Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Conservative PC? More on Patrick Henry College

The article that got Erik Root into trouble at Patrick Henry College is now available here.

To see why this apparently uncontroversial article could be controversial at Patrick Henry College, look at the College's Institutional Statement of Biblical Worldview. You will notice that biology teachers at PHC are expected to teach that the Biblical book of Genesis is actually a science textbook. They must teach that the entire creation of the universe "was completed in six twenty-four hour days." They can teach Darwinian evolution and intelligent design theories, but they must make it clear to the students that the 6-days-of-creation theory must be seen "as both biblically true and as the best fit to observed data." Consequently, not only would teaching Darwinian evolution as true be rejected, but even teaching intelligent design as taking longer than 6 days would be in violation of the College's mission.

I am reminded of a comment by Peter Augustine Lawler, a Catholic conservative, in his new book STUCK WITH VIRTUE: "This secessionist impulse of our evangelicals is, in part, the result of their intellectual weakness, their tendency not to read or write great books. Their Christian America is founded in the revelation of the Bible, not that realistic view of nature and human nature that all citizens can share in common" (p. 105).

Part of my argument for "Darwinian conservatism" is to present it as an appeal to "that realistic view of nature and human nature that all citizens can share in common." Most citizens--conservatives included--are not going to agree on a literal reading of the Bible that concludes that the universe was created in six twenty-four-hour days. Neither are most citizens going to agree on the details of the moral rules set forth in the Bible. If we are not going to have a biblical theocracy, then we need to appeal to some shared natural standards of truth and morality--something like the tradition of natural law. Darwinian naturalism supports such a tradition.

PHC proudly announces that it is on the Young America's Foundation list of Top 10 Conservative Colleges. American conservatives often complain about left-wing "political correctness." But now it seems that conservatives enforce their own "political correctness" at colleges like Patrick Henry, Hillsdale College, Grove City College, and elsewhere. Isn't this in violation of the great tradition of liberal arts education? Would Socrates be permitted to teach at schools like Patrick Henry? Apparently not.

Most of the students at Patrick Henry have been home-schooled by evangelical parents. Should we begin to wonder about the wisdom of this home-schooling movement, especially if these home-schooled kids are being taught that any teacher who believes the creation of the universe might have taken longer than 6 days should be scorned as a corrupter of the youth?

6 comments:

Martin Clarke said...

But I think there are differences here.

The left claims to believe in "tolerance" and "diversity," but doesn't. In addition, leftists are using our tax money to preach pc nonsense.

I don't know anything about PHC, but if it doesn't accept money from the government and makes its views clear (in other words, don't attend our college unless you are a conservative Christian) I don't think you can accuse them of being PC.

David said...

As an alumnus of Patrick Henry College and a former student of Dr. Root, I alternate between sadness at the demise of my alma mater and anger at those responsible for it. For a brief while, students, under the tutelage of professors such as Root, could receive a superb education. But the environment outside of the classroom was stifling. The irony of Patrick Henry is thus: I received a liberal education in an illiberal environment. I think Dr. Lawler, commenting about Patrick Henry on the blog No Left Turns, put it best when he said, "right-wing political correctness there exceeded any form of the left-wing variant I’ve seen on other campuses" (http://noleftturns.ashbrook.org/comment.asp?blogID=8537#26011).

Larry Arnhart said...

To Martin Clarke,

I agree with you that in a free society, private schools should be free to enforce any opinions they wish, as long as this is made clear to prospective students and teachers.

But as David indicates, PHC presented itself as a school that would promote liberal education along with biblical religion. There are already many "Bible colleges" in the U.S. But PHC claimed that it would be something more than that.

I would concede, however, that the PHC "Statement of Biblical Worldview" should have been a clear warning to teachers like Erik Root and students like David that PHC would not really be open to liberal education.

David said...

I will grant Dr. Arnhart that, yes, in retrospect the statement of biblical worldview should have given me pause. I would argue, however, that the current problems at Patrick Henry stem not so much from the formal commitments that the school makes (problematic though they may be) as they do from the informal (and highly idiosyncratic) interpretations of those commitments by the president.

Anonymous said...

What is wrong with Hillsdale?

The first and third links are broken.

Anonymous said...
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