This week’s exhibit A in the academy’s rush toward insanity comes from Cornell University, where the school’s thought police have just declared the word “illegal” verboten if the discussion has to do with those entering our country unlawfully. Welcome to the crazy land of the ivory tower, where definitions no longer matter and words like “illegal” can now be declared illegal.
This “repressive tolerance” and doublespeak is pervasive from coast to coast. The elite’s disregard for the meaning of words is the seminal challenge of our time. In the fluid lexicon of the rainbow, love now means hate, hate means love, men are women, and women are men. We now live in a mad hatter’s world where red is a number, and two plus two equals green. And if you dare question this nonsense, the Queen of Hearts will crush you.
It starts with the little things, such as the deconstruction of everyday words, simple words such as green and gay, male and female, good and evil, and right and wrong. This loss of definition not only confuses but also blinds us and places our culture in a matrix, ruled by whatever leftist bullies happen to demand on any given day.
One of the most important questions we should be asking is this: Are we really free today, or are we becoming more and more enslaved by the supermen — the power brokers, the elites, the “fittest” who fancy themselves our betters.
Are we free to live within the boundaries of truth and justice that used to be considered “self-evident,” or are we becoming more and more bound by groupthink, political correctness, and those who prefer fantasy to fact?
A good education was once grounded in respect for what was right, just and real. Good education once sought to reclaim what was co-opted and reveal what was compromised. A good education was once free of intimidation and honored open inquiry and the right to dissent. The academy once had confidence in the measuring rod of truth — that unalienable standard that is bigger and better than the crowd or the consensus. Good education is used to teach young men and women the art of pursuing truth, not constructing opinions.
It seems that hardly a day goes by, however, when the call for “safe spaces” and “speech codes” is not headline news. Instead, countless stories show that colleges and universities today are more bastions of ideological fascism than bulwarks of free speech.
The answer to the lunacy we now see from Baylor to Brown and many other college campuses in between is not found in the tyranny of false “tolerance” or the ideological safety of “trigger warnings.” It is found in returning to the age-old mission of the academy: in veritas, in the pursuit of truth and the practice of wisdom, in training up men and women of virtue, not vice.
Human freedom, intellectual or otherwise, was not born in Berkeley but in a community called Bethlehem some two thousand years ago. The fundamental principles of higher education are grounded in the Word made flesh and dwelling among us. Freedom is found in the Logos, the eternal preexistent “alphabet”: the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end, the creatio ex nihilo.
Today we would all do well to remember that God laughs at man’s wisdom. Our truths must always be measured against his Truth with a capital T. Our wisdom is no better than “his foolishness.” As 1 Corinthians 8 says, “We sometimes tend to think we know all we need to know. .. but sometimes our humble hearts can help us more than our proud minds. We never know enough until we recognize that God alone knows it all.”
When we compromise the definition of words and their meanings, we lose our freedom to debate or disagree. We shift from being critical thinkers to little more than parrots of what is popular and in vogue. C.S. Lewis warned of this when he scolded the precocious agnostic in “The Great Divorce”: “Our opinions were not honestly come by,” he said. “We simply found ourselves in contact with a certain current of ideas and plunged into it because it seemed modern and successful. … You know, we just started automatically writing the kind of essays that got good marks and saying the kind of things that won applause.”
Freedom is found in truth. Liberty, true intellectual liberty, is found in conserving the ideas tested by time rather than mindlessly changing the definition of everything we don’t like to fit our warped political agendas. Only by submitting to God’s Truth, a truth outside of ourselves, are we free from our own delusions or those of our fellow man — delusions like declaring the word “illegal” illegal.
• Everett Piper (dreverettpiper.com, @dreverettpiper), a columnist for The Washington Times, is a former university president and radio host.