously there is pretension in academia, just like there is in corporate world and.. the fashion industry?! But it’s silly and simple untrue to tack these negative features to all academics.
- The only way for Christians and conservatives to succeed in academia is to disengage and hide their true beliefs in the classroom
A lot of tweeters seemed to have watched a few too many God’s not Dead’s and think that professors will kick a conservative/Christian out of their class, fail them, or set them on fire in the library if they express their beliefs in class. I don’t think that’s true. I got pretty sassy in my senior year of college. BUT it was more of the nature of asking obnoxious questions about the research methods used to generate a figure, not just blustering in anger at each and every provocation. It’s also wise to pick your battles and show humility. It’s not compromising your faith to respect the authority and expertise of your professor. This is their class. You are paying them to tell you what the current consensus of a field of knowledge is. You can strongly disagree with that consensus, but maybe that’s best to tackle as say.. a faculty member who has demonstrated expertise on the subject and, dare I say it, has credentials. Let’s not pressure Christian / conservative youths to roll out of high school with the ability to take down centuries worth of knowledge in a particular field of study.
Okay.. that’s all the pretentiousness I can muster for today. Geez Gallo, term limits?! Try WORD limits! hahaha #lame
C. Gallo, PhD., out!
— EDITORIAL NOTES —
*An uber-conservative, catholic Christian blogger. 75% of what he has to say is golden, the other 25% I either strongly disagree with or strongly disagree with the way he says it. #blogtisticdifferences
**What can I say.. #homeschooled #childprodigy #humble #jk #octoberbday #notthatimpressive #maybealittle
***I say this carefully, lest I be accused of hypocrisy. There are some times when our emotional and spiritual health are not fit for inquiry — when you are hurting, you need something to hold on to, not something to pick on. So while I encourage you to explore questions and allow yourself to be challenged, I also urge you to not let other people bully you into a never-ending bout of doubt. #myrhymesareacrime I touched on this idea in this post a few months ago — BREAKING: It’s okay to take a break from constantly questioning your faith!
****Jk. The French wish they had this hot piece of swag! ‘Murica!