Never before has a college degree been so important for success. Yet increasing numbers of young people are finding college frustrating and meaningless. What is wrong with higher education? Why doesn't a LIBERAL education answer the profound human questions? This article reveals the missing element.
WITH the weary detachment of one who has been hardened to tragedy, the uniformed officer absently surveys the dormitory room and awaits the ambulance. On the nightstand is a scribbled note addressed "To anyone in the world who cares." It flutters in the chill morning breeze and would blow away except for the pill bottle resting on it — the empty pill bottle. The officer steps nearer and his lips silently form the words as he reads: "To anyone in the world who cares. Who am I? Why am I living? Where am I going? Life has become stupid and purposeless. Nothing makes sense anymore. The questions I had when I came to college are still unanswered and now I am convinced that there are no answers. There can only be pain and guilt and despair here. My fear of death and the unknown is far less terrifying than the prospect of the unbearable frustrations, futility, and hopelessness of continued existence..." Glancing at the lifeless, sheet-draped form on the bed, the officer shrugs his shoulders heavily and turns away. For him it's routine — just another suicide. For the ambulance crew it's routine — just another DOA. And, tragically, it is becoming all too routine on college campuses. Yes, suicide is now the number one cause of death among college students in the United States. Does that shock you? It should!
Isn't it incredible that so many bright, creative young people in the very prime of their physical and intellectual powers, with the promise of affluent and productive lives ahead should find life hopeless, purposeless, and worthless? Isn't it alarming that college students in increasing numbers are dropping out, rejecting family, society, the world, and are all too often abandoning life itself? Isn't it a paradox that a so-called "liberal" education in this "enlightened" age is seemingly unable to supply answers to the vital questions which would give meaning and direction to students' lives? Yet today's colleges are offering a wider variety of courses than ever before. Improved educational technology is providing teaching techniques unheard of only a few years ago. Social restrictions are out and student freedom is in. Coeducational living is becoming total from dining hall to dormitory. Still, for the majority of students, college is a drag — an unrewarding, unsatisfying, frustrating drag. Students know there is too often something missing. College is not answering the big questions that would give them peace of mind. College isn't giving them solid, practical guidelines for achieving successful, happy lives. It isn't pointing them toward a goal in life worthy of their total commitment. Why? What has gone wrong? The report card for higher education in this last third of the twentieth century answers loud and clear. It reads A in Nuclear Physics — A in Biological Science — A in Space Engineering — but D in Psychology, and F in Morality. Clearly, our educational values and priorities are upside down! But how did it come about?
Revolution in Educational Values
The past dozen years have witnessed a complete revolution in the philosophy of higher education. There has been an almost total shift from a climate of intellectualism to an overpowering emphasis on "scientism" — from concern with meaning in life to crass materialism. When Russia's first Sputnik flashed into space in 1957, the nation's complacency was shattered. Overnight the technological race was on. The field of battle was clearly to be our schools and colleges. Suddenly the total focus of educational effort was trained on the natural sciences. A climate of emergency, even panic prevailed. Federal, state and local money was poured into crash programs to upgrade science education. Reaction to Sputnik was so profound that when the dust had settled, science education had become identified with patriotism and national defense. Moral education on the other hand had all but vanished from the scene. And so it remains today, overwhelmed and rendered impotent by the relativism and skepticism of evolutionary science which continues to dominate the curriculum.
Character Doesn't Count?
A tragic result of this flip-flop in values is a general attitude that intelligence alone ranks above all other factors in judging a person's worth. No longer is there concern with a man's character, but only with his technical competence. According to this view, moral qualities such as honesty, chastity, and loyalty do not figure prominently in the value scale of most people and this is especially true on college campuses today. The classrooms and laboratories of our institutions of higher learning pour out awesome developments in nuclear physics, laser technology, organ transplants and genetics. But, ironically out of those same institutions come anarchists, drug addicts, perverts, and suicides. What an indictment! What an admission of failure! Yes, our colleges and universities have indeed produced brilliantly in every field of science and technology, but they have utterly failed to teach the way to happiness and peace. But that shouldn't be surprising because they are admittedly not in the "happiness" business.
"Technication" Not Education
"The college," points out one prominent writer, "no longer exists to produce men... prepared for life in a society of men, but men as specialized experts, men prepared for employment in an industry or a profession." (MacLeish, Saturday Review, July 13, 1968, p. 16) In short, colleges have become primarily agencies for manpower training, and the unfortunate result has been the abandonment of concern for social and moral development of students. Many institutions that prided themselves on being liberal arts colleges, where students were encouraged to grapple with the big issues of life, have lost their distinctive character. They have conceded to the demands of our industrialized society for greater and greater numbers of technicians. Director of Admissions at Southern Illinois University, Leslie Chamberlin put it this way, "Rather than placing our emphasis on providing the education necessary for effective citizenship in our democratic society, the schools are now attempting to provide the technical skills required by our automated, industrialized society and the current national scientific efforts." (Education, January, 1967, p. 294) A bachelor's degree has come to represent a "union card" for admission to certain professions. It is looked upon as a utilitarian object — a tool, to be obtained as quickly and painlessly as possible and certainly without the complicating considerations of honesty, ethics, or personal integrity. In a survey of 185,848 freshmen in 252 U.S. colleges and universities in 1967, 53.1% responded that the chief benefit of college is increased earning power! (Phi Delta Kappan, March, 1968, p. 413) This unfortunate state of affairs reflects the contemporary philosophy, atmosphere, and environment of the typical college campus and classroom. The bachelor's degree as it is now being earned in most institutions rarely represents a valid liberal education. College curricula are presently so slanted toward vocational preparation that, as Louis T. Benezet, President of Claremont Graduate School and University Center suggests, it would be "Better to acknowledge [the B.A.] as a first professional degree in which have been included brief exposure to other subjects selected more or less at random." (College & University Business, July, 1967, p. 37) Most serious college students today are being "short-changed." They are receiving "vocational" training — mere "technication," not education!
What Do You Mean "Education"?
But what is an education? Just who is an educated person? Is it the person with a head full of technical facts? Is it the suave sophisticate who has absorbed the mannerisms and witty patter of the contemporary scene? Is it the shrewd, wheeling-dealing businessman with the mind of a "computer" and tactics of a barracuda? No, it is more than any of these. And as shocking as it may sound, most colleges and universities are not capable of truly educating students! They are simply mass producing clever specialists trained to function in very narrow scientific or business fields. They are grinding out people who possess great technical knowledge and skill, but who are not balanced in their understanding or approach to life. People who are ignorant of the essential element that distinguishes an educated person — moral wisdom and courage. That's right! It is moral wisdom, the faculty of knowing right from wrong with absolute certainty, coupled with the courage to stand for what is right in the face of every obstacle, which sets apart the educated person. Certainly if a man is not willing to express standards, if he has not learned to demonstrate them in his life and conduct, then he has no more than a head full of information — he is not educated!
Education in Reverse?
Ironically, today the place where the least moral wisdom and courage is likely to prevail is on almost any college campus — presumably the fountainhead of educational excellence! Anything wrong, vulgar, fraudulent, or just bad manners is accepted or at least tolerated in the name of "academic freedom," "creativity," or "progress." "Doing your thing" no matter how inane, degrading, or destructive it may be, is literally a sacred right! College campuses have commonly become a sanctuary for filth and lawlessness, but educators by and large will not call it what it is! Many spinelessly shy away from making judgments. In short, there has been an evasion of moral leadership. There has been an abdication of responsibility in the sense of an unwillingness to state and enforce standards. As the relativistic "New Morality" and anarchistic "New Left" infect higher education more deeply, college administrations increasingly react by asking students what they want, whether in curriculum or sleeping arrangements, and giving it to them! The feeble excuse of many educators is to take the position that education is "value-free" — morally neutral — that the goal of education is strictly to discover the facts and to teach them. But, what they do not seem to realize or will not admit is that no environment or situation is free of moral and value implications. The very absence of standards on a college campus teaches students a lesson, namely that standards appear unnecessary. And, the acceptance of immorality by college administrators teaches a lesson, namely that immoral behavior is permissible. What confusion! What educational "Babylon"! How can students be expected to develop sound character, moral wisdom and courage when every day of their college experience negates those very virtues? How impossible. How utterly self-defeating! "It is paradoxical but true," said Orley R. Herron, associate professor of Education at the University of Mississippi, "that there is a persistent and growing feeling that higher education is drifting toward purposelessness." (College & University Business, February, 1968, p. 16) He couldn't be more right!
Where Is It Leading?
Higher education, like the whole of modern society, is on a downward spiral of degeneration — literally committing suicide. Through unbridled greed and misguided technology we have polluted our air, soil, and water resources. Equally so, through intellectual vanity and moral cowardice we have polluted education which is destroying our human resources. Can today's educational system recover? No! Listen to Robert M. Hutchins, former president of the University of Chicago. He warned, "If the object of education is the improvement of men, then any system of education that is without values is a contradiction in terms. A system that seeks bad values is bad. A system that denies the existence of values denies the possibility of education." He then concluded. "Relativism, scientism, skepticism, and anti-intellectualism, the four horsemen of the philosophical apocalypse, have produced that chaos in education which will end in the disintegration of the West." (The Human Dialogue, p. 322) Yes, today's higher education is on the way down and out — a victim of its own folly!
There Are Answers!
But no individual needs to go down with the system. No individual needs to take a fatal overdose of this world's false education. You students who sincerely yearn for the guidance of clear, authoritative, moral standards when the pressure is on to cheat, or smoke "pot", or indulge in premarital sex — those standards are available. You can know what is right! You students who are muddled and confused by the contradictory moral teachings of college professors — you can discover the absolute TRUTH! And you students who find college frustrating, empty, and meaningless — who are struggling to make sense out of a mixed-up world — you can know the TRUE purpose of life. You can know where you're going! The thrilling and infallible answers are contained in the book almost nobody knows — your Bible, the one Book upon which TRUE EDUCATION must be founded (Psalm 111:10). It is because the colleges and universities of this world have rejected the Bible as the source of authority that they have forfeited any possibility of education. But right education is coming soon — worldwide (Isa. 11:9). Almighty God has promised to restore TRUE VALUES and He has already begun to work through the three campuses of Ambassador College in America and Britain. If you are a prospective student and truly concerned about receiving a full and complete education, accept the challenge and write for the College Bulletin — or Prospectus in Britain — and find out about the education of the future — TODAY!