March 20, 2009

Standards

I'm taking a class right now at the University of Texas . I like the class and my professor, and my fellow students are just fine. However, since beginning the class, it seems like we are trying to learn about our subject (The Spanish Inquisition) without reference to any fixed standard.

As an Orthodox Christian, my fixed standard is, of course, Christ and His Church. I don't expect a university, especially a public one, to use that as a standard. Still, I find it troubling that the standard most universities seem to choose is "None of the above".

From my perspective, most secular universities have abandoned really dealing with God, thinking that God is an issue of faith and not fact. What has gone in His place is a philosophy that states, “All truth is relative,” which is basically a denial of any absolute truth or standard. Many students seem to have absorbed this philosophy, often without realizing it. Perhaps after years of not dealing directly with questions of truth, many have learned to not regard truth as important.

In the classroom, when we try to learn about something without reference to a standard, we end up learning things “about” the subject. The most interesting and meaningful questions not only go unanswered, they become unanswerable. It is no wonder that many students see college as a necessary step towards a career and little else. Education for its own sake? Does that even make sense if there is no truth?

In the classroom, the standard-less approach is just kind of annoying. If used to guide a person’s life, this approach is tragic. How can we hope for people to seek Christ, the Truth, if they are convinced that there is no truth to seek?

So, should a university adopt Orthodoxy as its standard? I wish all universities would, but I don’t think it is entirely necessary. It would be enough if they would adopt any standard at all. This way students could accept it or reject it and move on towards the truth, rather than having that process stifled before it even began.

matthew

5 comments:

Baker said...

Matthew,

I believe there may be a standard in operation that you are overlooking, though it is impossible for me to know since I am not in your class. How about, "Human suffering is the ultimate evil, and anything that can be done to reduce it should be done." What do you think? Does that one fit?

Or another standard might simply be, "We are better than them, and therefore deserve more of everything that is good." I think this maxim is the standard of all foreign policy, the justification for wars, torture, most social activity. But probably the formula is only a socially acceptable modification of the universal truth, "I am better than you."

How does that sound? Come, enroll in the University of [Texas], because we are better than them! When you are one of us, you will also be better than them. When you have graduated, everybody else will know that you are the center of the universe.

baker

Carol said...

Who flew the first airplane?

Did you answer Wilbur and Orville Wright?

Wrong! If you went to school in Brazil, you would be taught it was the Brazilian Santos Dumont. Just one year difference between the Wright Brothers's flight and Dumont's, (and Dumont had to go to France to do it), but the Brazilians claim him as the victor.

Has history ever been taught by an objective standard? It is my impression that each generation measures the deeds and misdeeds of the past by its own paradigm, a filter usually prejudiced in favor of the culture in charge of the teaching.

For example, I don't recall ever being taught in public school about the internment of American citizens of Japanese descent in our country during World World II. When I read about it later, I almost didn't believe it.

Bigotry and bias can be achieved through conveniently leaving out facts as well as distorting facts or by using inflammatory remarks instead of descriptive terms to describe an opposing view. When I was active politically, I saw this in the U.S. media all the time and was sometimes the casualty of it myself.

Matt, I'm not sure if these comments helped at all since I'm not in your class.

Carol

Brandon W said...

I think that in our society we have made a standard of having no standard. We are moral relativists.

While there are myriad justifications for adopting such an ethic , I think it essentially boils down to one idea -- The ascension of man.

Moral relativism allows for a person to do whatever they need to do to expand their own kingdom and will to the degree they see fit.

In the classroom, the majority of students no longer gather to recieve knowledge, but instead to collect information and data they can use for the expansion of themselves. All too often in our society, this expansion takes the form of an economically lucrative job birthed out of accurate memorization of said info.

Brandon

Anonymous said...

I teach at the University of Texas and, to be quite honest, I don't know a single professor outside of the English department who would accurately be called a relativist, either about truth or about morality. Of course, lots of students would rightly be so described, but they're just making excuses for their own intellectual laziness. The University is big, so perhaps I've just missed out on all the teachers who think that 'truth is relative' (whatever that actually means -- I've never been able to figure that out). Certainly there are some teachers who don't really care much. But I don't think you'll find many who think that there's no such thing as truth or that every belief is just as good as any other. If you're really just upset that the University isn't a religious institution, you should just say that. If you're upset that it doesn't have anything to do with pursuing knowledge and understanding for their own sake, then you're either not paying attention or you've been unfortunate in your selection of courses and instructors.

Mike Fulton said...

As an alumnus of the University of Texas, I've discovered this moral relativism as well - with one exception. When my wife and I were dating, we took a class on Islamic Spain together (her for a Spanish credit and me for a history credit). The professor pretty much used the class as a prop to assert that Islamic Spain, and to that extent all nations ruled by shar'iah, are more tolerant than Christian ones. I felt that we were barraged by anti-Christian propaganda and very uncomfortable.

The philosophy department is very scary at UT. My only philosophy course was taught by a materialist who attempted to prove to the class that Christians were sexually repressed and that the stigma on masturbation is rooted in some early ancient belief that sperm carried little humans and that such actions were literally committing genocide. That is quite different from the commentaries from Christian scholars that I've read.

Anyway, this is not to say that I didn't have a few good professors at UT. Most were secular, but respected me enough as an intelligent person with a belief in a Supreme Being. But those that I did encounter who made my eyebrow raise or use their classrooms as a soapbox for their own personal agendas made me wonder, "Does the "truth" that they teach at UT really set men free?"