Tearing Down Fences: The Need for College Reform

Luke Robson

Despite the fact that people are questioning the ROI of a degree and student debt is rising, Americans are still clamoring for a college education. Who can blame them? After all, college is more subsidized than ever. The relative cheapness of a college degree, along with a stagnant job market makes a degree seem more necessary than it is, as its real value is lagging.

But is a college education worth the cost?

Unfortunately, there is a larger problem with colleges today than an economic return. The modern college system has a hidden cost which often goes unnoticed by applicants and their parents.

Students head off to college in hopes of a more promising future. Parents send their children in hopes of their personal improvement.Instead, students are left with a bleak and pessimistic outlook on life, devoid of moral color, and parents receive back children that have been stripped of reasoning, morality, and faith.

Despite professing tolerance, colleges continue to tear apart traditional morality and substitute it with a secularized humanism which is beginning to produce unfortunate side effects.

The college system is set up to force its students to question truth, which is a good start, but it never pushes them to further pursue and find actual truth. Colleges are very good at pulling back the veil and showing the “arbitrary” constructions that shape modern society, but they fail to foster a debate as to whether those same constructions are beneficial or not. The college, according to Russell Kirk, deprives “the young people who pass through its gates of whatever prejudices and moral principles they bring with them,” and sends them out “into the world having given them nothing in return in the way of values or understanding to help them come to terms with the realities of life.”

Certainly, some of the constructions that held back our ancestors were draconian and worthy of being pushed to the wayside, but we seem to be getting ahead of ourselves. We need to give each “social construct” a thorough examination, and understand why it was developed in the first place, before deciding to remove it from our American tradition.

GK Chesterton referred to these societal constructs as “fences” and decried the rapidity with which they were being taken down even at the turn of the twentieth century:

“The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, ‘I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.’ To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: ‘If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.’”

This moral degradation has been prophesied for years, and now we are beginning to see those prophecies come to fruition. Students repeatedly and violently attack speakers whose viewpoints they disagree with. The arena of ideas used to be full of speeches, debates, and toleration for actual ideas. Now it is dominated by Molotov cocktails, black uniforms, and physical danger. Of course, this aggression to opposing ideas is detrimental to the public discourse. The college environment, so often brandished with slogans of “love” and “tolerance,” is rapidly becoming one of the least friendly places for true discussion and debate.

College students don’t know the truth because they can’t know the truth. Truth is found by establishing correspondence between statements and objective facts. The college population has thrown objectivity out the window, and the possibility of finding truth along with it.

Eschewing truth and its moral expectations has also led to the arrested development of America’s young adults. No longer are young adults expected to go and purchase their own health insurance, instead they can stay on their parents’ plans until the age of 26. Accomplishing simple tasks such as doing one’s laundry or paying one’s bills has been lauded as “adulting” by the new, elderly adolescents.

Rather than working to place themselves in positions to affect legitimate change, people today think that they can simply settle for being “activists,” whatever that means. The men and women in the arena have gone home and are hiding under their bed covers, waiting for someone else to do something. A stunning article in The Economist’s 1843 Magazine tells the sad tale of how “young men are dropping out of the job market to spend their time in an alternate reality” by playing video games.

This arrested development is perpetuated by our educational system. Rather than teaching students how to find and hold onto truth worth fighting for, it teaches them that there is no such thing as truth beyond one’s subjective experience. Instead of learning how to stand on the shoulders of giants, American students instead learn to cut those giants down at the knees and leave them bleeding to death. We are entering an age in which truth is subordinated to one’s personal experiences, instead of subordinating our pitiful experiences to the aggregated truth of the ages.

College is not just about preparing students for a career. It’s about preparing students to cherish and build on the truths, or fences, that empower cultures to thrive. We are in need of a reformed education system which allows for true discovery and vibrant defense of truth. We have torn down our fences and are witnessing the consequences, it is time to build them anew.

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