American Conservative Union/CPAC/Reagan Gala
Everett Piper, President, Oklahoma Wesleyan University
March 4, 2016
I want to thank the Bradley Foundation, the American Conservative Union as well as CPAC for this award. I am humbled and honored. There are times when you can feel a bit exhausted paddling against the torrent of ideological fascism sweeping across today’s campuses. It is reassuring to know that there are friends of courage ready to row with you, against this tide. I am grateful and offer my sincere thanks.
In 1948, Richard Weaver told us that ideas have consequences. A few short years earlier, Hitler said, “let me control the textbooks and I will control the State.” Huxley and Orwell followed and warned of dystopias where education would be used as a means to total power and total control. Ideas do matter. Yes, ideas clearly have consequences. Good ideas lead to good places and bad ideas lead to bad places. As your grandmother said: Garbage in garbage out. She was right! Education matters!
Bad ideas will breed bad behavior as surely as an acorn will grow an oak or a hurricane will bring a flood. Why would we expect decades of teaching sexual promiscuity in our schools to result in sexual restraint in our students? Why are we surprised at the selfishness of our culture when we have subjected our children in a curriculum that teaches self-esteem more effectively than it does science and civics? How can we possibly think that teaching values clarification rather than moral absolutes will raise up a virtuous people? Where in the annals of history is there any evidence that the subordination of one person’s right to live to another person’s right to choose ever resulted in the protection of every person’s unalienable right to life? And why would any culture ever think that after decades of diminishing the value of marital fidelity that the same culture would then be able to mount a vigorous defense for the meaning of marriage?
I could go on and on. The evidence is pretty clear: All we need to do is turn on the nightly news to see the proof. Ideas have consequences.
Today, education has become more interested in what is common than what is exceptional; in acquiring more information rather than more ethics; in teaching the student how to get a career and use a condom rather than how to build character and follow Christ. Education has lost its way and consequently our country has lost its soul and our culture has lost its sense.
The contemporary academy is known not for pursuing truth but rather for its celebration of tolerance and in the name of tolerance we are told that our intolerance is intolerable. Education’s elites actually parrot this pabulum: “I can’t tolerate your intolerance.” “I am sure nothing is sure.” “I know nothing can be known.” “It is absolutely true that there are not absolutes.” And they do so with a straight face. It would be humorous if this self-refuting duplicity weren’t so sad.
The result of this nonsense is that the banner tolerance has become a dark flag of tyranny almost overnight. What was academic freedom just yesterday is ideological fascism today. Rather than celebrating liberty, liberals now demand conformity. Campuses are now bastions of speech codes rather than free speech. Students are more interested in “trigger warnings” than they are in pursuing truth. Disagreement is now synonymous with hate. Ben Stein was right; there is “no intelligence is allowed.” If you dare to challenge the party line or the politically correct you will be “expelled.”
The bottom line is this: Education is in peril. Run by the State and its thought police, colleges across the land have become indoctrination camps more so than campuses of open inquiry. Propaganda and power now reign where there used to be a pursuit of truth.
An event this past summer that is now old news is very instructive and should not be forgotten. It was when Howard Dean questioned then candidate Scott Walker’s qualifications to be President because of Walker’s lack of a college degree. “Were (Walker) to become President,” said Dean, “(he) would be the first in many generations that did not have a college degree … The issue is how well-educated is this guy? And that’s a problem.”
Well, for the sake of argument, let’s admit that Dean’s premise has some merit: that one’s education does matter and that, as Richard Weaver wrote in 1948, ideas do have consequences; that it all starts with education; that good ideas lead to good beliefs, good behavior, good culture and good government; and that bad ideas lead to bad beliefs, bad behavior, bad culture and bad government. Let’s assume that we, therefore, would be wise to take a look at the ideas our colleges have been teaching over the past several decades and evaluate the results. For the sake of argument, let’s just look at education’s track record for the past 68 years since Weaver’s seminal publication which is ironically the same year of Howard Dean’s birth.
For example, for 68 years we’ve sent our kids off to sit under the tutelage of faculty who have panned a Judeo-Christian ethic and praised its antithesis. For 68 years we’ve taught our next generation “it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as it works for you.” For 68 years we’ve told our youth that there is a “moral equivalency” between America and its enemies and implied that our nation is bad and the rest of the world is right to hate us and we have instructed our students to laugh at those who warned of Communism and government largesse. For 68 years college professors have said that Marxism has its merits and that liberation theology is the only “good religion,” that socialism is better than free enterprise and that capitalism is the cause of crime. For 68 years we have fomented class resentment and racial animus. For 68 years we’ve diminished excellence while extolling entitlement. For 68 years professors have preached that pastors and priests are stupid. For 68 years we have fed our kids a diet of moral nihilism and instructed our boys and girls to use a condom rather than obey God’s Commandments.
Why are we surprised in what we see in today’s news? Our judges can’t find the word “marriage” in the dictionary. Our state department thinks the way to stop terrorists is to give them jobs. Our President says he appreciates the “legitimate grievances” of Muslims who stone women, behead journalists, and crucify children. Our congress has lost its consciences, our kids have lost their character, and our culture has lost its soul.
Yes, education is “a problem.” Ideas do have consequences and the lousy ideas we have been teaching in our universities for the past seven decades are bearing themselves out daily before our eyes. But with all due respect to the good Governor Dean, I would rather have a President who hasn’t been indoctrinated by this vacuous nonsense than one who has. I would rather have a President with no degree who knows he’s not God than one with a degree who thinks he is.
The solution to this absurdity is found in the historical liberal arts academy; in classical “liberalism” and its assumption of freedom, liberty, and liberation: that there are ideas that are right and just and true: tested by time, defended by reason, validated by experience and endowed to us by our Creator! As far back as Moses, we are told that only in trusting in such Truths and “teaching them to our children…” will mankind ever be set free.
Education is not about opinions. I don’t pat you on the back when you graduate from OKWU and say, “Congratulations! You now have a degree in opinions!” That would be absurd. I frankly don’t care what your opinion is and you shouldn’t care that much about mine. Opinions are always dangerous. Opinions always lead to slavery and bondage. Pol Pot had an opinion. Robespierre had an opinion. Lenin, Moa, Mussolini, Hitler, Chavez, and Castro – all the despots of history – had opinions and it didn’t end well.
Freedom trusts in Principles rather than people, power, politics or opinions. Freedom honors the debate because it knows there is an Answer – a true north – a measuring rod outside of those things being measured. Freedom trusts in the First Things, in a “holiday at the beach” rather than “mud pies in the back alley.”
G.K. Chesterton has told us, if you get rid of the big Laws of God, you don’t get liberty but rather thousands of little laws that rush in to fill the vacuum.
Freedom – true and lasting freedom – is not found in the rules of government but rather in the liberty of God: Not in Caesar but in Christ: “You shall know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free.”