Originally posted at The Washington Times
Since the release my book, “Not A Day Care: The Devastating Consequences of Abandoning Truth,” I have been asked over and over again by the likes of everyone from Pat Robertson and Adam Carolla to Glenn Beck, Dennis Prager, Dana Perino and Jim Dobson: “Okay, Dr. Piper, you’ve identified the problem in our colleges and universities, now what’s the solution?
Stop sending your children off to these institutions that teach this pablum. The solution to self-absorption, narcissism, intellectual vacuity and moral nihilism is simple: Stop teaching it.
Adam MacLeod, associate professor of Law at Faulkner University in Montgomery, Ala., stands nearly alone in shining a light in the dark halls of today’s ivory tower. In his recent article, published in The New Boston Post, Mr. MacLeod says this: “I increasingly find that most of [my students] cannot think, don’t know very much, and are enslaved to their appetites and feelings.”
He goes on, “Before I can teach [them] how to reason, I must first teach [them] how to rid [themselves] of unreason Reasoning requires coherence and logic. Most of [us] have been taught to embrace incoherence and illogic. [We] have learned to associate truth with [our] subjective feelings, which are neither true nor false but only [ours], and which are constantly changeful.”
Mr. MacLeod is absolutely right. Education should not be about the propagation of your feelings. The best education is not about pandering to what makes you “feel good” but, rather, it is about confronting you with the facts about what “is good.” Truth should be the goal of an educated people, not emotions, not opinions, and not feelings.
When I officiate commencement at Oklahoma Wesleyan University, I don’t pat you on the back as you graduate and give you a diploma in “opinions.” You don’t earn a degree in “feelings” at OKWU. No, after four years of study at my university, I actually expect you to leave here with at least some measure of truth above and beyond what you had when you started. I actually expect you to learn something.
History tells us that when we elevate feelings over facts and opinions over truth that we build a house of cards that will fall to mankind’s inevitable temper tantrum of seeking power and control. Time and time again we see that when we subordinate what is self-evident and factual to what we selfishly “feel,” we fall prey to the rule of the gang or the tyranny of one.
All the despots of the ages had feelings. Pol Pot, Mussolini, and Mao; Robespierre, Stalin, and Hitler all had strong feelings and it didn’t end well. Feelings led to the furnaces of Auschwitz. Feelings led to the killing fields of Cambodia. Feelings always lead to bondage and slavery. It is only “truth that sets us free.”
In “The Great Divorce,” C.S. Lewis scolded the self-confident young scholar by telling him that he was more a puppet of his feelings than he was a proponent of independent thinking.
“Our opinions were not honestly come by,” said Lewis. “We simply found ourselves in contact with a certain current of ideas and plunged into it.” From his own personal experience, Lewis knew that feelings, more often than not, lead us to go with the flow, rather than challenge the status quo.
But, Lewis doesn’t end there. He moves from criticism to solution. He shows the way out: “Once you were a child. Once you knew what inquiry was for. There was a time when you asked questions because you wanted answers Become that child again Thirst was made for water; inquiry for truth.” In these words, Lewis echoes the promise of the Sermon of the Mount: If you hunger and thirst for righteousness, as opposed to simply looking to satiate your feelings, you will be filled.
Education must be about pursing facts: the immutable, the permanent and the true, not about placating our feelings which, as Mr. MacLeod so aptly tells us, “are always changeful.” All truth is true even if no one believes it, and all falsehood is false even if everyone believes it. We will only find truth when we place our confidence in it and admit that, frankly, it doesn’t matter how we feel about it.
Lewis tells us (again in “The Great Divorce”) that, “A sum can be put right: but only by going back till you find the error and working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on.” Our feelings are often an “inaccurate sum” and we cannot “put the sum right” until we acknowledge what’s wrong and “work afresh” from the beginning. “Come and see,” says Lewis, and “I will bring you to the Eternal Fact, the Father of all facthood.” This is the only thing that will set us free from the bondage and slavery of the “inaccurate sum” of how we feel.
• Everett Piper, president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, is the author of “Not A Day Care: The Devastating Consequences of Abandoning Truth” (Regnery 2017).