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The history of the Science vs Religion Myth

10 May

From The Gospel Coalition:

Ronald Numbers grew up as the son of a fundamentalist Seventh-day Adventist minister, attending Adventist schools and being taught young-earth creationism until adulthood, where he lost his faith and became an agnostic. Today he is perhaps the world’s leading scholar on the history of the relationship between science and religion.

If you were to ask Professor Numbers for the “greatest myth” about the historical relationship between science and religion, he would respond that it’s the idea the the two “have been in a state of constant conflict.”

Timothy Larsen, a Christian historian who specializes in the nineteenth century, agrees: “The so-called ‘war’ between faith and learning, specifically between orthodox Christian theology and science, was manufactured . . . . It is a construct that was created for polemical purposes.”

If these two historians—one an agnostic, one a confessional Christian—both agree this is a manufactured myth, then who is to blame for inventing it?

That distinction falls to American scholars from the nineteenth century: (1) Andrew Dickson White (1832-1918), the founding president of Cornell University, and (2) John William Draper (1811-1882), professor of chemistry at the University of New York.

Read the rest

Lest we forget about the last 8 years regarding religious liberty. A summary

19 Jan

From Andrew Walker and Josh Wester in the National Review:

For eight years, the Obama administration brought fundamental change to American life. As the administration comes to an end, it is appropriate to evaluate its legacy. And though many such assessments will be written, among the most important issues to consider is the Obama administration’s record on religious liberty. As we’ll argue based on episodes throughout President Obama’s time in office, this administration oversaw an unprecedented effort to intentionally malign and dethrone religious liberty as a central pillar in American political and civil life. Notwithstanding this overall record, and though neither of us is a political supporter of Obama, we applaud the efforts made by the administration in a few areas to champion religious liberty. In 2008, Obama was a U.S. senator and presidential candidate publicly opposed to same-sex marriage. Much has changed in eight years. For the foreseeable future, the legacy of the Obama administration will rest on two alliterative, colossal initiatives that have left an indelible crater on the landscape of religious liberty: Obamacare and Obergefell v. Hodges.

Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/443933/obama-administration-has-troubled-religious-liberty-legacy

Two Americas

20 Oct

Gertrude Himmelfarb in her book One Nation, Two Cultures (2010) argued that America is comprised of two distinct cultures.  A traditionalist one (conservative, Puritan heritage) and a dissident one (counterculture of the 1960s).  She wrote:

As a minority, the traditionalist culture labors under the disadvantage of being perennially on the defensive.  Its elite — gospel preachers, radio talk show hosts, some prominent columnists, and organizational leaders–cannot begin to match, in  numbers or influence, those who occupy the commanding heights of the dominant culture; professors presiding over the multitude of young people who attend their lectures, read their books, and have to pass their exams; journalists who determine what information, and what ‘spins’ on that information, come to the public; television and movie producers who provide the images and values that shape the popular culture; cultural entrepreneurs who are ingenious in creating and marketing ever more sensational and provocative products.  An occasional boycott by religious conservatives can hardly counteract the cumulative, pervasive effect of the dominant culture.

To Christianity from China: conform or else. To Christianity from American government: conform or else?

3 Aug

Broadly speaking, in China there are two versions of Christianity. There is the one that is officially tolerated, accepted, celebrated, subordinated to, and accommodated by the State in public life. Then there is the one that is officially not tolerated, prohibited, discriminated against, and shunned by the State. Why the unequal treatment? In the former version, the State has determined that it poses no threat to national ideological and cultural orthodoxy and State power. It’s a version of Christianity that will comply with the reigning political elites and their ideological creed, even affirm them. As such, it is rewarded for good behavior with public accommodation. But the latter version, the underground version, has done what all authentic Christian communities have always done on their better days: bend the knee only to the Kingship of Jesus Christ and His Word. They fear God rather than men. It isn’t surprising that such a dichotomy in the 21st century, where a religion is accommodated only in so far as it conforms to a State sponsored creed, exists in communist China, where religious liberty and separation of church/state have never been a fundamental right/principle of the political system. We expect the State to maintain a “conform or else” attitude towards religious communities there. But in America?

Evidence?  Where to begin.  How about California Senate Bill 1146:

http://www.albertmohler.com/2016/08/03/briefing-08-03-16/

 

Do Christian colleges have a right to be Christian colleges?

5 May

From Adam Macleod:

Gordon College is still under attack for being an intentionally Christian college. For nearly two years, cultural elites in Massachusetts, led by The Boston Globe, have been waging a sustained campaign of accusation and coercion in an effort to force the college to abandon the self-consciously Christian identity expressed in its life and conduct statement.

The attack appeared existential at one time, when the New England Association of Schools and Colleges announced that it would review Gordon’s accreditation. Yet to its lasting credit, the college has remained steadfast in its witness. After a well-organized and vocal objection by the college’s supportersand other friends of conscience, the NEASC quietly backed down.

Still the attacks continue. Most recently, a former Gordon philosophy professor, Lauren Barthold, has filed suit against Gordon alleging unlawful discrimination. Her complaint is signed by lawyers of the American Civil Liberties Union. The college denies her allegations, explaining that she was disciplined by her colleagues on the faculty not on a legally prohibited basis but because she wrote in a newspaper calling for outsiders to impose economic sanctions on the college. She encouraged others to pressure the college to abandon its Christian moral ideals.

The ACLU’s complaint does not contradict that account. And if recent history is any indication, the full facts will vindicate Gordon College once they surface. None of the accusations leveled against Gordon over the last two years has turned out to be true, except the charge that members of the Gordon College community choose to live biblically. Gordon has not discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation. Indeed, Professor Barthold acknowledges the “many . . . LGBTQ-identified students who have found deep friendships, intellectual growth and spiritual support [at Gordon].”

So, this case is not about Gordon discriminating. This case is about Gordon’s right to be excellent in ways that other Massachusetts colleges and universities are not. The issue is whether Massachusetts courts will preserve the liberty of Gordon’s faculty, staff, and students to maintain an educational community that is unique in its moral commitments. On this point Gordon College can claim an unlikely ally. If the judges of Massachusetts read the writings of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, then they will learn that Gordon College has the right to be differently excellent.

The Constitutional Right to Exclude

In its 2010 decision in the case Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, the Supreme Court of the United States declared and upheld the right of a state university to discriminate against unwanted student groups by excluding them from campus life. The unwanted student groups in Martinez were (who else?) religious groups that require members to live according to moral truths.

Read the rest

WSJ: Campus Unicorns: Conservative Professors

29 Apr

From Shields and Dunn at the WSJ:

Everyone knows that academia is predominantly liberal: Only 6.6% of professors in the social sciences are Republicans, according to a 2007 study. But what is life like for the pioneering conservatives who slip through the ivory tower’s gates? We decided to find out by interviewing 153 of them.

Many conservative professors said they felt socially isolated. A political scientist told us that he became a local pariah for defending the Iraq war in his New England college town, which he called “Cuba with bad weather.” One sociologist stated the problem well: “To say a strong conservative political opinion with conviction in an academic gathering is analogous to uttering an obscenity.” A prominent social scientist at a major research university spoke of the strain of concealing his political views from his colleagues—of “lying to people all the time.”

Some even said that bias had complicated their career advancement. A historian of Latin America told us that he suffered professionally after writing a dissertation on “middle-class white guys” when it was fashionable to focus on the “agency of subaltern peoples.” Though he doesn’t think the work branded him as a conservative, it certainly didn’t excite the intellectual interest of his peers.

A similarly retrograde literature professor sought advice from a colleague after struggling to land a tenure-track job. He was told that he had “a nice resume for 1940.” As Neil Gross has shown, liberal professors often believe that conservatives are closed-minded. If you got to choose your colleagues, would you hire someone you thought fit that description?

Yet the professors we spoke to were surprisingly sympathetic toward their liberal colleagues. “The majority always thinks it’s treating the minority well,” said the tormented social scientist mentioned above. “That’s a basic psychological trick we all play on ourselves.” Reflecting on bias in the peer-review process, a sociologist told us: “I don’t think there is conscious bad faith going on. I think when people read things they wish to politically sympathize with, it adds brightness points.”

Some professors suggested that there are compensating benefits to being out of place. For one, it’s easier to make innovative contributions. “I really do feel sorry for your absolutely conventional liberal scholar,” a political scientist told us. He imagined that it must be difficult to discover something new from “within the framework of their thinking.” Another made the point by posing a rhetorical question: “I mean, how many ways can you talk about inequality?” Other conservatives appreciated being held to a higher standard. “You can’t be lazy. You can’t—you’re not going to be cut any slack,” a philosopher said. “I think that’s a real advantage insofar as it makes the work better.”

That underlines an important point: Political bias expresses an intellectual orientation—one that inclines us to find some questions more important and some explanations more plausible. Because of this, none of us can rely on our fellow partisans to identify flaws in our thinking. Building an academic community with varied biases, then, is essential to the very health of the social sciences. Political uniformity makes it difficult to converge on the best approximation of the truth.

It’s true that in some happy cases social science is self-correcting. But it can take a very long time. Sociologists spent decades playing down the importance of two-parent households before finally admitting that family structure matters. As a conservative in the field told us: “Basically, sociology had to be dragged kicking and screaming until it recognized that broken families aren’t a good thing. It’s like, if you have to spend decades and millions of dollars in [National Science Foundation] grants to convince astronomers that the sun rises in the east.”

Read the Rest

What does the Christian church really face after Obergefell?

22 Apr

From Jake Meador:

Hope, History, and the American Church After Obergefell
It’s a truth universally recognized by anyone who has ever talked about the BenOp that a person who expresses concern about the church’s future is in want of a person to quote Tertullian at them.

Sorry, is that cheeky? Here’s the quote and we’ll get to why it grates on my hear so in a moment: “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

The problem isn’t that Tertullian is always wrong. The problem is that this quote has become a sort of truism reflexively recited by American evangelicals who can only imagine that government-sanctioned opposition to the church will be a good thing for the American church. And while there will likely be some benefits to come from opposition, it’s essential that evangelicals not be overly sanguine about the American church’s short-term prospects.

The Historical Precedent for the Death of Regional Churches

The first point we need to get clear is that, historically speaking, it is simply not true that persecution always helps to strengthen and refine the church. Sometimes persecution simply destroys a church. Once upon a time there were thriving churches in northern Africa, the Middle East, China, and Japan. Then they died. (You can read about them in this fine book by Philip Jenkins.)

Those churches were all either destroyed (in the latter cases) or driven to the very edge of society (in the case of the two former groups). Indeed, what little remained of the historic churches of the Middle East has been largely eradicated by ISIS.

Thus we need to first figure out why these churches were destroyed or simply made into permanent extreme minorities. There are a number of factors in play:

In some cases, the church was closely tied to a ruling elite and when that elite was overthrown the church lost its standing and was crushed.
In other cases, the faith was actually only professed by a small minority of social elites and never penetrated into the mass population.

Finally, in still other cases, Christian identity has become conflated with a set of other characteristics or cultural values which, over time, erode the distinctly Christian characteristics of a people. So there is still a superficial Christianity, but it is badly compromised by its close ties to nationalism. Greece is a good example of this as somewhere between 88 and 98% of the population profess to be Greek Orthodox but only 27% of those people actually attend church weekly. Elsewhere in Europe the numbers are even more dire. In Denmark, 80% of the population is Lutheran but only 3% attend any kind of church service weekly. This critique also applies to cities and states in the USA that are historically Catholic, such as Chicago or Boston. The gap between those who claim to adhere to a specific faith and those who attend church weekly is enormous.
What all this means is that there are a number of conditions that have historically caused local churches to crumble and regional churches to disappear or lapse into a kind of permanent minority status. And the key thing to get clear is that this is very much a live possibility in the United States.

Read the rest

Conservative Professors’ Experiences in Left-Leaning Universities

21 Apr

From the WSJ:

Everyone knows that academia is predominantly liberal: Only 6.6% of professors in the social sciences are Republicans, according to a 2007 study. But what is life like for the pioneering conservatives who slip through the ivory tower’s gates? We decided to find out by interviewing 153 of them.

Many conservative professors said they felt socially isolated. A political scientist told us that he became a local pariah for defending the Iraq war in his New England college town, which he called “Cuba with bad weather.” One sociologist stated the problem well: “To say a strong conservative political opinion with conviction in an academic gathering is analogous to uttering an obscenity.” A prominent social scientist at a major research university spoke of the strain of concealing his political views from his colleagues—of “lying to people all the time.”

Some even said that bias had complicated their career advancement. A historian of Latin America told us that he suffered professionally after writing a dissertation on “middle-class white guys” when it was fashionable to focus on the “agency of subaltern peoples.” Though he doesn’t think the work branded him as a conservative, it certainly didn’t excite the intellectual interest of his peers.

A similarly retrograde literature professor sought advice from a colleague after struggling to land a tenure-track job. He was told that he had “a nice resume for 1940.” As Neil Gross has shown, liberal professors often believe that conservatives are closed-minded. If you got to choose your colleagues, would you hire someone you thought fit that description?

Yet the professors we spoke to were surprisingly sympathetic toward their liberal colleagues. “The majority always thinks it’s treating the minority well,” said the tormented social scientist mentioned above. “That’s a basic psychological trick we all play on ourselves.” Reflecting on bias in the peer-review process, a sociologist told us: “I don’t think there is conscious bad faith going on. I think when people read things they wish to politically sympathize with, it adds brightness points.”

….It’s true that in some happy cases social science is self-correcting. But it can take a very long time. Sociologists spent decades playing down the importance of two-parent households before finally admitting that family structure matters. As a conservative in the field told us: “Basically, sociology had to be dragged kicking and screaming until it recognized that broken families aren’t a good thing. It’s like, if you have to spend decades and millions of dollars in [National Science Foundation] grants to convince astronomers that the sun rises in the east.”

Read the rest

The new opponents of academic freedom and free speech

12 Feb

From Catherine Rampel:

Okay, maybe conservatives are right to freak out about illiberal lefty militancy on college campuses.

Today’s students are indeed both more left wing and more openly hostile to free speech than earlier generations of collegians.

Don’t believe me? There are hard data to prove it.

For 50 years, researchers have surveyed incoming college freshmen about everything from their majors to their worldviews. On Thursday, the Higher Education Research Institute at the University of California at Los Angeles released the latest iteration of this survey, which included 141,189 full-time, first-year students attending about 200 public and private baccalaureate institutions around the country.

2300op-rampell0212-campus-speech

 

Read the rest

The Secularization of the Christian Mind

3 Sep

An original goal among the secular social reformers of education was not only to provide public education (uniformity of method) but also secular education (uniformity of secular thought).  That is, they sought to capture the minds of the public school classroom to see to it that the next generation only thinks, explains, analyzes, critiques, understands using secular or naturalistic categories.  Most secular reformers were perfectly content to leave God on the walls of public school classrooms (10 commandments) so long as He was no longer the foundation of the public school classroom (the standard and foundation for knowledge).  I’ve noticed this among students today, even Christian students.  They are thoroughly socialized and secularized to explain all things in the world by interpreting them through purely secular or naturalistic grid.  This is what Nietzsche meant by God is Dead.  Not that no one believes in Him, but that modern man no longer uses Him (revelation) to make the world intelligible any more.

Consider Political Theory.  If you ask students where government gets its power or where government comes from, you will see the evidence of secularization even among the Christians. If they provide any answer at all it will likely be a secular theory of government, not a Christian one.

Theologian Robert Lewis Dabney in presenting the Christian view of human government could not be accused of being unfamiliar with the secular view.

Dabney on the Civil Magistrate:

According to Enlightenment philosophers, “one traces [the powers of the civil magistrate] to a supposed social contract. Men are to be at first apprehended, they say, as insulated individuals, separate human integers, all naturally equal, and each by nature absolutely free, having a natural liberty to exercise his whole will, as a “Lord of Creation.” But the experience of the exposure, inconveniences, and mutual violences of so many independent wills, led them, in time, to be willing to surrender a part of their independence, in order to secure the enjoyment of the rest of their rights. To do this, they are supposed to have conferred, and to have entered into a compact with each other, binding themselves to each other to submit to certain rules and restraints upon their natural rights, and to obey certain ones selected to rule, in order that the power thus delegated to their hands might be used for the protection of the remaining rights of all. Subsequent citizens have given an assent, express or implied, to this compact. The terms of it form the organic law, or constitution of the commonwealth. And the reason why men are bound to obey the legitimate commands of the magistrate is, that they have thus bargained with their fellow-citizens to obey, for the sake of mutual benefits…
The other theory may be called the Christian. It traces civil government to the will and providence of God, who, from the first, created man with social instincts and placed him under social relations (when men were few, the patriarchical, as they increased, the commonwealth). It teaches that some form of social government is as original as man himself. If asked, whence the obligation to obey the civil magistrate, it answers: from the will of God, which is the great source of all obligation. The fact that such obedience is greatly promotive of human convenience, well-being and order, confirms and illustrates the obligation, but did not originate it. Hence, civil government is an ordinance of God; magistrates rule by His providence and by His command, and are His agents and ministers. Obedience to them, in the Lord, is a religious duty, and rebellion against them is not only injustice to our fellow-men, but disobedience to God. This is the theory plainly asserted by Paul in Roman 13, 1 Peter 2…. [However] while we emphatically ascribe the fact of civil government and obligation to obey it, to the will of God, we also assert that in the secondary sense, the government is, potentially, the people. The original source of power, the authority and the obligation to obey it, is God, the human source is not an irresponsible Ruler, but the body of the ruled themselves, that is, the sovereignty, so far as it is human, resides in the people, and is held by the rulers, by delegation from them…
[The secular social contract theory] is atheistic, utterly ignoring man’s relation to his Creator, the right of that Creator to determine under what obligations man shall live; and the great Bible fact, that God has determined he shall live under civic obligations.

From his Systematic Theology (pp. 862-866)

Anti-Evangelical Bigotry in Academia; by the numbers

31 Aug

From ARDA:

The one finding I would most like to share after more than a quarter-century of traveling throughout this country reporting on issues of faith is how similar people are in their basic desires and ambitions.

Talk to people of faith of all ages in any region of the U.S., and what they are basically searching for is a sense of transcendent meaning that provides hope, optimism and purpose in the face of the struggles associated with being human.

They want to become better versions of themselves, more caring and loving friends, neighbors, parents and spouses. And they see in their faith both the support networks and community rituals and the interior resources such as prayer and meditation a path to a better life.

Yet there remains a disconnect in popular culture, and in many media and academic settings, between the preoccupation with the most radically polarizing figures speaking in the name of religion and what goes on in your neighborhood church, synagogue or mosque.

That disconnect would be comical if it were not so damaging to some of our most vulnerable populations.

So why do we have so many signs of becoming an increasingly polarized nation, where we are willing to apply negative stereotypes to entire groups of people, whether they are atheists or evangelicals, Muslims or blacks?

It is not because such indiscriminate attitudes have a strong basis in science. Behavioral and social scientists increasingly are finding evidence of how individual characteristics – a person’s image of God, the depth of their prayer lives, the number of friends they have in a congregation – transcend faith categories in predicting the impact of religion in people’s lives.

A recent study indicating widespread bias toward conservative Christians by college and university teachers provides some possible answers.

The unpleasant truth supported by this and other research: It is easier to judge people we do not know, and inhibitions about expressing prejudice tend to fall away if enough of your colleagues have the same beliefs.

Selective bias

Those who teach in higher education are relatively OK with some religious groups, according to a study based on a 2012 online national survey that drew 464 complete responses.

Asked to assess religious groups on a “feeling thermometer” of 1 to 100, Jewish people, mainline Protestants and Catholics all achieved an average score of 65 or higher, researchers led by University of North Texas sociologist George Yancey reported in an online article in the journal Sociology of Religion.

Next to the bottom, just slightly above fundamentalists, were Protestant evangelicals with an average score of 48.

Based on the rankings and other survey responses, researchers Yancey, Sam Reiner and Jake O’Connell classified nearly half of the participants as “conservative Protestant critics,” those with negative attitudes toward evangelicals.

The greatest sin of evangelicals: A perceived intolerance toward the academic critics own political views and belief systems.

“They tend to be intolerant of others with different points of view or political positions,” one health care professor said. An English professor said evangelicals were attempting “to change the U.S. from a secular to a religious state.”

In contrast, just 17 percent of the academic respondents were classified as “theological definers,” a group describing conservative Protestants in more neutral, academic terms.

Substituting hostility with more scholarly assessments made a major difference in attitudes, researchers noted.

Thus, while critics gave evangelicals an average score of 41 on the feeling thermometer, theological definers gave an average score of 63.

Bias is easy

Of course, bias among majority groups or those with higher degrees of status, power and influence is not limited to any one social or professional group.

Just how much we judge many minority groups is easily seen in national surveys where atheists and Muslims tend to fall toward the bottom in terms of trust and acceptance.

The work of Yancey and other researchers, however, is helping to provide a greater understanding for such polarization.

For example, the study of academic attitudes toward conservative Protestants suggests some more universal grounds for bias:

They are not like us: Research has indicated academics in general are less religious and more politically liberal than most Americans, and that conservative Protestants are substantially underrepresented on university faculty. Conservative Protestants are also viewed as being less educated and low status, separate from the elite status aspired to by many academics in higher education. In several ways, conservative Protestants may be considered the “quintessential out-group for academics,” Yancey, Reimer and O’Connell noted.

Don’t know them, don’t want to know them: In the study, the harshest academic critics of conservative Protestants were the ones with the least contact, and least likely to seek to establish relationships with evangelicals. Those who took a more neutral academic approach were most likely to have evangelicals in their social network.

“Despite bad press, my (many) dealings with evangelical Protestants remind me that most of those with whom I’ve worked sincerely try to lead lives marked with loving kindness and good will,” one “theological definer” reported..

Easy to pick on, harder to defend: The study also found academic critics felt free to use harsh, emotional language when describing conservative Protestants; more neutral observers largely confined themselves to academic, dispassionate assessments. The open hostility of critics “may produce a silencing effect which keeps conservative Protestants ‘in the closet,’” study researchers said.

Another set of new studies suggests that belonging to a tightly knit and unified group not only tends to legitimize prejudice against others, but also gives permission to be openly hostile to those opposed by a majority of their own group.

Membership in a group where bias is acceptable appears to give individuals a license to “express prejudices they would otherwise keep to themselves,” researchers from the London Business School and New York University reported.

The good news is attitudes can change.

But change requires humility.

And intellectual humility, the ability to understand the limits of one’s own knowledge and to be open to new ways of understanding, seems to be in short supply, even, or perhaps in some cases especially, among academics.

Image by David Keddie at English Wikipedia [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Image by DaKohlmeyer, Trinity Evangelical Free Church [CC BY-NC 2.0]

College Tuition is skyrocketing. Why? Administrative costs we know about. But what of federal aid itself?

3 Aug

From the WSJ:

Imagine a scenario in which the federal government helps households pursue the American dream with ultra-loose credit, only to see prices skyrocket and families take on loads of debt they can’t repay.

Yes, it sounds like the housing market of a decade ago, but some say it is also the challenge of today’s higher-education system.

The federal government has boosted aid to families in recent decades to make college more affordable. A new study from the New York Federal Reserve faults these policies for enabling college institutions to aggressively raise tuitions.

The implication is the federal government is fueling a vicious cycle of higher prices and government aid that ultimately could cost taxpayers and price some Americans out of higher education, similar to what some economists contend happened with the housing bubble.

Conservatives have long held that generous federal-aid policies inflate higher-education costs, a viewpoint famously articulated by then-Education Secretary William Bennett in a 1987 column that came to be dubbed the Bennett Hypothesis.

Now, more mainstream economists and academics are adopting that view, or at least some variation. And while college institutions reject the notion that they game the federal student-aid system to jack up prices, many higher-education officials concede there is a pricing problem, and changes are needed.

Read the rest

How did Christians lose their position in the academy?

29 Jul

From Mathew Tuninga:

Rosaria Butterfield was a professor of women’s studies who specialized in Queer Theory at Syracuse University. A practicing lesbian, she was an activist in the gay and lesbian community until she converted to Christianity in 1999. She is now a Reformed Presbyterian.

Given such a story, you might expect Butterfield to have an interesting perspective on the relationship between Christians and the academy. And you will not be disappointed. Only seven pages into her book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, Butterfield declares that she maintains her appreciation for the university and her respect for feminism:

Although I live my life now for Christ and Christ alone, I do not find myself in like-minded company when my fellow Christians bemoan the state of the university today. Feminism has a better reputation than Christianity at all major U.S. universities and this fact really bothers (and confuses) many Christians…

But how has the church responded to this truth? Too often the church sets itself up as a victim of this paradigm shift in America, but I think this is dishonest. Here’s what I think happened: Since all major U.S. universities had Christian roots, too many Christians thought that they could rest in Christian tradition, not Christian relevance.

These words accurately capture many Christians’ bewilderment about what has taken place during the past few decades. The academy, leading the culture, has abandoned Christian teaching about gender and sexual ethics wholesale. Not only are sexual promiscuity and divorce widely accepted, not only have traditional gender roles been widely jettisoned, but the very normativity of sexual complementarity has lots its persuasive power. And it has lost persuasive power not only to a few fringe radicals in the academy, mind you, but to the very people who determine the highest law of the land. Christians are not shocked because they do not expect to witness evil in this life. They are shocked because these developments defy what Christians think are the most basic common sense assumptions possible about the differences between male and female.

Butterfield’s words confirm what many Christians are only beginning to realize. Our worldview – our moral paradigm – is not nearly as intuitive or persuasive as we have imagined it to be. The authority of our churches and our sacred texts is nowhere nearly as widely respected as we thought it was. We are quite out of touch. We have not been engaged. We have been resting on the laurels of more than a thousand years of Christendom. As Butterfield puts it,

Too often the church does not know how to interface with university culture because it comes to the table only ready to moralize and not dialogue. There is a core difference between sharing the gospel with the lost and imposing a specific moral standard on the unconverted. Like it or not, in the court of public opinion, feminists and not Bible-believing Christians have won the war of intellectual integrity.

A few points jump out at me from Butterfield’s reflections.

1) Attempting to impose our moral framework on American law is not the same as being engaged in the nation’s moral conversation. We have too often confused political activism with thoughtful engagement. If we can’t even persuade the country to uphold marriage at a civil level, what does that say for our ability to witness to the need for the gospel at a moral and spiritual level?

2) Preaching at people – proclaiming the truth – is not the same thing as communicating. We need to proclaim the gospel, of course, but we have too often confused the bare declaration of various messages found in Scripture with the thoughtful engagement that comes from wrestling with what the word of God has to say in light of what we learn from observing, listening, loving and conversing with our neighbors and fellow citizens. We prefer to imitate the way the apostles confronted the covenant people of God (i.e., Acts 4) rather than the way they witnessed to the Gentiles (i.e., Acts 17). We mimic the way Jesus confronted the Pharisees (Matthew 23) rather than the way he ministered to “tax collectors and sinners” (Luke 14-15). But America is not the covenant people of God and Americans are not – by and large – Pharisees.

3) Our inability to wrestle with the way the word of God speaks to contemporary culture in a thoughtful, humble way communicates a lack of integrity on our part. Why? Because a tendency simply to preach at people as if they share our basic assumptions about life – while ignoring the fact that they don’t – shows that we do not respect them. We do not take them seriously. We are not willing to learn from them, let alone grant them equality in a conversation. What we think is faithfulness looks to the world an awful lot like arrogance. And Christians, of all people, should know that this is a problem. The Christian tradition has a lot to say about the evil of pride.

We have a lot of work to do, and not primarily at the political level. As James Davison Hunter argued several years ago in his book, To Change the World, we need to be less focused on politics and more focused on culture, less focused on power and more focused on people, less focused on winning and more focused on witnessing.

I think our situation is a little bit like that of a husband and wife whose conversation has gradually escalated to the point where they are talking past one another and each is equally frustrated that the other person is not listening – no doubt willfully. It is time to step back, do some real soul-searching, and think about what and how we are communicating. Communication does not simply consist in declaring what you think and feel is true. Communication is a two-way street. Messages must be received and understood, not simply delivered. And that can only happen in contexts of respect, friendship, and trust.

As in a marriage, if we think the fault is all on the other side we are sadly deluded. In that case, the road ahead will be quite rocky indeed.

We know of right-wing atrocities, but Marxist historian Eugene Genovese famously asked his fellow leftists, “What did you know and when?”

24 Jul

Make no mistake, conservatism has protected and rationalized all sorts of injustices in history. Indeed, the total amount of human suffering that has resulted from a stubborn political and cultural conservatism has perhaps only been eclipsed by the enormous human suffering lying in the wake of radical revolutions marching to the left-wing drums of liberty, equality, fraternity, and scientific progress. Years ago, before a Harvard crowd of left-wing professors, fellow Marxist Eugene Genovese called his colleagues out on it in this scathing speech. In “The Question,” he asks, since right-wing (‘imperial’) injustices are routinely and rightfully castigated, when it comes to the atrocities committed on the left in the name of liberation, equality, and progress, “What did you know and when did you know it?”

Simply a mic-dropping read: http://www.dissentmagazine.org/…/1353953160genovesethequest…

Highlights:

Many of my old comrades and almost all of
those ostensibly independent radicals and
high-minded liberals remain unruffled. After
all, did we not often protest against some
outrage or other in the Soviet Union or China,
signing an indignant petition or open letter? I
know I did. And does not that change
everything? I am afraid not, but I have nothing
to offer as critique other than that which may
be found in Galatians 6:7

Perhaps knowledge of the record of imperialist
atrocities leads our liberal colleagues to
refuse to single us out by asking The Question.
But I am afraid not. After all, they never stop
asking southern whites about their crimes, real
and imagined, against blacks. And let’s face it:
all the combined crimes of white southerners, at least if we restrict ourselves to the period since emancipation, would be worth no more
than a footnote in a casebook that starred us.

A few years ago, there was a successful
effort to get the Organization of American
Historians (OAH) to condemn apartheid in
South Africa. In the OAH and other professional
associations, Professor Wilborne Washburne
resolutely opposed this politicization,
and attempted to expose its hypocrisy by
offering an amendment to condemn the “necklacing”
of black South Africans, including
children, by the militants of the African
National Congress. (For those who have
forgotten, “necklacing” was execution by
burning the victims alive.) The ANC subsequently
repudiated necklacing as not only
wrong but barbarous. The OAH has yet to
endorse that repudiation.
I laughed. Those bloody South African
whites did kill a lot of blacks and ought to
answer for it, but throughout their whole
history they probably never equaled the numbers
we put up in one of our more spirited
month’s work. I laughed even harder when our
liberal colleagues poured out their wrath on the
ghastly racists in South Africa while they
remained silent about the immeasurably greater
slaughters occasioned by the periodic ethnic
cleansing that was—and is—going on in black
Africa and every other part of the globe. The
New York Times recently announced that the
death toll in the latest round of ethnic cleansing
in Burundi has reached 150,000, with the fate
of a half million or so refugees in doubt. The
historical associations have not been heard
from. Nor should anyone expect that they will
be.

No one should be surprised that none of our
leading historical associations have thought it
intellectually challenging to devote sessions at
their enormous annual meetings to frank
discussions of the socialist debacle. We of the
left are regularly invited to give papers on just
about any subject except this one. We are not
asked to assess the achievements as well as the
disasters, the heroism as well as the crimes,
and the lessons we ourselves have learned from
a tragic experience. No one need be surprised
that we have never been called upon to explain
ourselves. The pezzonovanti of our profession
have more important things on their minds.
When they can take time away from their
primary concern (the distribution of jobs,
prizes, and other forms of patronage), they are
immersed in grave condemnations of the
appalling violations of human rights by Christopher
Columbus. I know that it is in bad taste
to laugh, but I laugh anyway. I would rather be
judged boorish than seen throwing up

Homeschooling Courses in theology, literature, history, and American Government from Veritas Press

6 Jul

Here’s a plug for Veritas Press Scholars Academy (online homeschool education in the classical and reformed tradition).  I’m actually teaching two classes in it starting this fall (for grades 9-12).  Pass it along!

Program Description

My courses: Omnibus III and American Government

Homeschooling and the Christian Duty by Sally Thomas

12 Jun

From First Things:

By withdrawing from the larger culture, homeschoolers aid and abet the culture’s failings—or so, at least, the charge goes. Christians have a responsibility to be not “of the world,” but, we are told, they also have a responsibility to be “in the world.” And therefore it’s our duty to send our children to public school. After all, Jesus calls us to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, and how can we possibly be those things if we stay at home all day?

According to this logic, we are called not only to witness, via our children, to a diverse population of people but also somehow to salvage public education itself, as if this would right everything that’s out of whack in our society. To decline to do so is, in this view, both personally selfish and culturally destructive.

Though at this stage in my life I have a hard time understanding why I should feel a greater sense of responsibility to a government institution than I do to my children, I must confess that it has not always been so. Our oldest daughter spent four years in an English working-class neighborhood school, where she was conspicuous not only for being American but also for having parents who were actually married to each other and actually both the parents of all children in our home. Aside from the Bangladeshi Muslims who comprised roughly a third of the school population, ours was the only family with any discernable religious orientation whatsoever.

As such, we did feel responsible for the well-being of that school. The education on offer wasn’t brilliant—“random topics” seemed to be the general theme of the National Curriculum as taught at this particular school—but, as we told ourselves, it was OK. We could supplement at home. And meanwhile our daughter was receiving a valuable cultural education, right?

This is what we told ourselves even in the face of, for instance, the sex-education program we encountered in Year Four, the English equivalent of third grade. We were the only parents who asked to preview the materials; when we discovered, among other things, that they included an animated video sequence of teddy bears having fairly graphic sex, we exercised our right to opt out, and took the children to the British Museum that day instead, for cultural education on a different level, for once.

Random topics we could deal with. Animated teddy bears boinking we could avoid, at least in the short run. I suppose we could have gone on indefinitely telling ourselves that all this was OK—not great, but OK—if our daughter had been happy and thriving. But she wasn’t. Over time, most of her close friends moved to other primary schools with better test scores. The remaining school population was, as the English say, rougher. The overall atmosphere becamerougher.

Well, we said, this is not good, but we can’t just abandon the school. Meanwhile our daughter, always reserved, became almost paralytically shy. On the playground, as she told us later, she concentrated on not being called ugly names by the boys. In class, she cried a lot rather than raise her hand. At home, she cried herself to sleep. On one occasion, as I distinctly recall, she was upset because in Religious Ed—no separation of church and state there—another kid had announced to the class, “God’s stupid,” and the teacher hadn’t said anything to him, and she had felt that this was wrong.

The incident had happened months earlier, it emerged—we certainly had known nothing of it at the time—but it still ate away at her. As I comforted her, my first impulse was to say, “Well, that’s not anything to cry about.” But of course it was. An adult might have spoken to the kid in question. An adult might have spoken to the teacher. What could an eight-year-old child do? Cry, that’s what.

Certainly Jesus tells us all to be salt and light. In the Christian tradition, however, we use phrases like “the age of reason” for a reason: recognition of the fundamental difference between an adult’s understanding and a child’s. The classical model of education uses the language of the Trivium—grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric—to describe stages of cognitive development in terms that provide, I think, a useful and accurate model for spiritual as well as intellectual formation.

A child in the grammar stage, a third-grader, say, is developmentally geared toward the acquisition of basic facts, memorizing Bible verses or the Corporal Works of Mercy. Even a bright third-grader lacks the powers of higher reasoning necessary to discern the truth amid conflicting messages.

Middle-schoolers, in the dialectical stage, are ready to learn to argue—learn to argue. As anyone with a middle-schooler knows, this dovetails nicely with certain natural inclinations of the age, but the average eighth-grader is hardly prepared to play C.S. Lewis in social studies class.

Even high-schoolers are still in the process of acquiring the rhetorical sophistication they will need in college to defend their faith to others and to themselves. Consider how many college freshmen allow themselves to be talked out of Christianity during the fall semester, in the course of Intro to World Religions. If college freshmen can’t cope, it seems unrealistic to expect third-graders to bear the burden of evangelizing their schools. What seems far more likely is that, to one degree or another, the schools will end up evangelizing these children.

Read the rest

Are professors now just accreditors?

26 May

From First Things (excerpt)

The American Freshman Survey, which has followed students since 1966, proves the point. One prompt in the questionnaire asks entering freshmen about “objectives considered to be essential or very important.” In 1967, 86 percent of respondents checked “developing a meaningful philosophy of life,” more than double the number who said “being very well off financially.”

Naturally, students looked to professors for moral and worldly understanding. Since then, though, finding meaning and making money have traded places. The first has plummeted to 45 percent; the second has soared to 82 percent.

they’re quite content with their teachers; after all, most students receive sure approval. In 1960, only 15 percent of grades were in the “A” range, but now the rate is 43 percent, making “A” the most common grade by far.

Faculty members’ attitudes are kindly, too. In one national survey, 61 percent of students said that professors frequently treated them “like a colleague/peer,” while only 8 percent heard frequent “negative feedback about their academic work.”

When college is more about career than ideas, when paycheck matters more than wisdom, the role of professors changes.

Full article

When it comes to the pain and suffering caused by sexual licentiousness in university life, the university itself cannot avoid some blame

19 May

From First Things (Vigen Guroian):

This past November, Rolling Stone magazine published an article that told the story of a gang rape in a fraternity house at the University of Virginia. This report soon became national news. When we first saw the article, we were uncomfortably reminded of Tom Wolfe’s 2004 novel, I Am Charlotte Simmons, about sex on the college scene. We ought to have concluded immediately that what we were reading was fiction, as turned out to be the case. Our experience, however, predisposed us to assume that something like that which had been described may have happened.

There was uproar and a great deal of administrative action taken after the Rolling Stone article was published. But it is not credible that before the piece, the administration was unaware of the sexual chaos in student life. For nearly a decade, Bill Wilson was dean of the Echols Scholars Program at the university. He and others in similar positions reported to the administration what they had heard. Dozens of bright young college women told Wilson that they had been sexually humiliated, assaulted, or raped. Yet the administration’s routine response was, “There are professional programs, codes, procedures, policies, and referrals in place.” Indeed, the psychologists and therapists were already in place, the legal teams assembled, long before the storm over the ­Rolling Stone article.

Ten years ago in a widely circulated essay, Vigen Guroian portrayed the sexualization of the American college with “its grisly underbelly . . . the deep, dark, hidden secret that many parents suspect is there but would rather not face.” Guroian opened his essay, “Dorm Brothel: The new debauchery and the colleges that let it happen,” by recounting his own arrival as a student at the University of Virginia in 1966 at the dawn of the sexual revolution. He examined how its institutionalization changed student life in our colleges, bringing us to where we are now.

Read it all

The harm of the sexual licentiousness of the sexual revolution on women, and the complicit role universities now play in it

14 May

I have said before that if you want major deep difficult to reverse social problems and crises, let men believe and know that they can get sex outside of committed long-term marriage.  Thanks in large part to the shifting ethos surrounding the sexual revolution, this has basically happened (and the social problems have followed, for women and children especially).  In this essay, the author does not let the university escape its complicit role in that process.

Excerpt:

“Students, in essence, are not touched by regulated social sanctions because,” at the university, “there is an expectation to break rather than uphold normal codes of conduct.” When arriving at college, seventeen- and eighteen­-year-old young men and women are invited into a jungle, for some, and a carnival, for others, of formless sex with no particular purpose other than recreational pursuits or momentary impulses.

college life in the sixties was a very different world. This bears recalling not as an indulgence in sentimentality but rather so that we might make an honest appraisal of precisely whence we came to arrive at where we are now. Perhaps there is something to be learned from the past in order to better judge the nature of what we have wrought in the present.

Back then, everything possible was in place to prevent a rape or any other form of sexual violence from being committed in a fraternity house or university housing. Women were not permitted in dormitory rooms or fraternity bedrooms. Those notorious University of Virginia gentlemen at the “Playboy School of the South” enforced their own parietal rules, and housemothers could be found at fraternity parties until 1968. Young women who visited for an overnight stay were assigned to “approved housing” that their institutions selected, rooms more often than not in the homes of widows who had space to let. If a young woman was uncomfortable with her date, a refuge was available, and there was a curfew. “No” had the force of strong conventions and in loco parentis. There wasn’t the need for draconian rules and punishments, because the university and women’s colleges represented real standards that were reflected in the arrangements they had put in place to bring the sexes together in an orderly fashion.

In reality, the schools, whether or not they understood themselves in that role, supported habits of courtship. Today’s regime discourages dating and courtship. Dating and courtship require a private space from which each sex can depart at appointed times to meet in public. There needs to be a threshold, a space of transition that communicates to a man and a woman that “Yes, I’m going out especially to see you, to be with you.” To hang out with a guy in his room in the dorm is very different from leaving an all-girls’ dorm to meet him at the library, to say nothing of a guy going to an entirely ­different campus where a chaperone waits along with a date. This difference is not one of license, and it is more than a matter of chastity. It is a mark of deeper intention and purposefulness in our most intimate relations.

Our unisex colleges and universities have abolished those spaces. What remains, what they have gone about creating, are spaces that invite and accommodate hook-ups and casual cohabitation—and open opportunities for forms of sexual violence that were not likely to happen on campus grounds in the past.

Since a fraternity event was the contrived setting for the Rolling Stone article, it is instructive to compare the fraternity party of our day with the fraternity party of today at the University of Virginia. In the sixties and well into the seventies, parties at fraternities did not lure young women with the promise of liquor and a hook-up. These were not “stag” parties, to use an old expression. These were dating events. The nearest thing to today’s fraternity parties were the mixers that the university and the sister colleges sponsored. The young women arrived and departed in buses. Boys and girls came together in the grand ballroom of Newcomb Hall: There were no alcoholic beverages or bedrooms to which to slip away. Neither the dormitories nor the fraternity houses were available for bedroom sex. And there were chaperones at the mixers. These mixers were the brunt of many jokes. The same cannot possibly be said about ­fraternity parties today. They have become ­dangerous activities.

But who is at fault? Fraternities at the university have traditionally hosted parties. Today’s parties reflect the university’s change of mind, or rather mindlessness, about sex. They evolved into what they are now because the university let it happen. The same moronic judgment that assigns twenty-year-olds as resident advisors for university housing let come into existence a laissez-faire economy of sex and the accompanying debauchery. But this economy is not “sex blind.” It devalues womanhood and undermines possibilities for lasting relationships. One young woman laments:

Call me old-fashioned, but is the notion of a guy calling a girl and asking her out to dinner so preposterous? And that is just the problem: we have been conditioned to think that even a single gesture such as this is beyond the scope of expectation. It is an outright riot in my sorority house when someone actually gets asked on a date, and I hear things like, “He must really like you,” “Oh gosh, are you guys dating? Is it official now?” And the classic “Guys never do this!”

Read it all

The decline of the West is due to a disease, a spiritual disease (Christopher Dawson)

20 Mar

On the Great Historian (and prophet?) Christopher Dawson (excerpt):

The Roman Empire and its Hellenistic civilization had become separated from any “living religious basis” and, although Augustus attempted to restore that basis, he was unsuccessful. In spite of the high material and intellectual culture, “the dominant civilization became hateful in the eyes of the subject Oriental world,” and indeed its own greatest minds were alienated from it, a “price that every civilization has to pay when it loses its religious foundations, and is contented with a purely material   success.”[47]

Western civilization now faces a grave spiritual crisis at the very time when it has, by conquest and technology and trade tended to unify the entire world.[48] If our culture is to survive it must obtain some religious roots, either by conversion back to Christianity or by finding some new spiritual principle. Dawson was no fatalist; he believed either alternative possible if men would seriously make the attempt. Naturally, he thought the more desirable would be to return to Christianity. Thus the challenge is issued to Christians:

The new Babylon is threatened by an even more catastrophic and suicidal end than any of the world empires of the past. Thus we find ourselves back in the same situation as that which the Christians encountered during the decline of the ancient world. Everything depends on whether the Christians of the new age are equal to their mission—whether they are able to communicate their hope to a world in which man finds himself alone and helpless before the monstrous forces which have been created by man to serve his own ends but which have now escaped from his control and threaten to destroy him.[49]

Dawson proposed a first step towards solution of the problem of secularism. He believed that higher education should be of most concern to the Christian. “It is in this field that the secularist danger is most formidable…[for] if (Christianity] loses the right to teach it can no longer exist.” Moreover, education is also the weak point of secularism: “The only part of Leviathan that is vulnerable is its brain.”[50] Dawson devoted one of his last books to the proposal to institute, in private, Catholic colleges, a program for the study of Christian culture.[51] It is a proposal that strikes one as hopelessly inadequate, at least in the United States, in view of the increasing problems private colleges have in merely surviving. But those difficulties do indeed point to the immediacy of the issue for our churches; their right to teach is being rapidly eroded away.

Original and full Article

Gender differences in Math Performance around the world – Mark Perry

13 Mar

pisa

There has been a long-standing, and often very emotional debate about whether there are any gender differences in mathematical ability. If you have any doubts about how emotional and irrational the debate can get, just ask economist Larry Summers, who was forced to resign as president of Harvard (in part) for daring to suggest that there is statistical data showing that the variability of male math intelligence is different (greater) than the variability of female math ability. Specifically, Summers made this completely innocuous statement in 2005 that amazingly led to his ouster as president of Harvard:

It does appear that on many, many different human attributes – height, weight, propensity for criminality, overall IQ, mathematical ability, scientific ability – there is relatively clear evidence that whatever the difference in means-which can be debated – there is a difference in the standard deviation, and variability of a male and a female population. And that is true with respect to attributes that are and are not plausibly, culturally determined.

If one supposes, as I think is reasonable, that if one is talking about physicists at a top twenty-five research university, one is not talking about people who are two standard deviations above the mean. And perhaps it’s not even talking about somebody who is three standard deviations above the mean. But it’s talking about people who are three and a half, four standard deviations above the mean who are in the one-in-5,000, one-in-10,000 class.

Note that Summers wasn’t saying that men necessarily have greater mathematical ability than women, only that the variability (or standard deviation, the most common statistical measure of variability) of male math ability is greater than the variability of female math ability. Implication? More male than female math geniuses, but also more males than females with math aptitude far below average who are “math idiots” or who have severe learning disabilities.

On the other side of the debate is Janet Hyde, professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin, who has made statements like this that summarize her position:

There just aren’t gender differences anymore in math performance. So parents and teachers need to revise their thoughts about this. Stereotypes are very, very resistant to change, but as a scientist I have to challenge them with data.

Well, I’m going to have to challenge Professor Hyde and her followers with some data from a recently-released OECD study “The ABC of Gender Equality in Education: Aptitude, Behaviour, Confidence.” The study contains test results from students worldwide in 65 OECD (and partner) countries who participated in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2012. According to the OECD, “Around 510,000 students between the ages of 15 years 3 months and 16 years 2 months participated in PISA 2012 as a whole representing about 28 million 15-year-olds globally.”

So it’s a pretty comprehensive study of the cognitive abilities of 15-year-olds, and allows us to determine empirically whether or not there are gender differences in mathematical abilities of high school students around the world. The students also took tests in reading and science, but I’ll focus here on the math test results, although I’ll just note that girls significantly out-performed boys on the reading test by 39 points on average and slightly out-performed boys on the science test by 3 points on average.

Some of the PISA 2012 math test results are summarized in the chart above, based on the raw data are available here (see Table 1.3a). Here are some of the key findings on the differences in mathematical ability by gender from the PISA 2012:

1. The mean score for boys on the math test for students in all 65 countries (477.5 points) was8 points higher than the mean score for girls (469.5 points), see the middle bar in the chart. By individual country, boys scored higher on the math test than girls in 52 countries (statistically significant differences in 38 of those countries), with the largest differences in favor of boys in Colombia (25.5 points), Luxembourg (25.1 points), Chile (25 points) and Costa Rica (23.6 points). Girls scored higher than boys in 13 countries, with statistically significant differences in 5 countries (Qatar, Iceland, Jordan, Malaysia and Thailand).

2. The average standard deviation for male scores (92.2 points) in the 65 countries was higher than the standard deviation for female scores (86.1 points) by more than 6 points. By individual country, the standard deviation of male math test scores was higher than the female standard deviation in all of the 65 countries except Liechtenstein, and the difference in variability was statistically significant in 45 countries. These empirical findings from the PISA 2012 confirm Summers’ statement above that there is substantial evidence that the variability of male math ability (among many other factors) is greater than the variability of female math ability.

3. What’s especially interesting is that as you consider math test scores at the higher percentiles, the gender gap in favor of men widens considerably. For example, boys scoring at the 95th percentile (for boys separately) had an average test score (630.7 points) for the 65 countries that was 18.4 points higher than the average female score at the 95thpercentile for girls (612.4 points). By individual country, boys scored higher than girls on the math test at the 95th percentile in 63 out of 65 countries, and the male advantage was statistically significant in 43 countries. The countries with the largest male advantages at the 95th percentile were Israel (42.6 points), Colombia (41.5 points), Costa Rica (34.7), Korea (34.6) and Italy (33.2).

At the 90th percentile, boys scored 16.5 points higher than girls (598.4 vs. 581.9), and at the 75th percentile there was a 12.7 point difference in favor of boys.

4. On the lower end of math scores, girls outperformed boys at the 5th percentile (329.9 vs. 328 points) by about 2 points and at the 10th percentile by 0.8 points (359.8 vs. 359.0 points).

Bottom Line: The PISA 2012 international math test results reveal significant gender differences in favor of boys on standardized tests of mathematical ability, similar to the gender differences in favor of boys on the math SAT test as I reported on CD last October. For more than 40 years, American high school boys have outperformed girls by more than 30 points on the math SAT test in every year between 1972 and 2014, which translates to a percentile difference of 10 points or more (55th percentile for boys vs. the 45th percentile for girls in 2014). For perfect tests scores of 800 points on the math SAT test, boys outnumbered girls by more than 2-to-1 in 2014, providing more evidence that boys have greater abilities than girls on average at very high levels of math performance. Stated differently, boys outnumber girls on the extreme high-end of the distribution of mathematics ability, which is a direct result of the fact that the variability of male math abilities is greater than female variability. The PISA 2012 math test results also show that 15-year-old boys outperform girls on average globally, and the male advantage in math test scores increases at higher percentiles like the 75th, 90th and 95th percentiles. Compared to the 8-point male advantage on average for the 65 countries, the average male advantage on the PISA 2012 math at the 95thpercentile increases to 18.4 points (and is above 30 points in ten countries).

Given the significant gender differences in favor of boys on the math SAT test and now on the PISA 2012 math test, Professor Janet Hyde and others may have to revise their stereotypes that “there just aren’t gender differences anymore in math performance.” As an economist, I have to challenge them with data, which clearly do show significant gender differences in favor of boys for average math performance and for the greater variability of male math performance.

Original Link

New (aggregate) study on the development of children of same-sex couples

9 Feb

From Mark Regnerus at the Public Discourse:

A new study published in the February 2015 issue of the British Journal of Education, Society, and Behavioural Science appears to be the largest yet on the matter of same-sex households and children’s emotional outcomes. It analyzed 512 children of same-sex parents, drawn from a pool of over 207,000 respondents who participated in the (US) National Health Interview Survey(NHIS) at some point between 1997 and 2013.

Results reveal that, on eight out of twelve psychometric measures, the risk of clinical emotional problems, developmental problems, or use of mental health treatment services is nearly double among those with same-sex parents when contrasted with children of opposite-sex parents. The estimate of serious child emotional problems in children with same-sex parents is 17 percent, compared with 7 percent among opposite-sex parents, after adjusting for age, race, gender, and parent’s education and income. Rates of ADHD were higher as well—15.5 compared to 7.1 percent. The same is true for learning disabilities: 14.1 vs. 8 percent.

The study’s author, sociologist Paul Sullins, assessed a variety of different hypotheses about the differences, including comparative residential stability, experience of stigma or bullying, parental emotional problems (6.1 percent among same-sex parents vs. 3.4 percent among opposite-sex ones), and biological attachment. Each of these factors predictably aggravated children’s emotional health, but only the last of these—biological parentage—accounted for nearly all of the variation in emotional problems. While adopted children are at higher risk of emotional problems overall, being adopted did not account for the differences between children in same-sex and opposite-sex households. It’s also worth noting that while being bullied clearly aggravates emotional health, there was no difference in self-reported experience of having been bullied between the children of same-sex and opposite-sex parents.

Vocal critics, soon to emerge, will likely home in on the explanatory mechanism—the fact that two mothers or two fathers can’t possibly both enjoy a biological connection to a child—in suggesting the results of the study reveal nothing of value about same-sex households with children. On the contrary, the study reveals a great deal. Namely, there is no equivalent replacement for the enduring gift to a child that a married biological mother and father offer. It’s no guarantee of success. It’s not always possible. But the odds of emotional struggle at least double without it. Some critics might attribute the emotional health differences to the realities of “adoption by strangers,” but the vast majority of same-sex couples in the NHIS exhibited one parent with a biological relationship with the child.

Even research on “planned” same-sex families—those created using assisted reproductive technology (ART)—reveals the significance of biological ties. Sullins notes such studies

have long recognized that the lack of conjoined biological ties creates unique difficulties and relational stresses. The birth and non-birth mother . . . are subject to competition, rivalry, and jealousy regarding conception and mothering roles that are never faced by conceiving opposite-sex couples, and which, for the children involved, can result in anxiety over their security and identity.

The population-based study pooled over 2,700 same-sex couples, defined as “those persons whose reported spouse or cohabiting partner was of the same sex as themselves.” This is a measure similar to that employed in the US Census, but it has the advantage of clarity about the sexual or romantic nature of the partnership (being sure to exclude those who are simply same-sex roommates). Among these, 582 had children under 18 in the household. A battery of questions was completed by 512 of them.

Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

This is not the first time the NHIS data have been used to analyze same-sex households and child health. A manuscript presented at the 2014 annual meeting of the Population Association of America assessed the same data. Curiously, that manuscript overlooked all emotional health outcomes. Instead, the authors inquired only into a solitary, parent-reported measure of their “perception of the child’s overall health,” a physical well-being proxy that varies only modestly across household types. Hence, the authors readily concluded “no differences.”

I’m not surprised.

This juxtaposition provides a window into the state of the social science of same-sex households with children. Null findings are preferred—and arguably sought—by most scholars and journal editors. Indeed, study results seem to vary by author, not by dataset. It is largely a different approach to the presentation of data that distinguishes those population-based studies hailed by many as proof of “no differences” from those studies denounced by the same people as “junk science.”

In fact, population-based surveys of same-sex households with children all tend to reveal the same thing, regardless of the data source. It’s a testimony to the virtues of random sampling and the vices of relying on nonrandom samples, which Sullins argues—in another published study—fosters “a strong bias resulting in false positive outcomes . . . in recruited samples of same-sex parents.” He’s right. Published research employing the New Family Structures Study (NFSS), the ECLS (Early Childhood Longitudinal Study), the US Census(ACS), the Canadian Census, and now the NHIS all reveal a comparable basic narrative, namely, that children who grow up with a married mother and father fare best at face value.

The real disagreement is seldom over what the data reveal. It’s how scholars present and interpret the data that differs profoundly. You can make the children of same-sex households appear to fare fine (if not better), on average, if you control for a series of documented factors more apt to plague same-sex relationships and households: relationship instability, residential instability, health and emotional challenges, greater economic struggle (among female couples), and—perhaps most significantly—the lack of two biological connections to the child. If you control for these, you will indeed find “no differences” left over. Doing this gives the impression that “the kids are fine” at a time when it is politically expedient to do so.

This analytic tendency reflects a common pattern in social science research to search for ‘‘independent’’ effects of variables, thereby overlooking—or perhaps ignoring—the pathways that explain how social phenomena actually operate in the real world. By way of a helpful comparison, I can state with confidence that after controlling for home ownership, residential instability, single parenthood, and neighborhood employment levels, there is no association between household poverty and child educational achievement. But it would be misleading to say this unless I made it clear that these were the pathways by which poverty hurts educational futures—because we know it does.

The academy so privileges arguments in favor of same-sex marriage and parenting that every view other than resounding support—including research conclusions—has been formally or informally scolded. I should know. The explosive reaction to my 2012 research about parental same-sex relationships and child outcomes demonstrates that far more is at work than seeking answers to empirical research questions. Such reactions call into question the purpose and relevance of social science. Indeed, at least one sociologist holds that social science is designed “to identify and understand the various underlying causal mechanisms that produce identifiable outcomes and events of interest.” That this has not been the case with the study of same-sex households raises a more basic question.

Is the point of social science to win political arguments? Or is its purpose to better understand social reality?

Read the rest

The Apostle Paul demonstrates why a Christian mustn’t be a fundamentalist when it comes to education

6 Feb

The term ‘fundamentalist’ has many meanings to many different people.  If it means belief in the historic doctrines of a faith tradition (like Christianity), then many evangelicals and Catholics are fundamentalists.  Originally, in the fundamentalist-modernist controversy of the early 20th century this was all it meant.  After all, the leading fundamentalist, J. Gresham Machen, was an true intellectual being a professor at Princeton and New Testament and Greek scholar.  So much for fundamentalism meaning anti-intellectualism.  Further, Machen enjoyed (in moderation) whiskey, cigars, and a new sport, American football.  So much for being socially backwards or legalistic.  But after the Scopes ‘Monkey’ trial, the term fundamentalist took on a different sense (the anti-Christian journalist H.L. Mencken was perhaps the leader in transforming the image of what a fundamentalist is).  It became associated with anti-inellectualism, backwardsness, cultural withdrawal and isolation, simple-mindedness, close-mindedness, legalism, and so on.  In particular, a fundamentalist was increasingly thought to be someone who was unwilling to ever read or listen to another viewpoint.

There are at least two ironies here.  The first is that there are many critics of Christianity who are fundamentalist in this latter sense.  They only read one side, assume their own side is the gospel, and won’t entertain notions to the contrary.  A liberal, theologically and politically, can be just as fundamentalist in this sense as an evangelical.  In fact, seminary education is a great example of how this is so.  In most evangelical theological seminaries, evangelical professors and students teach, read, and interact with higher critics of the bible (those who think the bible is replete with error, isn’t basically reliable, etc.).  But in liberal theological seminaries, traditionalist orthodox viewpoints and scholars are simply trivialized and given scant attention, if at all.

The second irony is that for some evangelicals who consider themselves fundamentalists, who relish the fact that they ‘waste no time’ reading and interacting with non-Christian viewpoints, they actually show that they aren’t fundamentalist enough  After all, if your model is ‘the bible only’ and if one would at least consider the Apostle Paul to be as fundamentalist as they come, and if you think we should obey the Apostle’s commandment to imitate him (1 Cor. 4:16), one might want to consider Paul’s approach to ministry in Acts 17.  One must ask of this passage, how much reading, interaction, with non-Christian viewpoints does Paul call for and demonstrate?  It seems here alone that Paul is both knowledgeable of and willing to interact with Epicurianism, Stoicism, Judaism, and even Greek poetry.

Paul in Athens

16 Now while Paul was waiting for them at Athens, his spirit wasprovoked within him as he saw that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. 18 Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. 19 And they took him and brought him to the Areopagus, saying, “May we know what this new teaching is that you are presenting? 20 For you bring some strange things to our ears. We wish to know therefore what these things mean.” 21 Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.

Paul Addresses the Areopagus

22 So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. 24 The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man,3 25 nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. 26 And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, 27 that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him.Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, 28 for

“‘In him we live and move and have our being’;4

as even some of your own poets have said,

“‘For we are indeed his offspring.’5

29 Being then God’s offspring, we ought not to think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of man. 30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, 31 because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, “We will hear you again about this.” 33 So Paul went out from their midst. 34 But some men joined him and believed, among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.

An Ode to Education: May She be Forgiven for Acting the Whore

28 Jan

ason Peters writes an ode to Education: may she be forgiven for playing the whore. If he exaggerates, he does so in stunning prose.

A billboard for Eastern Michigan University boasts of “Hire Education”—that is, “an education that will get you hired.”

This is more evidence, as if more evidence were needed, that the admen have won the day and that there is little more for a college or university to do than polish its brand. Education is over and done with. What colleges now officially offer is not an end but a means. Their enterprise is banausic, instrumental, and servile.

It is true that for many years Dame Education had been getting pawed at by the randy groping and the heavy petting of the market’s insidious unmagic hand, but up until the present moment, which historians will mark by the appearance of EMU’s billboard, she seemed able in spite of the assault to preserve something like a show of virtue, if not virtue itself. Now her drooping flower has been plucked. A keen and lusty economy has completed its conquest.

Of course the market wouldn’t have settled for anything less than consummation, and it never seemed to care about the where or how of its siege. That is a point worth noting. But there’s another one, and believe it or not it’s even less pleasant: tarted up as she was, education had it coming. If you’re pure as the driven snow and still arouse the desire of Comus, you certainly can’t gyrate in front of him and expect to be left alone.

But this is what the lady did. She could have been content to be the brainy girl in the all-covering sweater whom the captain of the football team never bothered to notice, whatever her assets. But no. Instead she threw off her glasses, eschewed her Homer, and for the sake of a little fleeting fun with the rebel crowd on Friday night she put on the short skirt of the cheerleader (and later the jacket of the sorority girl) and went in search of the music and the parties where it played. She tried to make herself appealing to the eye of a quarterback already good at recognizing weak defensive formations.

Education capitulated to an all-consuming and all-rapacious economy. What she lost was nothing less than her honor, and she lost it to a goat-like man who, being goat-like, never understood the first thing about honor.

“Higher” education, in the slow progress of her seduction, was duped into believing that she should reduce the mystery of her chaste being to the simplifying rhetoric of a chased being—to the rhetoric, that is, of her seducer. Like all institutions she sought to make herself desirable where meats and cheeses and gowns and gadgets are desirable: she sought to make herself desirable in Vanity Fair, where, predictably, she ceased to be fair and became vain.

But her opinion of herself was that Vanity Fair could not live without her fair vanity, which she made more fair by the vanity of human wishes, wishes for rock-climbing, unlimited choice in careers (not majors), and an All-U-Can-Eat Mongolian barbecue at the Center for Student Life, which quickly became a mortuary if ever there were one.

(Another billboard shows students rock-climbing and says “aspire to rise.” Perhaps the etymologists at this institution—if there are any etymologists—specialize in redundant and repetitive pleonasms. For certain there are brand managers there.)

Meantime, philosophy departments were shut down. Modern languages disappeared. The number of students reading Virgil and Milton, Plutarch and Jonson, dwindled to naught, all to the jeers of “you deserve to fail,” which the illiterate city fathers of Vanity Fair chanted in the only language they knew, and did so to the unopposed encouragement of their boards of directors, who for all their acclimation to adult life might as well have been wearing baseball caps backwards and pants around their kneecaps.

For the adults had disappeared and left the place to be run by children.

And civic life stumbled. Manners fled. Currencies tanked. Children utterly ignorant of history won elections to public office. Economists and lawyers and businessmen of narrow sensibilities—men and women who could scarcely wield their mother tongue—took charge of old and stately institutions once devoted to the study of ancient and modern tongues alike. Professors feigned outrage about atrocities occurring in places they’d never hauled buckets of water in, and students, ignorant of Moses and Ezekiel and St. Thomas Aquinas and therefore defenseless against sociologists, followed suit. The offices of internships, enlarged on lost tenure lines, assured students with the solemnity of predatory undertakers Sorry For Your Loss that the economy would repay their generosity to the general fund and the budget lines by which the rock-climbing walls and the work-out facilities were maintained. (Aspire to Rise. Get Pumped.) Students who could not write an English sentence graduated with distinction, because everyone was now distinguished.

All of this went on, and hardly anyone wondered why. Hardly anyone noticed that anything was amiss.

The reason is that higher education was for hire—and had been for a long time. And now everyone is after an education that can get you hired.

I understand the need for employment. I myself have the need. But education is not about employment. It is about being educated, which is an end in itself, not a means to an end. The instant you begin talking about jobs you have ceased talking about education, and no one incapable of distinguishing between means and ends should be entrusted with running a school.

Except of course it is that very inability–perhaps only that inability–that now qualifies you to run one.

Do I have a solution? I do, and here it is.

Everyone should go to Eastern Michigan. Eastern Michigan will, in turn, need to hire a lot of new faculty members. It is welcome to hire me. And I, gladly accepting my paycheck (padded a little to compensate for my successful recruiting strategies), will then introduce a Trojan Horse loaded with men and women whose main purpose will be to reclaim EMU for education properly conceived, understood, and undertaken.

But before the president and deans and provosts at EMU get too excited and offer me a job, I want to relay a little story. I once had a conversation with a college president. I said to her, Tell high school students and their parents not to worry about employment. Tell them to worry about being educated. Tell them if they do that, everything else will take care of itself. (The question of how many people should be admitted to college was not a part of our conversation, but you may assume that her view was “more” and mine was “fewer.”) And then, I said, Tell the kids that we will educate them. Let go of all this instrumental banausic talk. Let go of all this job-talk. Speak to them plainly about the intrinsic non-utilitarian value of a liberal arts education.

She said: first we have to get them here by talking about jobs. Then we can tell them that.

In other words, she said her job was to lie to them—in the hopes that her faculty could figure out a way to tell a bunch of knuckleheads the truth she herself was incapable of grasping, much less articulating.

And that leads me to an especially uncomfortable observation. What I’ve noticed over my “career” (which I don’t think of as a career) is that in the heightening fear that “higher” education isn’t worth the price–which, by the way, it isn’t—this president’s approach is manifestly not working. No president’s approach is working. Admissions offices can’t make their classes—or, if they do, they make them with students many of whom they know will not last a year, which is to say they’re willingly taking whatever money they can get, for however long they can take it, from people they know can’t make the grade. (The epithet in English for this kind of behavior is “immoral.”)

It’s hard to believe, given the prevailing cultural horniness, but the whorehouse is desperate. The prostitutes are lowering their prices. Not their sticker prices, mind you. That keeps going up. The real cost goes down, or is kept in check, because the discount rates are going up and up and up. And it’s the discount rate that tells you what kind of prostitute you’re getting. (To find out about her services go to http://www.randybilt.edu or write to her at prostitute@hire_ed.edu.)

But remember that chastity has always been preferable.

Link Source

Why left and right (should) mourn the decline of marriage and the traditional family.

17 Nov

All they need is love, right?

From the Right:

For_Richer_For_poorer_Chart_7

Today, Brad Wilcox and Robert Lerman have a must-read piece at NRO on “what’s happening to the American family and why it matters for the health of the American Dream.” Here are four charts from their article that show that young men and women “who grow up in an intact, two-parent family have a leg up in today’s competitive economy.”

1.)  Children raised in intact families are more likely to acquire the human capital they need to live the American Dream: “Having two parents in the picture typically increases the amount of time, attention, encouragement, and money that can be devoted to a child’s education.” This also “protects children from the household moves and emotional stress associated with family instability” – two factors “that seem to hurt children’s odds of educational success in high school and beyond.” [See feature chart. Note: The “0” baseline on the graph represents single-parent families; these changes are all relative to single-parent families.]

2.)  Children raised in intact families are less likely to fall afoul of detours on the road to the American Dream: “A nonmarital birth, for instance, puts a real economic strain on both women and men. That’s partly because such births can derail schooling and decrease adults’ future chances of getting and staying married. And a stable family protects them against these kinds of detours.”

For_Richer_For_poorer_Chart_8

 

3.)  Young men raised in intact families make more money: Note that “one reason that these young women and men enjoy higher family incomes is that they are more likely to be married compared with their peers from non-intact families.” 

For_Richer_For_poorer_Chart_11

 

4.)  Young women raised in intact families earn more: In addition, young adults raised in intact families work more hours. “On average, the more hours you work, the more experience you gain in the labor force and the more money you make.”

For_Richer_For_poorer_Chart_13

—————————————————————————–

From the Left (Robert Samuelson) on the massive social cost of all that freedom of self-fulfillment, expression, permissiveness, etc.

We Americans believe in progress, and yet progress is often a double-edged sword. “New choices for adults,” Sawhill writes, “have not generally been helpful to the well-being of children.”

The Family Deficit from the Washington Post

Recapping the legal conflict between religious liberty & employment discrimination law on sexual orientation

5 Nov

From Dr. Robert Gagnon:

Sadly, most Christians in the United States, when it comes to recognizing the dangers to their civil and religious liberties, sleep the sleep of ignorance that the disciples slept at Gethsemane before the arrest of Jesus. It ought to be obvious by now how “sexual orientation” laws and “gay marriage” are used to subvert the civil and religious liberties of those who rightly view homosexual practice as sinful, contrary-to-nature conduct.

In terms of protecting themselves against such developments, it matters not if they reach out in love to those who are same-sex attracted, acknowledge their own need for God’s grace, and speak out against a “God hates fags” rhetoric that exists only on the extreme fringes of the Christian faith. They too will be subject to the same harassment and curtailment of liberties. Sometimes in a misguided effort at appeasement, orthodox Christians even offer support for “sexual orientation” laws and same-sex civil unions or marriage in the mistaken hope that they will lessen the ire of homosexualist activists. In reality, they merely supply such activists with the political weapons by which the liberties of Christians will be attenuated.

Most pastors have failed to fulfill their responsibility to alert their flock to the dangers that the church is now facing. Consequently, most Christians cower in the face of abusive attacks by those promoting a homosexualist agenda, just as the disciples fled at Gethsemane when Jesus was arrested. Sadder still, many Christians, particularly those who consider themselves among the elite of evangelical Christianity, continue to relegate this issue to the back burner of political concerns, dissuading fellow believers from seeing this as a central (in my view, the central) political issue of our day.

Our children are being taught at school (with our tax money, incidentally) that their parents are bigots for opposing homosexual unions. Teachers who don’t toe the line are threatened with dismissal. They must teach about “Stonewall” and other historical occasions of homosexualist advocacy as positive events in history, irrespective of the fact that such readings are at odds with reality. They must lift up people like Harvey Milk, who bedded many an underage boy and lived a sexually promiscuous life with hundreds of male sex partners, as heroes of history or be fired. The entire state of California now (as Mass Resistance reports) “requires that the ‘historical contributions’ of ‘lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans’ be included in courses, instructional material, and textbooks in California Public Schools. Furthermore, the law includes prohibition of any ‘materials that reflect adversely’ on LGBT persons or the movement.” It is now against the law to critique homosexualist ideology in every California public school. It is the obligation of every teacher to promote such ideology.

Christian colleges like Gordon College in Wenham, Mass., are now being threatened with loss of accreditation and/or loss of federal funds if they have moral standards that prohibit all sexual conduct outside of marriage between one man and one woman, including homosexual intercourse. InterVarsity chapters and other Christian groups have been de-recognized in various colleges (including at Vanderbilt; and all the public universities of California) if they operate with the “queer” notion that the views of student leaders of Christian groups should be, well, Christian (i.e., comport with the orthodox sexual ethics of the Christian faith taught by Jesus and the apostolic witness to him).

Bakers are being fined as much as $150,000 if they refuse to letter a “gay wedding cake,” even if they are willing to sell cakes to homosexual couples, just not specifically design it for a wedding. Photographers in some states are liable to fines of thousands of dollars if they politely decline to photograph a “gay” or lesbian “wedding,” even though it is their right not to contribute their gifts of artistic expression to further what they regard as immoral sexual conduct. Florists unwilling to provide floral arrangements for “gay weddings” are likewise being put of business. A civil rights commissioner has found that a Kentucky Christian T-shirt company that refused to print shirts for a gay pride parade is guilty of discrimination, requiring its employees to attend diversity training, with fines to follow if the violations continue. Religious liberty does not even exempt religiously affiliated associations, like retreat centers connected with denominations that forbid same-sex marriage, from renting its facilities out for homosexual “marriages.”

Increasingly, Christians in “white-collar” positions who don’t support homosexual indoctrination at the workplace are being fired. Some have been fired simply for expressing the view on Facebook and other social media outside the workplace that “gay marriage” is immoral. Even in professional sports, coaches and players that express publicly their own thoughts about the immorality of homosexual practice are disciplined or fired. A major CEO was removed when it was discovered (horrors) that he once had the audacity to contribute to California’s Proposition 8.

Recall how the Obama administration revoked an invitation to a socially conscious Black pastor to offer a prayer at Obama’s 2nd inaugural when it was discovered that he had once, a decade earlier, given a sermon where he expressed the view that homosexual practice was sin. It didn’t matter that the Black minister had worked tirelessly against sex trafficking and shown the love of Christ in countless other social justice causes. He must be defined as a bigot if he doesn’t bend the knee to the idol of homosexualism. The Obama administration appoints as judges and officials only those who are wedded to the homosexualist cause. If you are not, you have no right to serve in the executive branch or the judiciary, however well qualified. Obama regularly compares those who oppose “gay marriage” to racial bigots who opposed interracial marriage up until the 1960s.

Read the rest

We know of its alleged benefits, but we never hear of the costs of sex education… undermining marriage

29 Oct

Excerpt from Cassandra Hough:

Although classified as education in sexual “health,” the comprehensive sex education offered at the primary, secondary, and collegiate levels reflects a very limited understanding of human health. There is no discussion of the emotional and psychological effects of sex before marriage and of sexual promiscuity and experimentation. These programs also aim at teaching something else besides avoiding health risks. The author of You’re Teaching My Child What?: A Physician Exposes the Lies of Sex Ed and How They Harm Your Child, Miriam Grossman, M.D., argues that comprehensive sex education courses do not actually aim at preventing disease and risk so much as they are a social movement for moving society in a certain direction.

That direction is not the proliferation of healthy, high-quality marriages.

Sex Education Does Not Prepare Students for Love and Marriage

The comprehensive sex education of today’s primary, secondary, and collegiate institutions may purport to aim at sexual risk reduction, but it effectively instructs young men and women in sexual risk-taking. It sets up abstinence as an unrealistic ideal and neglects adequate discussion of the importance of sexual restraint and the attitudes, behaviors, and environments that best enable young people to practice that restraint. It encourages condom use as a means of reducing risk while simultaneously normalizing behaviors that make the incidence of sex more frequent and that create environments of increased vulnerability. In reducing sexual safety and responsibility to the use of a condom and the acquisition of consent, comprehensive sex education sends the inaccurate and dangerous message that these two precautions allow one to have lots of sex without consequences.

As if this weren’t bad enough, comprehensive sex education programs like HiTOPS and Teen PEP regularly disconnect sex from the context of a committed, loving, exclusive relationship (i.e. marriage). This saturates the young imagination and whets the appetite not for a relationship but for sex itself, disconnected from any person or commitment of love. It is no wonder that the hookup/friends-with-benefits/anything-goes sexual culture has become normalized among today’s emerging adults. Contemporary sex education prepares young men and women not for the fullness of friendship, intimacy and love, but for casual relationships and recreational sex.

This is not simply inadequate education in sex and relationships. This form of sex education is definitively anti-marriage (and this, without even considering how such programs define marriage itself). As Rhoades and Stanley found, the quality of marriage is adversely associated with having sex with someone other than one’s spouse, with having multiple sex partners, and with having a marriage begin as a hookup. Other studies have shown these or similar premarital behaviors to be associated with other adverse marital outcomes such as higher incidence of divorce and infidelity and lower quality of health and happiness. Although marriage may be far in the future for a twelve-year-old or even a twenty-year-old, comprehensive sex education programs at the primary, secondary, and collegiate levels do young men and women a disservice by training them year after year in attitudes and behaviors that undercut their chances of future marital success.

It is encouraging that the pre-marriage courses typically offered engaged couples seem to have a positive effect on early marriage. However, if these courses follow the trend of comprehensive and abstinence programs alike, their effects will fade over time. What then? Probably, these young couples will fall back on the understanding of intimacy and relationships that was taught to them for over a decade.

For my own part, learning to live out a commitment to abstinence brought with it an education in something much greater: chastity. It was this education that best prepared me for married life; for it established an understanding of and appreciation for the unique relationship that is marriage—and it cultivated habits that directly support marital fidelity and selfless love.

Comprehensive sex education provides none of this, instead offering a most disappointing and weak foundation for any committed relationship, least of all marriage. Our educational institutions would do well to consider how comprehensive sex education jeopardizes young men’s and women’s futures and launches them into greater, not less, risk.

Cassandra Hough is Founder and Senior Adviser to the Love and Fidelity Network.

Full article here

A graphic depiction of the decline in marriage in America

26 Sep

It’s not talked about (wouldn’t be politically correct), though it is clearly the most important factor, predictor, of most social ills.  The decline in marriage is well depicted in these graphs (including the apathetic attitudes of Americans regarding the relevance of marriage for society).  If you wonder, what’s the big deal.  Someone recently asked me, what’s the big deal?  My answers:

Marriage is the single most important and basic institution in human society. As it goes, so goes the society. It is a “usual suspect” as a variable in nearly all personal, social, and economic outcomes. For instance, survey a prison, failing school, impoverished community, the unemployed, and you will find a common trend: low marital rates. When men and women don’t marry, things usually go bad (for them and society). It has a taming and tempering effect on men and a protecting securing effect on women, to say nothing of the benefits to children (which are overwhelmingly positive). You ask what the ‘natural state’ is of humankind. Ironically, from either a religious or social evolutionary perspective, as far as a well functioning ordered stable society goes, marriage is paramount.

If you think about it long enough, you’ll see for yourself.  Suppose men suddenly refused marriage, chose singleness, over the course of a year.  What do you think the result would be?  Do you think society would be collectively more mature, responsible, or more violent and idle?  And what about children?  What would they be like when fatherhood is extinct?  And what of women?  Would they be safer, more secure, stable, happy?  What would our prisons look like?  What would our schools look like?  What would our economy look like?  If the answer isn’t self-evident to you, perhaps you are committed more to an ideological dogma than sociological fact.

Alarming graphs from Pew:

Rising Share of Never-Married Adults, Growing Gender GapPublic Divided over Value of Marriage for SocietyNever-Married Women Want a Spouse with a Steady JobFor Young, Never-Married Women, the Pool of Employed Young Men Has ShrunkEducation and Marriage: Shifting Patterns for Women and MenThe Education Gap Between Never-Married Men and Women Has Widened over TimeRising Share of Never-Married Adults, Growing Race GapOne-in-Four of Today’s Young Adults May Never Marry

 

A Two Kingdom response to California State University’s non-neutral student org policy

12 Sep

From R. Scott Clark:

In (1559) Institutes 3.19.15 Calvin wrote that God has instituted a “twofold government in man” (duplex esse in homine regimen). This truth means that we have a legitimate interest in both sacred and secular spheres. By distinguishing between sacred andsecular spheres I do not intend to imply in any way that Christ is Lord over one but not over the other or that the Christian is obligated to God in one but not in the other. Rather, I intend to say that God rules over both ecclesiastical and non-ecclesiastical spheres, in which Christians live under God’s authority, in distinct ways. It might help if we distinguish between secular andsecularist. The latter seeks to deny, obliterate, or suppress the ecclesiastical and the spiritual. Though it is frequently derided, the distinction between the secular (that which is common, on a practical level, between believers and non-believers) and the sacred (that which is unique to Christians and particularly to the Christian church) has solid roots in the Reformed tradition. E.g., Westminster Confession 1.6 speaks of those things that “common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence…” as distinct from “sacred functions” (WCF 23.3). The Second Helvetic Confession makes this very distinction in chapter 19: “…that is, to take it from the common and ordinary use, and to appoint it to a holy use.” This use of the distinction between the “secular” (common) and “sacred” (set apart) occurs frequently in the Reformed explanations of the sacraments in theologies and in the confessional documents. This distinction is hard to avoid. After all, if everything is sacred, then nothing is sacred and clearly there are sacred matters.

As citizens with obligations before God to both spheres Christians ought to take seriously their duties to the civil magistrate. In the American, constitutional Republic, citizens vote, they serve in office, and they advise their legislators and other officers. On a practical level, these acts are common to Christians and to non-Christians even if with epistemology (how we know what we know) and theology in view we might explain those acts very differently. One area that ought to be a matter of growing concern for Christians (and other religious folk) is the attempt by some in our society to use administrative and bureaucratic positions to silence views with which they disagree. Such impulses are fundamentally un-American and unjust. One egregious example of this drive to silence dissent is the recent decision by the Cal State University system to “derecognize” Inter-Varsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF). This move follows a 2012 decision to require all student organizations, as IVCF explains, to admit potentially all students to leadership positions. Such policies have been pursued with vigor as “politically correct” across university campuses for some time. University administrators have clearly decided that they no longer believe in genuinely free speech or in a genuine diversity of ideas and are seeking to enforce from above ideological conformity. Of course this is the antithesis of a genuinely liberal approach to education. It is the essence of illiberalism. One missions organization describes university campuses as the equivalent of a “closed country.” The foolishness of such an approach, taken ironically under the guise of diversity, is obvious after only a few moments of reflection. Should a registered Republican be allowed to run the students Democrat association? Should a Hasidic Jew be allowed to run the student Muslim association?

The price of acceptance by Cal State system?

 It is essentially asking InterVarsity chapters to change the core of their identity, and to change the way they operate in order to be an officially recognized student group.

When even the New York Times recognizes that your policy is insane, your policy is out of touch with  reason and common sense.

Cal State’s new policy contradicts their own motto: vox veritas vita, which because it is a slogan without any verbs might be translated in several ways, but which suggests a relationship between speaking up, truth, and life. The CSU system was founded in 1857 as a single teacher’s college, then called a “normal” school. It has grown to 23 campuses and has nearly one half million students. It’s difficult to imagine that the founders might have foreseen a day when it was not permissible for a student organization to hold the historic Christian faith. Yet, IVCF (and presumably other orthodox Christian organizations) are no longer allowed to “speak up” for truth. They are no longer allowed to apply that truth to life. From what mountain did the administers descend, what revelation did they receive that gives them the authority to banish historic Christian orthodoxy from campus? It is one thing to disagree. It is another to attempt to persuade an organization to change its mind but it is quite another to force them to conform or flee. That is totalitarian.

How should Christians respond? First they need to become aware. This trend to ideological homogeneity has been under way for sometime. Second, they should do, as IVCF has done, and recognize that this is God’s providence. Third, they should not become passive. The Cal State system is funded by public tax and student tuition dollars. If Cal State only wants secularists on campus, then let the secularists pay for campus. Let the secularists pay the rising administrative costs and faculty salaries. Let the free market do its work. Fourth, Christians should organize and perhaps go to court. Whatever one thinks of para-ecclesiastical organizations (I have been a critic), this sort of policy affects all of us. If they can ban IVCF they can also ban Reformed University Fellowship.

Christians live in a twofold regime. They support the visible church with tithes and offerings and they respect God’s servant Caesar (Rom 13) by paying taxes but in a Republic Christians have a right and even a duty to organize in private societies and to seek to influence civil polity and policy for the common good. It is not in the interests of a liberal education for idealogical zealots to ban genuine ideological diversity from campus. Who is seeking to ban the Marxists from campus? No one. Why should religious groups, who still believe their historic faiths, be singled out? Is that not the essence of illiberalism? No one is compelled to join a voluntary student association. Why shouldn’t organizations, on publicly-funded campuses, be free to determine their own governance?

Original Post

InterVarsity now officially “derecognized” at 23 CA universities

8 Sep

More of the same:

SEP 6, 2014
RELIGIOUS LIBERTY

InterVarsity “Derecognized” at California State University’s 23 Campuses: Some Analysis and Reflections

Will students with actual beliefs be allowed to have organizations on campus? |
InterVarsity "Derecognized" at California State University's 23 Campuses: Some Analysis and Reflections

CAMPUS CONNECTION

InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) has been, in modern campus terminology, “derecognized” by California State University schools. Basically, they will no longer be arecognized campus organization on any of the 23 schools in that system. IVCF has been derecognized because they require their leaders to have Christian beliefs.

It’s not just InterVarsity that will be impacted. Following the same logic, any group that insists on requiring its leaders to follow an agreed upon set of guiding beliefs is no longer kosher (irony intended) at California’s state universities. This will impact many other faith-based organizations with actual, well, faith-based beliefs. Presumably, even People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals would have to allow Oscar Meyer to lead their campus chapters.

Only in a modern American university would this make any sense.

Now, it’s not persecution. Christians are not banned. People can share their faith. But, now, what we once called “equal access” has taken another hit—people of faith do not have equal access to the university community, like the environmentalist club, the LGBT organization, or the chess club.

The university system has decided that speech with beliefs that undergird it—and shape how it is organized—has to be derecognized.

The Details

I asked Greg Jao, who is National Field Director & Campus Access Coordinator, what this actually meant. He explained,

Loss of recognition means we lose 3 things: free access to rooms (this will cost our chapters $13k-30k/year to reserve room). We also lose access to student activities programs, including the new student fairs where we meet most students. We also lose standing when we engage faculty, students and administrators.

And while they still have freedom to request a meeting spot in some buildings, they no longer have the status when other officially recognized groups request the same spot—even though they are, well, fee-paying students in a facility owned by the people of California.

Jao indicated the work is not done, explaining,

We still intend to minister on campus but loss of recognition is a significant impediment.

The Bigger Issue

The bigger, and ongoing, issue is the continual sanitization of unacceptable religious voices from universities. It’s ironic—those who champion nondiscrimination, in the name of nondiscrimination, are creating rules that push out those who “discriminate” based on biblical belief statements.

A few years ago, I asked in the pages of USAToday, are evangelicals no longer welcome in the public arena? If that arena is a California state university, and those evangelicals want an official school organization, that answer is obvious.

This has already happened in other places, perhaps most notably at Vanderbilt Universityin Nashville. But, Vanderbilt is a private university. Now, state schools have decided that, due to their odd policies restricting belief based organization from requiring belief, students who have evangelical beliefs—and think the leaders of their belief-based campus organization should also have beliefs—are no longer welcome as a student organization.

Recently Tish Warren chronicled for Christianity Today her own experience at Vanderbilt here in Nashville, where a similar action was taken against not just InterVarsity, but Catholic and Mormon groups. Student groups requiring leaders to sign doctrinal statements were derecognized to second class status.

Warren, who was an InterVarsity leader, believes Vanderbilt officials weren’t simply establishing principles of equality as they claimed, but intentionally creating an inequality of ideas that excludes vigorous expression of Christianity outside of the marketplace of ideas:

“What began as a concern about sexuality and pluralism quickly became a conversation about whether robustly religious communities would be allowed on campus. In effect, the new policy privileged certain belief groups and forbade all others. Religious organizations were welcome as long as they were malleable: as long as their leaders didn’t need to profess anything in particular; as long as they could be governed by sheer democracy and adjust to popular mores or trends; as long as they didn’t prioritize theological stability.”

Warren explains that conservative groups had crossed a line in the sand. That line, she said,

“was drawn by two issues: creedal belief and sexual expression. If religious groups required set truths or limited sexual autonomy, they were bad—not just wrong but evil, narrow-minded, and too dangerous to be tolerated on campus.”

In this case, it is a university policy and specifically about beliefs. However, it appears, increasingly, that Evangelical (and Catholic and Mormon) beliefs are the new “racism” to be excluded from the free exchange of ideas at institutions of higher learning. For the safety and academic well-being of university students, Evangelicals must be organizationally separated (by derecognition) away from the scholastic populace.

Warren writes:

“After we lost our registered status, our organization was excluded from new student activity fairs…Because we were no longer allowed to use Vanderbilt’s name, we struggled to convey that we were a community of Vanderbilt students who met near campus.”

Welcome to the new world.

Read the rest from CT

When universities establish secular articles of faith. A personal story from Vanderbilt

27 Aug

Amazing, sad, telling, and just the beginning.  Wow.  The founding fathers had many disputes, but there was one thing they all agreed upon when it comes to religion and government: the government should never establish articles of faith for anyone.  It isn’t the business of government, the state, to determine what is and what is not acceptable content in a religious creed.  Is this not precisely what Vanderbilt is doing here (yes, it’s private but public universities do the same thing with support from the Supreme Court)?  Another lesson to learn for evangelicals and confessional Christians.  Your personality will often be insufficient to win you friends or favors in the university.  It’s your creed that’s the problem, not your character.  Be winsome, charitable, tempered, and civil, because this is the right way to behave in this age (Gal. 6:10, 1 Thess. 4:11, 1 Pet. 2:12).  But the offense of the gospel will often outweigh any civility or charity you exhibit.

The Wrong Kind of Christian

I thought I was an acceptable kind of evangelical.

I’m not a fundamentalist. My friends and I enjoy art, alcohol, and cultural engagement.
We avoid spiritual clichés and buzzwords. We value authenticity, study, racial reconciliation, and social and environmental justice.

Being a Christian made me somewhat weird in my urban, progressive context, but despite some clear differences, I held a lot in common with unbelieving friends. We could disagree about truth, spirituality, and morality, and remain on the best of terms. The failures of the church often made me more uncomfortable than those in the broader culture.

Then, two years ago, the student organization I worked for at Vanderbilt University got kicked off campus for being the wrong kind of Christians.

In May 2011, Vanderbilt’s director of religious life told me that the group I’d helped lead for two years, Graduate Christian Fellowship—a chapter of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship—was on probation. We had to drop the requirement that student leaders affirm our doctrinal and purpose statement, or we would lose our status as a registered student organization.

I met with him to understand the change. During the previous school year, a Christian fraternity had expelled several students for violating their behavior policy. One student said he was ousted because he is gay. Vanderbilt responded by forbidding any belief standards for those wanting to join or lead any campus group.

In writing, the new policy refers only to constitutionally protected classes (race, religion, sexual identity, and so on), but Vanderbilt publicly adopted an “all comers policy,” which meant that no student could be excluded from a leadership post on ideological grounds. College Republicans must allow Democrats to seek office; the environmental group had to welcome climate-change skeptics; and a leader of a religious group could not be dismissed if she renounced faith midyear. (The administration granted an exception to sororities and fraternities.)

Like most campus groups, InterVarsity welcomes anyone as a member. But it asks key student leaders—the executive council and small group leaders—to affirm its doctrinal statement, which outlines broad Christian orthodoxy and does not mention sexual conduct specifically. But the university saw belief statements themselves as suspect. Any belief—particularly those about the authority of Scripture or the church—could potentially constrain sexual activity or identity. So what began as a concern about sexuality and pluralism quickly became a conversation about whether robustly religious communities would be allowed on campus.

In effect, the new policy privileged certain belief groups and forbade all others. Religious organizations were welcome as long as they were malleable: as long as their leaders didn’t need to profess anything in particular; as long as they could be governed by sheer democracy and adjust to popular mores or trends; as long as they didn’t prioritize theological stability. Creedal statements were allowed, but as an accessory, a historic document, or a suggested guideline. They could not have binding authority to shape or govern the teaching and practices of a campus religious community.

At first I thought this was all a misunderstanding that could be sorted out between reasonable parties. If I could explain to the administration that doctrinal statements are an important part of religious expression—an ancient, enduring practice that would be a given for respected thinkers like Thomas Aquinas—then surely they’d see that creedal communities are intellectually valid and permissible. If we could show that we weren’t homophobic culture warriors but friendly, thoughtful evangelicals committed to a diverse, flourishing campus, then the administration and religious groups could find common ground.

When I met with the assistant dean of students, she welcomed me warmly and seemed surprised that my group would be affected by the new policy. I told her I was a woman in the ordination process, that my husband was a PhD candidate in Vanderbilt’s religion department, and that we loved the university. There was an air of hope that we could work things out.

Line in the Sand

But as I met with other administrators, the tone began to change. The word discrimination began to be used—a lot—specifically in regard to creedal requirements. It was lobbed like a grenade to end all argument. Administrators compared Christian students to 1960s segregationists. I once mustered courage to ask them if they truly thought it was fair to equate racial prejudice with asking Bible study leaders to affirm the Resurrection. The vice chancellor replied, “Creedal discrimination is still discrimination.”

Feeling battered, I talked with my InterVarsity supervisor. He responded with a wry smile, “But we’re moderates!” We thought we were nuanced and reasonable. The university seemed to think of us as a threat.

For me, it was revolutionary, a reorientation of my place in the university and in culture.

I began to realize that inside the church, the territory between Augustine of Hippo and Jerry Falwell seems vast, and miles lie between Ron Sider and Pat Robertson. But in the eyes of the university (and much of the press), subscribers to broad Christian orthodoxy occupy the same square foot of cultural space.

The line between good and evil was drawn by two issues: creedal belief and sexual expression. If religious groups required set truths or limited sexual autonomy, they were bad—not just wrong but evil, narrow-minded, and too dangerous to be tolerated on campus.

It didn’t matter to them if we were politically or racially diverse, if we cared about the environment or built Habitat homes. It didn’t matter if our students were top in their fields and some of the kindest, most thoughtful, most compassionate leaders on campus. There was a line in the sand, and we fell on the wrong side of it.

Read the rest of “The Wrong  Kind of Christian”

The craziness of public schooling these days

14 Aug

From Heather Wilhelm (clip):

If you were to explain our country’s educational system to a moderately bright space alien, however, they would look at you as if you had three heads.

With so many oddities in the public school system, it’s hard to know where to start. Across the country, arbitrarily drawn school district lines radically distort real estate markets. Anyone who has shopped for a house in the United States knows one sad truth: Better school districts command a steep premium. (The other truth, it seems, is that you probably won’t like the kitchen.) Despite our government’s lofty rhetoric of free and equal public education, the fact remains that better-off families can buy their way into better schools.

It gets even crazier, because despite this disparity, public school funding doesn’t seem to make much of a difference. The average American public school spends $11,455 per pupil, and that’s is just the average: Washington, D.C., the home of legendarily horrible government schools—among eighth-graders, only 17 percent are proficient in reading and 19 percent proficient in math—spends upward of $18,000 per student. That’s from the U.S. Census Bureau, by the way; after examining the numbers, the Cato Institute estimated that D.C. might spend closer to $25,000 per pupil. Across the board, inflation-adjusted per-pupil spending has tripled since 1970. Test scores have not gone up.

Where does that money go? Well, in 2012, D.C. teachers made an average of $90,681 in salary and benefits. But the real growth in school spending can be found outside the classroom. According to a report from the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, “The Hidden Half: School Employees That Don’t Teach,” non-teaching staff in American public schools spiked 130 percent between 1970 and 2010. Student enrollment for that time period, they note, grew only 8.6 percent. Since 1950, school employees in general—many in “administrative” positions—grew by almost 500 percent.

 

I haven’t even mentioned the cultural problems endemic in broad-based, broad-brush, one-size-fits-all government schools: fierce battles over curriculum and the Common Core; the fear that your sixth-grader might come home with a lunch box stuffed with condoms helpfully provided by the school nurse; or, even worse, the fear that your child, stuck in a school wracked with gang violence, might not come home at all—all because you can’t afford to leave your ZIP code.

According to the Council for American Private Education, average private school tuition in America is $8,549—thousands less than per-pupil spending at your average struggling public school. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that private schools also consistently outperform public schools on national achievement tests.

School choice, it seems, should be a no-brainer. Why not give families vouchers, allowing them to make free choices for their children’s education? There’s a reason increasing numbers of inner-city activists in places like Chicago and Washington, D.C., are fighting for charter schools and voucher programs. They know choice would be better for their kids. They know the government has failed them.

Read more: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2014/08/14/the_crazy_world_of_public_schools_123654.html#ixzz3ANS74GNu
Follow us: @RCP_Articles on Twitter

The Western Heritage series by Hillsdale; simply the best

6 Aug

Let me take a moment to HIGHLY recommend the online courses for a general audience available through Hillsdale College. I particularly recommend the one entitled Western Heritage. It’s a big help; the talk on the Hebrew Legacy is great.

 

 

So what’s the best paradigm for understanding the Founders’ philosophical underpinnings?

31 Jul

Very helpful essay from Professor George Carey:

There is no dearth of studies on the political thought of the American founding era. Yet there is no consensus on what theories, values, or goals were uppermost in the minds of the founding generation. On the contrary, on a number of critical theoretical issues and concerns, there appears to be an inverse relationship between the scholarly attention devoted to this era and what we can affirm with certainty. What we have are competing “paradigms” and schools of thought, each with different approaches, perspectives, and assumptions. And while it is clear that the Framers believed in limited government as essential to prevent oppression and tyranny, these paradigms point to significant differences among them over what these limitations should be, how they should be enforced, and how they might be maintained.

We can begin our survey with a brief examination of the most prominent of the early and adversely critical accounts of the Founders and their motivations: that of the Progressives. It is best to start here, because limited government was one of their central themes: they were against it. In significant ways, as we will endeavor to show, the progressives also provide the background necessary for understanding the modern paradigms, as well as for the differences between them. Finally, by way of assessing where we are today, we turn to modern conservative thought to see in what ways, if any, our political and social evolution over the decades has “unleashed” government, posing threats to limited government that could not be anticipated by our forebears.

Read the whole thing here

Understanding the legal and cultural context in which religious liberty has been trumped by homosexual rights

28 Jul

Very fair and helpful summary here, as well as suggestions going forward, from a religious liberty legal scholar (John Inazu):

Religious Freedom vs. LGBT Rights? It's More Complicated

A private Christian school holds what it considers a biblical view of marriage. It welcomes all students, but insists that they adhere to certain beliefs and abstain from conduct that violates those beliefs. Few doubt the sincerity of those beliefs. The school’s leaders are seen as strange and offensive to the world, but then again, they know that they will find themselves as aliens and strangers in the world.

This description fits a number of Christian schools confronted today with rapidly changing sexual norms. But the description also would have fit Bob Jones University, a school that barred interracial dating until 2000. And in 1983, that ban cost Bob Jones its tax exemption, in a decision upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. Even for a relatively small school of a few thousand students, that meant losing millions of dollars. And the government’s removal of tax-exempt status had a purpose: one Supreme Court justice described it as “elementary economics: when something becomes more expensive, less of it will be purchased.”

The comparison between Bob Jones in 1983 and Christian schools today will strike some as unwarranted. Indeed, there are historical reasons to reject it. The discriminatory practices in Bob Jones were linked to the slavery of African Americans and the Jim Crow South. The 1983 Court decision came within a generation of Brown v. Board of Education, and its legal principles extended to private secondary schools (including “segregationist academies”) that resisted racial integration.

There are also significant theological differences between Bob Jones’s race-based arguments and arguments that underlie today’s sexual conduct restrictions. Those differences are rooted in contested questions about identity, as well as longstanding Christian boundaries for sexual behavior. Gay and lesbian Christians committed to celibacy show that sexual identity and sexual conduct are not always one in the same. But these points are increasingly obscured outside of the church. We see this in the castigation of any opposition to same-sex liberties as bigoted. That kind of language has moved rapidly into mainstream culture. And it is difficult to envision how it would be undone or dialed back.

How should Christians respond to these circumstances? First, we must understand the history from which they emerge. Second, we must understand the legal, social, and political dimensions of the current landscape. Third, and finally, we must recognize that arguments that seem intuitive from within Christian communities will increasingly not make sense to the growing numbers of Americans who are outside the Christian tradition.

Read the rest

University non-discrimination policies governing student organizations are hardly ‘neutral’

21 Jul

Recently, Bowdoin College joined other colleges and universities around the country by imposing a “non-discrimination” policy over all official student organizations regarding their membership and leadership requirements.  In essence, the policy is an “all-comers” policy barring student groups from setting or enforcing membership & leadership requirements that discriminate on the basis of gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation.  But as Sociologist George Yancey (and the nation’s leading expert on anti-Christian bias in higher education) points out, the policy is precisely NOT what it says it is: neutral.

Excerpt:

To those of you who have not heard of this controversy here is a quick recap. As seen in a New York Times article, the college recently decided to enforce a rule stating that student organizations must make all leadership roles open to any student regardless of sex, religion, sexual preference or race. The Intervarsity organization insists that it is a Christian organization and only wants Christians in leadership positions. As such, they have refused to sign a statement indicating that their leadership positions are open to non-Christians. One could argue that they should have signed the document and then do what they wanted with their leadership, but evidently they had too much integrity to engage in such dishonesty. Nevertheless, I am not sure such a strategy would work long-term as a non-Christian may challenge for leadership and then claim discrimination if he or she does not gain a leader’s role. As a result of Intervarsity’s refusal to make their leadership open to those who do not share the beliefs of the group, they are no longer a recognized student organization.

—————————————————————————–

The supporters of the policy argue that leadership of all groups should be open to anybody regardless of their religious beliefs. This does not mean that anyone will become a leader but that they can run for the office of leader in the group. Right from the start we have an attitude supporting a certain perspective which makes this policy non-neutral: the idea that democracy, or a vote in the group, is the acceptable way to choose a leader. Many religious groups believe that leadership should be selected by an elite group rather than from the masses. Others may simply look for a sign from God as to who their leader should be. I may agree or disagree with non-democratic methods but if I impose an idea of democracy into how a religious group chooses its leader, then I am no longer using a non-neutral policy.
But this incongruity is only the start of an obvious imposition of the college in the affairs of IVP’s religious ideas. The college suggests that the group can fulfill its goals even without a leader who is committed to Christianity. There is a religious tradition that transcends the one’s actual religious faith. This tradition is that the same God in Christianity is the same one in Judaism, Islam, Eastern religion etc. In this sort of religious tradition, it really would not matter if a Christian runs a Christian organization. In fact, an agnostic humanist could technically run the organization as long as they promote beneficial values. I am not going to comment on the theological soundness of this perspective. I respect the right of individuals to hold to this perspective. However, many Christian groups do not share such a perspective. They believe that the different religious traditions are incompatible and that they have chosen the proper path. For them, it is unthinkable to seek religious enlightenment from a non-Christian, even one with solid values. College administrators, in their role of administrators, should not choose sides in this theological debate. But when they imply that a Christian group should accept a non-Christian leader, then they have entered that debate. That Christian group has decided that leadership must be with their same religious tradition and does not accept the premise that all religions led to the same God. The college has no business dictating otherwise.
Certain arguments have been used to support the Bowdoin’s policy. One is that it is not a policy that requires leaders who are not Christian but merely states that they should be allowed to apply for leadership. However, as I noted above, the college should not dictate to organizations how their leadership is picked. But some will say there is no way that a non-Christian will be voted into power of a Christian organization. If that organization does not want a non-Christian then they only have to make sure that one is not voted into office. If we are talking about a large well-established organization, then this is true. But some Christian groups are rather small and a mischievous atheist may get a kick out of bringing some of his/her friends and getting voted as president of the local Christian student group. That atheist might think it would be cool for that Christian group to sponsor an “Emperor has no pants” program. “Nonsense” some will say. No one will take the time to infiltrate a religious group they do not believe in. (According to what I have heard the Intervarsity group has about 25 people. If only about half show up during a meeting then a dozen non-Christians is all that is needed to elect a non-Christian leader – not necessarily a very difficult task.) I have seen non-Christians flood a Christian website. I have seen speakers on college campuses shouted down. Is it really hard to believe that some students will believe that it is their right and duty to take over a Christian group and shut down that religious voice? Why would we provide such individuals with such an opportunity with the foolish Bowdoin policy?
Ironically, the Bowdoin policy is more likely to have an opposite effect than promoting a diversity of ideological and religious opinions that many of the supporters of this policy will profess to support. Small groups who have beliefs that contrast with popular views are the ones that can be taken over by a larger group of dissenters. If that becomes a common pattern, because believe it or not fads do happen on college campuses, then a vibrant group of diverse groups can become a homogenous set of groups based on the same progressive humanist values. Do I know that this will occur in time? No, but neither can those supporting the policy offer any real assurances that such a process will not occur. It is even possible that some may hope that such a process occurs so that those “intolerant” Christians will be unable to spread their “bigoted” beliefs. Policies likely to discriminate against minor groups should require powerful justification to be accepted and such justification is lacking for the Bowdoin policy.
The last sentence leads to another defense offered for this policy. That defense is that a college or university should not support a group that promotes discrimination. Individuals who offer this defense tend to speak of Christians as bigots and thus are not sorry to see them lose their recognition. Of course bigotry is in the eyes of the beholder. If bigotry is, as George Haggerty suggests, the opposite of respect and tolerance, then the support of policies out of a lack of respect and tolerance towards conservative Christian groups can be an anti-Christian bigotry. Indeed, Haggerty argues that bigotry is a problem on college campuses since it prevents the free exchange of ideas. It is ironic that some use claims of bigotry to support a policy that likely will inhibit a diversity of ideas on college campuses. The bottom line is that some individuals exhibit little concern about pushing policies that negatively impact groups they do not like, which is the opposite of the tolerance they profess to admire.
Finally, some argue that losing recognition is not a big deal. The de-recognized groups are free to meet off campus to their heart’s desire. But the college should not have to support the ideals of their group. However, the college should not support the ideals of any student group. Remember that college administrators are not supposed to take sides. They are supposed to allow students to associate, and form groups with whom they choose. Treating groups differently because they insist on leaders who actually believe in the mission of the group is choosing sides. It really does not matter what issues of recognition are at stake. If some groups get to use the college’s name, have access to student funding, use campus rooms or whatever while others do not get the same treatment based on their belief about group leadership, then the college is taking sides. They are giving some groups advantages over other groups. These are not the actions of those who support religious neutrality.
This is a policy with a disparate impact on conservative Christian groups. I have little doubt that if it has such an impact on other groups, that the administrators would be more sensitive to the concerns of the group. If this policy threatened a women’s rights organization since it made it possible for a bunch of men to take the organization over, I am certain that Bowdoin would think more than twice about the policy.

Full blog post

 

Now for the first time, for non-college educated women, first comes baby

17 Jun

The social, political, economic consequences are inestimable.  And yet, the only privilege anyone wants to talk about in terms of unmerited benefits or undeserved suffering is white privilege.  Being born to married biological parents is of far greater consequence to children, but ignored by so many of the enlightened elite.

From the Atlantic:

First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes … actually reverse that. First comes the baby, then, we’ll see.

For people who don’t have a college degree, having a child in wedlock has become the exception, not the rule. According to a new analysis presented at the Population Association of America, among parents aged 26 to 31 who didn’t graduate from college, 74 percent of the mothers and 70 percent of the fathers had at least one child outside of marriage. Even among mothers who had high school degrees or some college but no B.A., the majority of births occur among moms who are either single or cohabiting.

For the study, researchers examined the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, which interviewed 9,000 young people born between 1981 and 1998 annually from 1997 to 2011. They found that the more education a mother has, the less likely she is to have a baby out of wedlock:

Of mothers with no high school diploma, 87 percent had at least one baby while unmarried.


Births among women who didn’t finish high school

Births by age and relationship status at the time of birth for women who completed less than 12 grades of school. (Johns Hopkins University)

Of mothers with a high school diploma, 71 percent had at least one baby while unmarried.


Births among women who finished high school

Births by age and relationship status at the time of birth for women who completed 12 grades of school, but no college. (Johns Hopkins University)

Of mothers with one to three years of college, 67 percent had at least one baby while unmarried.


Births among women with some college

Births by age and relationship status at the time of birth for women who completed one to three years of college. (Johns Hopkins University)

Of mothers with four or more years of college, 32 percent had at least one baby while unmarried.


Births among women who completed college

Births by age and relationship status at the time of birth for women who completed four or more years of college. (Johns Hopkins University)

The less-educated mothers also tended to have their children younger. Women with B.A.s were most likely to have children at age 29 or 30, while those with high-school degrees had them at 22.

“The clear line is whether you have a four-year college degree,” the study’s lead author, Johns Hopkins sociologist Andrew Cherlin, told me. “There are two clear paths through adulthood—one for people who have a bachelor’s degree and one for people who don’t.”

There are several things going on here:

First, the cornerstone theory of marriage no longer applies. Culturally, young adults of all social classes and income levels are less likely to think of marriage as the “cornerstone” of their lives—that is, the first thing they do as adults. Instead, people now think of it as a “capstone”— sort of a trophy for having earned a B.A., obtained a job, and generally learned to live on their own for a while. The national marriage age has gradually ticked up as a result. For people who don’t have all the stones leading up to the capstone, though, the entire order of operations gets messed up.

Second, marriage is increasingly something only educated people do. As my former colleague Jordan Weissmann wrote, the less a man earns these days, the less likely he is to have ever been hitched. College-educated people are increasingly only marrying other college-educated people, and they’re more likely to get married overall. One reason less-educated women are having children out of wedlock is that college-educated men are not interested in marrying them.

Read the rest

On the absence of conservatives in higher education

9 Jun

From Steven HAyward in the New Criterion:

The social scientist Neil Gross made a splash last year with his book Why Are Professors Liberal, and Why Do Conservatives Care?, which, among other things, attempted to refute the claim that conservatives face ideological discrimination in academic hiring. There is some quantitative evidence (with more on the way soon) of ideological discrimination, which Gross grudgingly acknowledges, but he then goes to great lengths to argue that it is vastly overestimated.

He may be partly right, but not for the reasons his data-rich analysis lays out. Furthermore, Gross does not begin to reach the more important dimensions of the ideological shape of today’s humanities and social science departments that come into play before you even reach the fever swamps of race, class, and gender.

Liberals have pushed back against the charge of ideological discrimination in hiring with an entirely valid point: You guys don’t show up! There simply aren’t many conservative graduate students in the humanities and social sciences. If the top 200 universities set out to hire a conservative for each of their humanities departments, they’d run out after about 75; in some departments, they might run out of qualified conservative job candidates after about two. And if you can’t find newly minted Ph.D.’s for tenure track jobs, you have to poach the thin ranks of conservatives already in academia somewhere, leading to no net increase in conservative presence in universities. But while liberals can’t be blamed wholly for this, they can be blamed for acquiescing in, when not actively causing, the degradation of the humanities and social sciences in ways make academic track jobs repellent to many intellectual conservatives. Understanding what has taken place requires a three-part analysis.

First, it is necessary to take brief note of what so many are calling the “higher education bubble,” that is, the shockingly high cost of colleges and universities today. It is necessary to connect this trend with the precipitous decline in enrollment in humanities and social sciences—a 50 percent decline over the last generation. It is presumed that this decline is a direct result of education’s high cost and increasing job consciousness among students, but the decline in humanities and social science enrollment preceded the worst of higher education cost inflation. In other words, the soaring cost of college may have only aggravated a more important underlying cause.

Second, it is useful to pose a series of questions about what might be learned from the particular places where you do find conservatives in higher education—questions that are susceptible of a range of possible answers, and therefore perhaps more controversial.

Third, there is no escaping or papering over the substantive differences between the way left and right think about education itself. These differences explain a lot of things that have escaped notice, but taking these differences into account might ironically make liberalism more robust on campus.

Everyone knows what has happened to the cost of higher education: a 500 percent increase in college tuition in the last twenty-five years, while the Consumer Price Index rose just 115 percent. By contrast, health care costs have risen just 300 percent. The figure the White House put out to accompany President Obama’s speech last summer on this subject noted that, since 1983, tuition and fees at four-year public colleges have risen by 257 percent, while typical family incomes have advanced 16 percent. What is less well known is the adverse result: Today, only about 7 percent of recent college graduates come from the bottom-income quartile, compared with 12 percent in 1970, when federal aid was scarce. From a liberal egalitarian point of view, we’re going in the wrong direction.

The decline in humanities and social science enrollment began long before the current economic downturn made students more hyperconscious of the marketability of their degree. And if the enrollment in humanities courses continues to slide, can a reduction in humanities faculty positions be far behind? I think we are not far from starting to see “double-retirements,” that is tenure-line faculty positions in the humanities discontinued when a senior professor retires. Already we’re witnessing signs of a rapidly shrinking hiring market in the humanities and some social sciences. Political science hiring is down sharply in recent years according to numbers out of the American Political Science Association.

It could be even worse. In Vietnam, still run by the Communist Party, the very selective national university is offering free tuition to anyone who signs up for the university’s curriculum in Marxism. They’ve had to offer free tuition because no students have been signing up for these courses. I can’t help but be amused that the market-clearing price for courses in radical philosophy is lower in a Communist university than in American higher education.

All of this happens in the context of the peculiar world of academic employment in which the road to a professorship has always been steep. Now it’s no longer just a steep hill—more like a rock climb without ropes. Max Weber said over a hundred years ago that “Academic life is an utter gamble.” The odds are getting steadily worse, and if you’re a rational person calculating the odds, you may shy away from a Ph.D. track, or consider non-academic paths as more attractive than academic paths. This probably describes conservatives more than liberals.

It is here that some of the data that Neil Gross, Harvard’s Louis Menand, and others have unearthed and reanalyzed is interesting and helpful, and provides the transition to my short set of queries. Drawing on student survey data from UCLA’s Higher Education Research Institute, Matthew and April Woessner found that self-identified conservative students report higher levels of satisfaction with their university educational experience than self-identified moderate or liberal students, though not surprisingly conservative students report lower levels of satisfaction than liberal students with the humanities and social sciences. (Incidentally, the data found that liberal and conservative students tend to get higher grades than moderates or students who report no political outlook.)

On the surface you’d think that the pool of conservative students who express satisfaction with higher education would lead more of them toward graduate paths, except for their evident alienation from the liberal dominance of the humanities and social sciences, perhaps along with a perceived higher salience for conservatives on pursuing “practical” professional vocations. While these factors can’t be dismissed, Neil Gross points to compelling data about how the most important determinants of whether students go into graduate study are not large ideological factors, but mundane things like whether students have close relationships with professors or find academic mentors to encourage them along graduate paths. And lacking mentors and direct encouragement means that liberal predominance in graduate education, and hence the ranks of left-leaning professors becomes self-reinforcing, even if there is zero political bias in hiring decisions.

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School choice is another, perhaps better, way of doing public education

26 May

From The Federalist

In the classic Charles Dickens novel Bleak House, the reader meets a woman named Mrs. Jellyby. Mrs. Jellyby has an ordinary family, but no time for them at all. This woman has her eyes fixed on something more important.

Her real calling, she feels certain, is overseas charity work. She opines constantly about the tragic conditions in Africa. She throws herself into dubious missionary efforts that are both offensively paternalistic and completely ineffective.

The question of real-world impact hardly seems to cross Mrs. Jellyby’s mind. She derives so much purpose and pleasure from the act of meaning well that actually doing good appears irrelevant. The suffering of others is chiefly a means to self-satisfaction, not a problem to solve.

And she is blind to the pain her fixation causes. Her neglected husband is miserable. Her children run wild. Her home is a disaster. But the matriarch ignores her family’s struggles. Who has time for such worries? There are foreigners to pretend to save!

Dickens heaps scorn on this character’s crazy priorities. The reader is meant to laugh at her disinterest in the efficacy of her work and her inattention to her family.

Updating the parody
What if Dickens were rewriting this story today? The object of Mrs. Jellyby’s concern would need to change. Christianizing Africa is hardly the trendy topic du jour. He’d need another subject on which a self-appointed social justice crusader would feign expertise. Let’s say he picks public education.

How would modern Mrs. Jellyby approach American schools? We can be sure of two things. First, her own sense of self-righteousness would get priority over actual results. And second, her duties to her own family would take a backseat to her grand plans for society.

In short, a comedic case study in how not to help people would look exactly like this op-ed from the New York Times.

Professor Gautney starts by claiming that school choice exacerbates inequality. She backs up this allegation with one study that looks at the racial makeup of schools in New York. The report doesn’t cite a single student outcome. Its sole concern is old-school ethnic arithmetic.

If you were genuinely interested in how education policy affects children, you would not hang your hat on one study of a second-order issue. There is a vast scholarly literature on the direct impact of school choice on actual student outcomes. The bulk of it is quite encouraging.

Take, for example, a recent report from Mathematica Policy Research, a well-respected nonpartisan outfit. I have written about this study before. I plan to keep writing about it. It is that interesting and important.

This report is unique because the scholars kept collecting data long after most studies lose interest. As a result, their data set tracks students past their high school graduations, all through their college years, and even into their early careers.

The results? Compared to virtually identical students who attended traditional high schools, charter students in Chicago and Florida were about 10 percent more likely to enroll in college. The Florida kids also had a 13 percent edge in sticking with college once enrolled. And by their mid-twenties, the Florida kids were earning more than $2,000 more per year on average than their non-charter peers.

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Understanding variation in social immobility among American states (largest correlation = family structure)

20 May

Report on studies from Raj Chetty, Nathaniel Hendren, Patrick Kline, and Emmanuel Saez:

We find substantial variation in mobility across areas (Figure 1). To take one example, children from families at the 25th percentile in Seattle have outcomes comparable to children from families at the median in Atlanta. Some cities – such as Salt Lake City and San Jose – have rates of mobility comparable to countries with the highest rates of relative mobility, such as Denmark. Other cities – such as Atlanta and Milwaukee – have lower rates of mobility than any developed country for which data are currently available.

Figure 1. Intergenerational mobility in the US

Mobility

Notes: This map shows the average percentile rank of children who grow up in below-median income families across areas of the US (absolute upward mobility). Lighter colours represent areas where children from low-income families are more likely to move up in the income distribution. To look up statistics for your own city, use the interactive version of this map created by The New York Times.

What drives social mobility?

Next, we analyse what drives the variation in social mobility across areas. The spatial patterns of the gradients of college attendance and teenage birth rates with respect to parent income across zones are very similar to the pattern in intergenerational income mobility. The fact that much of the spatial variation in children’s outcomes emerges before they enter the labour market suggests that the differences in mobility are driven by factors that affect children while they are growing up.

We explore such factors by correlating the spatial variation in mobility with observable characteristics. We begin by showing that upward income mobility is significantly lower in areas with larger African-American populations. However, white individuals in areas with large African-American populations also have lower rates of upward mobility, implying that racial shares matter at the community (rather than individual) level. One mechanism for such a community-level effect of race is segregation. Areas with larger black populations tend to be more segregated by income and race, which could affect both white and black low-income individuals adversely. Indeed, we find a strong negative correlation between standard measures of racial and income segregation and upward mobility. Moreover, we also find that upward mobility is higher in cities with less sprawl, as measured by commute times to work. These findings lead us to identify segregation as the first of five major factors that are strongly correlated with mobility.

The second factor we explore is inequality. Commuting zones with larger Gini coefficients have less upward mobility, consistent with the “Great Gatsby curve” documented across countries (Krueger 2012, Corak 2013). In contrast, top 1% income shares are not highly correlated with intergenerational mobility both across zones within the US and across countries. Although one cannot draw definitive conclusions from such correlations, they suggest that the factors that erode the middle class hamper intergenerational mobility more than the factors that lead to income growth in the upper tail.

Third, proxies for the quality of the K-12 school system are also correlated with mobility. Areas with higher test scores (controlling for income levels), lower dropout rates, and smaller class sizes have higher rates of upward mobility. In addition, areas with higher local tax rates, which are predominantly used to finance public schools, have higher rates of mobility.

Fourth, social capital indices (Putnam 1995) – which are proxies for the strength of social networks and community involvement in an area — are very strongly correlated with mobility. For instance, high upward mobility areas tend to have higher fractions of religious individuals and greater participation in local civic organisations.

Finally, the strongest predictors of upward mobility are measures of family structure such as the fraction of single parents in the area. As with race, parents’ marital status does not matter purely through its effects at the individual level. Children of married parents also have higher rates of upward mobility if they live in communities with fewer single parents.

We find modest correlations between upward mobility and local tax and government expenditure policies and no systematic correlation between mobility and local labour market conditions, rates of migration, or access to higher education.

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