College in our society is a time when young people are exposed to new ideas and concepts, in a sufficiently structured environment that they have a safety net.
The LA TImes reports
[F]or many students, college is a time to develop spiritually in ways that can endure after they've finished school, a new long-term study has found.Does this sound like a good thing to you? It's what an education is supposed to offer: exposure to new ideas, challenges to your worldview, and an enriched life as a result. (The failure of most mainstream faith groups to connect with those "spiritual but not religious" students is a different issue.)
Astin said young people often enter college knowing only what they were brought up to believe. They may never have been faced with opposing views. College is a safe haven in which they can explore their spirituality and challenge it.
The study found that many students struggled with their religious beliefs and became less certain of them during their college years.
It also found that many young people eschewed the rituals of organized religion but embraced what the researchers defined as the cornerstones of spirituality: asking the big, existential questions; working to improve one's community; and showing empathy toward other people.
"These spiritual qualities are critical and vital to many things a student does in college and after," Astin said.
The researchers also found that students who were more spiritual typically performed better academically, had stronger leadership skills, were more amiable and were generally more satisfied with college.
Students engaged with the liberal arts were more likely to become spiritual; those in math and science fields were less likely. Partying and overexposure to television and video games tended to inhibit spiritual growth. Community service and taking time to reflect — as well as class assignments that encouraged those endeavors — encouraged spirituality.
But of course, not everyone thinks that's a good thing. Albert Mohler, arch-conservative of the Southern Baptists, cautions parents of Christian students against letting their children go to college.
Even as most professors see themselves as stewards of the teaching profession and fellow learners with their students, others see their role in very different terms — as agents of ideological indoctrination....A professor who acts as such an agent of indoctrination abuses the stewardship of teaching and the professorial calling, but this abuse is more widespread and dangerous than many students and their parents understand.Bollocks. There are lots of mainstream Christians on the faculty, lots of Jews and other faiths too. Though few are fundamentalist Evangelicals, I agree.
For Christian parents and students, this should be a matter of deep concern and active awareness. The secularization of most educational institutions is an accomplished fact. Indeed, many college and university campuses are deeply antagonistic to Christian truth claims and the beliefs held by millions of students and their families. Furthermore, the leftist bent of most faculty is well-documented, especially in elite institutions and within the liberal arts faculties. ….
[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.Also bollocks. The only goal is to teach them to think for themselves. If that's a threat, if that's a challenge to their morals, then how strong are they? If they depend on ignorance for survival?
Even after expressing these truly breathtaking agendas, these professors go on to claim that they do not seek to indoctrinate their students into their own beliefs and worldviews, but no one can believe them now.
I once met a woman at a science conference who taught biology at a small Christian college in the midwest. She knew they would never give her tenure--she wasn't of their denomination, but since she was married to an Episcopal priest, they couldn't exactly reject her as a non-believer. She told me that many of the students arrived there with rigid views that brooked no alternatives and it was a very frustrating task to teach them, even to teach them science.
College education should challenge rigid beliefs. Exposure to the world around us should be mind-expanding. What Mohler sees as a threat is what I see as my job. It's the student's job to put what they learn into their world view (and according to the LA Times, they are… but not necessarily in the way their parents want.)
When a student "gets it", the amazing coolness that is cell biology, they fairly dance with excitement. Oh, oh, oh! How they wrap that into their world view is up to them. But students who come in rigid denial (of evolution, for example) would be denying a fundamental aspect of science. It's just not compatible with an education: it's pure cognitive dissonance.
Of course at a big Research-I university, such students are unlikely to study science. Probably their parents adhere to Mr Mohler's exhortations, and they don't apply to the sort of places I have taught.
What a waste.
What is my role as a professor? It's best described in this poem, by Christopher Logue about Guillaume Apollinaire:
Come to the edge, he said.And that, my friends, is what I do.
They said, we are afraid.
Come to the edge, he said.
He pushed them.
And they flew.