Culture Challenge of the Week: Campus Bias
Last week, we headed south to launch our daughter on the next phase of her life: college. It was wonderful to see her eyes twinkling with excitement and expectant hope for the future. We have confidence in her strength of character and strong sense of values, and know she chose her college for all the right reasons.
But we still worked hard to prepare her for the reality that on most college campuses, the prevailing orthodoxy seeks to challenge and even oppose both Christian values and conservative principles. Let me give you a few snapshots of what your child might encounter.
A recent survey at George Washington University found that in the last election 92 percent of faculty donations were to Democratic candidates. The professors' leftwards leanings influence the courses — it's easier to find courses on gay films, minority cultures and feminist theory than on the classics of Western civilization. Even in southern Virginia, 82 percent of Virginia Tech professors supported Democratic candidates. And at Texas' Southern Methodist University, liberal student organizations outnumber conservative groups by five to one. Such odds are common across the country.
Colleges typically send summer reading lists to incoming freshman, requiring them to read books considered foundational to their education. The 2010 lists were dominated by selections from the liberal thought police: the top two categories were "multiculturalism, immigration and racism" and "environmentalism, animal rights and food." The report from the National Association of Scholars said the selected books foreshadow what students can expect to encounter in class: attitudes that are "anti-Western, anti-business, multicultural, environmentalist and alienated."
And then there are freshman orientation programs, many of which require everything from gay role-playing to graphic "safe-sex" discussions. At Yale University, peer "health" educators advise students on where to get free condoms (Yale gave out over 14,000 free condoms in 2009) and how to use condoms and dental dams during oral sex — and that all happens even before the school's annual "Sex Week" begins.
How to save your family and college -bound kids
It's crucial to take the time to understand the college landscape. Three great resources for insight on course offerings, dorm environment and the intangibles of the college experience from a more conservative perspective are CampusReform.Org and College Guide.org and the website of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI.org).
Evaluate the students as much as the courses. Peers can easily reinforce or break down what you have taught your child. A wise college-selection process includes considering how easy it will be to find like-minded friends. Our daughter, for instance, spent a lot of time exploring campus ministries before making her final selection of a college with several strong Christian student organizations. She even made it a priority to participate in some of their meetings as part of her campus visits.
Such investigation is important for more than just the friendships your child will make. A 2009 Harris poll shows that among recently married couples, the top three "offline" ways they met were through work, friends or college.
Finally, stay connected to your child. Help your son or daughter locate a strong church that has a vibrant college program. Attend services with them each time you visit. It's also vital to pray for them like you never have before, and let them know that you are. Make it a point to talk at least once a week so you can share their excitement and challenges in real time, and detect early if there are signs of trouble.
And don't forget to write. Yes, write old-fashioned hand-written letters, that are filled with encouragement, reaffirmations of the truths you taught them when they were young, and clear declarations of your unending love. When you take the initiative to speak from your heart on a consistent basis, they will be better prepared to fend off attacks and cling to what they know to be true.
• Rebecca Hagelin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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