I Love You but You Didn’t Do the Reading

From Scott Pruitt to Thing T. Thing, this week has been another doozy. Thanks to everyone who sent in stories for the weekly roundup.

Want to understand educational culture wars? Start with the Addams Family Goes to School. HT: JN.

Teacher strikes sweeping down the plains?

Head of EPA warns about Islam and evolution, at Politico.

What real school reform looks like, at TLFM.

American Stalinism is back, says Andrew Bacevich at AC.

Loving power, tolerating Trump: Concerned Women for America’s “Esther Moment,” at R&P.

Creationism and “hate speech” in Oklahoma: Ken Ham talks at university after all, at RNS.

  • Was this Christian love? Or something else? At ILYBYGTH.

White nationalism in the teachers’ lounge:

Life as a closeted conservative academic, at AC.

Campus Christian group wins reinstatement in Detroit, at CT.

Town government quits after losing the mayor’s office in polygamous town, at RNS.

Set your clocks to stupid: Why 100 years of Daylight Savings Time have been a flop, at RCS.

Remember those clocks! C. 1956.

Is your top cardiologist out of town? Good—your chances of survival just went up, at CHE.

Why did white evangelicals jump for Trump? Michael Gerson says they “lost their interest in decency, [they] . . . became defined by resentment.” At Atlantic. HT: DL.

  • Sounds just about right, but it’s missing one important thing, at ILYBYGTH.
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Anti-Semitism at UCLA and the Anti-Christian University

Can a qualified student be barred from a student organization because she is Jewish? That is the awkward debate from UCLA that has attracted national attention recently. Here at ILYBYGTH, we have to ask a different awkward question: How is this debate different from the one about conservative evangelicals on campus? UCLA’s student leaders have apologized for the anti-Semitic slant of this incident, but many universities have intentionally de-recognized Christian organizations due to their Christian beliefs.

As the New York Times reported, Rachel Beyda’s confirmation hearing on February 10 turned into a painful debate about her Judaism and her affiliation with campus Jewish groups. Beyda is a sophomore pre-law student, hoping for a place on the student judicial council. At the February 10 meeting of the Undergraduate Students Association Council, her qualifications were questioned. One councilwoman asked Beyda,

Given that you are a Jewish student and very active in the Jewish community … given that recently … [inaudible] has been surrounding cases of conflict of interest, how do you see yourself being able to maintain an unbiased view … [inaudible]?

Eventually, Beyda was voted in, but the agonizing back-and-forth about Judaism and bias has caused the university and the student group to apologize. They had not meant to imply that Jewish students have a special sort of bias; they did not mean to say that Jewish students have divided loyalties. Such ideas, they affirmed later, have a long and ugly history in American history.

As the New York Times points out, this sort of anti-Jewish attitude has become more common on college campuses, largely due to protest against Israel’s politics. The Boycott, Divest, and Sanction movement in support of Palestinian rights has attracted widespread support among college leftists. It has become increasingly difficult for students to separate their anti-Israel ideas from anti-Semitic ones.

As the New York Times’s Adam Nagourney writes, this incident

has set off an anguished discussion of how Jews are treated, particularly in comparison with other groups that are more typically viewed as victims of discrimination, such as African-Americans and gays and lesbians.

What about the anti-evangelical bias of many universities? As we’ve seen here at ILYBYGTH, evangelical groups such as Intervarsity Christian Fellowship have been de-recognized at many pluralist colleges, including the Cal State system.

First, a few caveats: I’m no evangelical myself. I’m not asking this question as an apologist for conservative Christianity. Indeed, I vehemently disagree with most conservative evangelical political and theological positions. Nor am I unaware of the fact that these are different situations. I understand that Intervarsity has been derecognized not because of its ethnic background, but because of its discriminatory beliefs. Intervarsity members are not barred from leadership in campus activities because they might have “divided loyalties,” to use the ugly rhetoric of the recent UCLA discussion. Rather, the group as a whole is pushed out because it does not allow non-evangelicals to take leadership positions in its own group.

Having said all that, I think the Intervarsity case is another prime example of the ways “discrimination” is often used in conflicting and short-sighted ways on today’s college campuses. The student council members at UCLA insisted that they did not mean to imply that Jewish people somehow could not be full members of the university community. In short, the student-council members suffered from an overzealous interpretation of discrimination. Some council members apparently believed that there was something “discriminatory” about being Jewish.

Similarly, Intervarsity has been de-recognized because its leadership policy is discriminatory. It really is. Only those who affirm Intervarsity’s statement of faith can be leaders. This rules out students engaged in active homosexual relationships, not to mention Jewish students, Muslims, Catholics, and even liberal Protestants.

The awkward result, of course, is that Intervarsity itself has been discriminated against. Can’t some student groups engage in some forms of discrimination? Isn’t it fair for a religious group to insist that its leaders be part of its religion? Yes, such policies are frankly discriminatory. But is all discrimination necessarily beyond the bounds of proper campus thinking?

Let me repeat: I do not think the two situations are identical. I’m no member or fan of conservative evangelical student groups. But it does seem as if the zeal to purge campuses of any group that might be “discriminatory” has led to weird and troubling sorts of discrimination. Like the confused student council members at UCLA, some zealous campus voices seem to overcompensate in their desire to purge discrimination.

Spelling and Vaginas: Have We Lost Higher Education?

Are new culture bullies taking over America’s college campuses? Jonathan Chait argued recently that today’s college campuses are suffering a new, more aggressive bout of political correctness. For those of us interested in higher education and America’s culture wars, Chait’s essay raises different questions: Have colleges and universities become hopelessly monolithic? Can students really learn anymore, or will they only be drilled in leftist platitudes?

Like Chait, I’m not asking this as a conservative, but as a liberal. Like Chait, I want college campuses to include a heady mix of ideas. I want students to see and hear a broad range of philosophies, many of which they will disagree with.

Chait catalogs some of the anti-liberal recent occurrences on elite campuses:

Speakers are cancelled; plays are cancelled; lecturers are shouted down. In many high-profile cases, it seems that leftist students are dedicated to blocking any speech they find distasteful. This kind of neo-Comstockery, Chait argues, is a far greater threat to liberalism than any right-wing speaker or writer could possibly create. It has created, as one professor told Chait, an “environment of fear” on college campuses.

Chait explores the way this sort of destructive cultural politics has ranged far beyond college campuses. Those interested in the strange unspooling of America’s culture wars should certainly read his essay in full. But this morning I’d like to ask a slightly different question: What is the relationship between conservatism and mainstream higher education?

It is not as simple as it might seem. Though many conservative intellectuals continue to insist that Chait’s Red-Guardism has squeezed out thoughtful conservatism at many colleges, the truth is more complex. It’s not true that college students these days can’t be conservative. Ironically, the campus climate Chait deplores seems to strengthen some students’ identification as conservative. It does seem, though, that students less committed to a conservative ideology will feel pressured to avoid provoking the wrath of the campus left.

First, there is ample evidence that conservative students are made MORE conservative in college. Sociologists Amy Binder and Kate Wood recently released their findings of conservative students at two elite universities. In each case, they found that conservative students tended to become more conservative at these purportedly leftist universities.

Beyond that, for students who identify as conservatives, there have long been prestigious schools outside of the mainstream that welcome and nurture conservative cultural values. As I’m finding in the research for my new book, conservative evangelicals have a wide choice of colleges that serve as comfortable intellectual homes for conservatives. Often, these schools also embrace political conservatism.

Finally, we have piles of anecdotal evidence that conservatives are often made more conservative by leftist campus environments. Most famously, William F. Buckley Jr. launched his career with an angry memoir about his student days at Yale. Dinesh D’Souza similarly served first as a conspicuous college conservative at Dartmouth. Less famous conservative students have shared similar experiences.

Given all this evidence, it’s not fair to say that conservative students aren’t allowed to be themselves. In spite of what conservative leaders say, conservatism has not been shouted out of American higher education. There is another problem, though. What about students who are not committed to conservatism? Is the climate on campuses today conducive to a true intellectual experimentation among earnest but undecided young people?

This is a much harder question to answer. In some famous cases, colleges have made efforts to include conservative intellectual role models for young people. The most extraordinary case has been that of the University of Colorado at Boulder, where Steven Hayward and Bradley Birzer have worked as visiting conservatives. At that school, students in the middle are guaranteed to have at least one committed conservative academic voice on campus.

In other cases, it seems as if conservatives really have been given the squeeze. The best example is the recent treatment of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. Intervarsity has been derecognized at leading campuses nationwide. For committed Christian students, it will not be difficult to find a comfortable conservative church near school. But for those who aren’t committed, the exclusion of conservative organizations such as Intervarsity seems to limit students’ opportunities to hear and experience a real range of intellectual and religious ideas.

Chait raises important questions about the goals and limitations of speech-policing on campuses. We need to remember, however, that high-profile cases of neo-PC thuggery do not mean that all universities have been taken over by the leftist thought police. The real situation is more complex. Conservative students and professors seem to thrive. However, those on the fence might be robbed of opportunities to hear more than leftist platitudes.

Do campuses today encourage a real mix of ideas?  What have been your experiences?  Those of your children?  Your students?

Why Don’t More College Christians Fight Campus Rape?

The fight against sexual assault on college campuses has cranked into high gear. At least one conservative intellectual is asking where the conservatives are in this fight. We could get even more specific: Where are all the campus Christians? Wouldn’t it make sense for conservative religious folks to lead the charge against drunken fornication?

California attracted attention recently for its new “yes means yes” law. Both (or all) partners in any sexual activity must give continuing and explicit consent to every new advance. Just because someone grinds on the dance floor, the reasoning goes, she or he has not consented to sex. Even the White House has gotten involved, launching a task force to investigate campus rape culture.

Allies in the fight against hook-up culture?

Allies in the fight against hook-up culture?

In this week’s Weekly Standard, Heather Mac Donald wonders why more conservatives aren’t participating in the current campaign against campus rape. As she puts it,

Sexual liberation is having a nervous breakdown on college campuses. Conservatives should be cheering on its collapse; instead they sometimes sound as if they want to administer the victim smelling salts.

She argues that the so-called “epidemic” of campus rape is a figment of the overheated leftist imagination. Yet Mac Donald acknowledges that college leftists have succeeded in their fight to redefine sexuality on many college campuses. They have done so, Mac Donald writes, by unintentionally creating a “bizarre hybrid of liberationist and traditionalist values.”

As we’ve seen, some evangelical groups have found themselves at loggerheads with secular schools. Why don’t they jump on this bandwagon? Could campus evangelical groups such as Intervarsity Christian Fellowship build bridges to campus feminists on this issue?

In the past, we’ve seen efforts in this direction. This same not-coalition of feminists and cultural conservatives has struggled to come together to fight against pornography.

Of course, what seems like an obvious partnership has even more obvious reasons to stay separate. Even when both groups staunchly oppose pornography or fornication, their yawning differences tend to split them apart.

The new batch of anti-rape rules, for example, never suggest that casual sex should be avoided. Rather, the rules imply that pleasurable, consensual sex is a valuable experience.  Schools should improve this experience, not eliminate it. In other words, the new campus affirmative consent rules do not hope to limit fornication, but rather to encourage it by making it safer and more pleasurable for all. As one proponent of affirmative-consent laws put it, “good communication between sexual partners can be fun, even sexy.”

It might make conservative campus Christians a little queasy to become political partners with activists who have this sort of attitude about the proper relationship between sexual partners. But historically, conservative evangelicals have managed to forge political partnerships with other groups they found theologically objectionable.

Perhaps the most dramatic example has been in the fight against abortion rights. As historians such as Daniel Williams have demonstrated, at the time of the Roe v. Wade decision, many conservative evangelical Protestants viewed the anti-abortion cause as a peculiarly Catholic issue. Yet over time, the pro-life cause united conservative Protestants with conservative Catholics. Though it may be hard to remember in retrospect, for decades—centuries even—conservative evangelicals viewed the Catholic Church as the embodiment of the Anti-Christ. For evangelicals to team up with Catholics required—for some—an enormous amount of nose-holding.

Couldn’t conservative evangelicals do the same here? They don’t need to agree with the sexual-liberationist ideology that guides many campus activists. Instead, they could partner with feminists to fight campus rape, while maintaining their own very different reasons for doing so.

College Christians Strike Back

Do evangelical Protestants need to boycott pluralist universities? That’s the plan this morning from Joe Carter at the Acton Institute.  To those aware of the longer history of conservative Christianity and higher education, this sounds like déjà vu all over again.

Carter is reacting to the latest round of de-recognition of Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. This time, the campuses of the California State University system will no longer accept IVCF as a full member of their communities.  At issue is the system’s newly enforced policy of non-discrimination.  No student organization will be allowed if it does not open its leadership ranks to all comers.  For IVCF, that’s a no go.  The organization insists that leaders must agree with its evangelical statement of faith.

This higher-education controversy has been going on for a while. Most prominently, as we noted in these pages, Tufts University de-recognized its campus IVCF chapter.  Other schools have followed suit.

De-recognition has consequences, but it doesn’t mean the organization is banned. Rather, a de-recognized group is not allowed free use of campus facilities for its meetings.  It is not allowed to take part in campus-wide recruitment fairs.  Perhaps most significantly, de-recognition sends a symbolic message that an organization is no longer part of a campus community.

How should evangelicals react? Joe Carter says they should go their own way.  As Carter puts it,

Colleges and universities are businesses that exist in a competitive educational market. A free market solution is to refuse to support the business’ “product.” In other words, Christians should refuse to attend schools in which their beliefs are “derecognized.” Similarly, alumni should refuse to provide donations to support a college or university that considers our faith not welcome on the campus.

We’ve seen this argument before. As I argued in my 1920s book, the first generation of fundamentalist leaders worried about the state of higher education.  At both pluralist and religious schools, fundamentalists charged, anti-Christian teaching and attitudes threatened the faith of young Christians.

Some leaders insisted that the only answer lay in the boycott. Evangelist Bob Jones Sr., for instance, opened his own college in order to offer fundamentalist parents an alternative.  As Jones remembered decades later in a private letter,

Going about over America in my evangelistic work, I ran into so many people who had lost their faith in schools, some of which were supposed to be Christian schools and that had at least been built with Christian money but that had compromised and brought religious liberals into the school; and young people had lost their faith. I kept one fellow from committing suicide because of what happened to him in a certain school that had been built with sacrificial gifts of Christian people but an institution that had gone modernistic.  I made up my mind there ought to be a certain type school somewhere in America, but I did not want to build it.  I was at the height of my evangelistic career and had open doors all over the world. . . . I went on to tell [his wife] that there is an idea going around that if you have old-time religion you have to have a greasy nose, dirty fingernails, baggy pants, and you must not shine your shoes.  And I told her that religious liberals were putting that over.  I said, ‘I want to build a school that will have high cultural and academic standards and at the same time a school that will keep in use an old-time, country, mourner’s bench where folks can get right with God.’

As a result, conservatives who agree with Joe Carter have a place to go. A network of evangelical colleges and universities offer alternatives to schools that might de-recognize Christian student groups.  Whatever one’s theology and preferences, from fundamentalist Bob Jones University deep in the heart of Dixie to evangelical Wheaton College just outside of Chicago; from Manhattan’s aggressive The King’s College to LA’s laid back academic Biola vibe.

If evangelicals really feel a need to boycott pluralist campuses, they have no shortage of Christian options.

Do Diverse Campuses Need More Christ?

Jonathan Zimmerman recently called for an affirmative action program for conservative college professors.  But what about for conservative students?  Do diverse campuses need to welcome groups with conservative, discriminatory policies?

A Christianity Today piece by Greg Jao, National Field Director for Intervarsity Christian Fellowship, argues that true diversity, true learning, will only take place once universities welcome a “principled pluralism” to their campuses.  This means welcoming not only groups from a variety of racial or ethnic backgrounds, but also Christian groups like Intervarsity.  Campuses must remain, in Jao’s words, “communities with conflicting narratives and ideologies.”

Jao’s argument, like the broader conflict over the presence of conservative religious groups on college campuses, highlights the tension between tolerance and pluralism, between inclusiveness and exclusiveness.

Jao’s comments come largely in response to a continuing controversy over Intervarsity’s presence at Tufts University.

A couple of months ago, Tufts decided to “de-recognize” Intervarsity.  That meant the group would no longer receive university funding.  It could no longer use the Tufts name.  The reason for the decision was Intervarsity’s restriction on its leadership.  Only those who subscribe to the group’s Bible-based Christian theology could become leaders.  University policy at Tufts, as at many schools, requires student groups to welcome all comers, regardless of race, sexuality, religion, or other factors.

As the controversy wends its way through a cycle of appeals and counterappeals, activists on both sides have framed their position as the best chance for schools to achieve a healthily diverse campus.

One student argued in the pages of Tufts’ student newspaper that the Intervarsity group must be de-funded in order to combat bigotry.  As this student argued in September,

“Since when was freedom of religion a ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ card that excused bigotry? Since when was an organization like IVCF given the permission to speak for evangelical Christians such as myself? . . .  it is long past time to tolerate – that word the intolerant hate so much – self-righteous pontificating that says: ‘Yes, we will use your buildings and your money, and we will not treat you as an equal. Because we are religious.’”

Greg Jao’s more recent argument turns this on its head.  Jao insists, “A truly inclusive university should reject anti-discrimination policies which flatten differences and reduce true diversity.”

So which is it?  Must universities tolerate groups that discriminate?  Or, since many groups discriminate—such as an all-male a capella group or an all-engineering student fraternity—are only certain types of discrimination acceptable?  If so, who makes such decisions and on what grounds?