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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

University: Community of Family or Community of the Barnyard?

I just read an insightful 2005 article by Ruth Lassiter titled The Role of the Shadow Curriculum in Achieving the Pax Academica. You can read the complete article in The Catholic Educator Vol. 51 Winter 2010. 

What underlying message, in addition to academics, does the university community send to the young people in its care? What is their "shadow curriculum?" The excerpt below describes what students experience on most college campuses today, sadly even Catholic ones:
The shadow curriculum is quick to recruit incoming freshmen. In their first week on the campus, the students are regularly inducted into the unspoken social expectations of the university, to which a king’s ransom is being paid in tuition for a “good education.” There are “AIDS awareness” programs, supposedly for distribution of condoms and graphic instruction in their use, but in reality “AIDS” education is homosexual recruiting, sponsored by the Lesbian-Bisexual-GayPeople’s-Union on campus. There is “rape awareness” for women, where packets are given out that have the lists of what constitutes rape on a date – and how to be sure that “no means no” when there are no restrictions on male presence, day or night, in the dorms. Then, the professional managers of freshman orientation week are hired to come onto the scene to run the “icebreakers.” The ice-breakers involve chummy contact – sitting in a circle and giving “the person on your left” a backrub – or telling in a group-confessional of “the worst thing I’ve ever done.” This serves to break down the natural reluctance one has with strangers, without building community in any positive way. Last month, one of the Midwest colleges had vagina-shaped chocolate given out during freshman orientation to give the message to the freshmen that “our bodies are not something to be ashamed of.” The real message is
disgustingly obvious, and it is not that about the dignity of the body.

Beginning with the cultural revolution of the 1960s and 70s, the shadow curriculum began to take over campuses when students were incited to reject and ridicule all authority as oppressive and outworn morality. “Don’t trust anyone over 30” and “Hey, ho! Western Civ has got to go!” became the chants of the revolution. Many of those 1960s and 70s radicals became and remain tenured heads of departments, deans of schools, presidents of universities, and, alas, school chaplains. From these positions of power, they defend their nihilistic fiefdoms in the name of academic freedom. In the face of this strong opposition at the top, all normal and healthy efforts to clean up the cultural environment has been stymied. Nowhere else but on the campus has this kind of social coercion survived.
The atmosphere of "barnyard community" explains why most students who enter college with solid moral values, are often hedonistic, selfish, and brutish when they graduate. They are "civilized" not for the recognition and defense of the true, the good, and the beautiful; but socialized to accept and defend the false, the evil, and the ugly. Four (or five or six) years of promiscuous dorm living and frat and sorority animal houses can go a long way in breaking down the moral values of even the most well-formed students. It's hard to wallow in the pigsty without getting any mud on yourself.

Having seen the evils being promoted on campus while my own kids were in college, I suggest to parents to keep their kids home attending community college for two years. Let them work and study and get that first taste of the world while still surrounded by the community of love called the family. That not only gets them a solid start and two more years maturity before going to college, but reduces the debt load. How ridiculous it is today to see young people graduating from college with the equivalent of a mortgage hanging over their heads! But even worse is graduating from college with a mind and heart formed to serve the prince of this world instead of the King of Kings. So make sure you know what the shadow curriculum of your prospective school is. Will it foster the community of family or the community of the barnyard. If the latter, leave it to the pigs.

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