The tragic circumstances unfolding in Israel cannot be overstated.
Mankind has a long and often unpleasant history in which the innocent suffer under the tyranny of the worst of humanity – corruption, power, brutality, cruelty, meanness, and more.
A shocking but not unexpected reaction to these events has unfolded on college campuses.
The knee-jerk reaction of 31 Harvard student organizations unquestioningly sided with Hamas, despite evidence of human atrocities. Harvard was not alone. Across the country, students from higher education learning institutions, including Penn, Yale, Stanford, Columbia, City University of New York, Tufts, and Portland State University, to name a few, came out in unquestioned support of Hamas.
That college students would organize a protest to make their voices heard is to be expected. What is shocking is the content of these protests.
USA Today, reporting on these campus developments, stated, “It’s hard to wrap your mind around: The social justice warriors on college campuses around America have come out in support of terrorists who last weekend raped and murdered and beheaded innocent people (including children, women and the elderly) in Israel.” In another post at the University of Washington, students were chanting, “There is only one solution. Intifada Revolution,” perhaps not fully recognizing or understanding the meaning and force of those words as calling for genocide against Jews.
Part of the shock associated with this student response is the apparent inability to think critically about a very complex circumstance with a very long history. In a reductionist approach, there must be an unquestioned binary of “good guys” versus “bad guys.” In tribalist rhetoric, atrocities committed by “our side” must be overlooked.
This binary perspective is in complete conflict with other cultural developments in which these same individuals insist that the issues are complex and nuanced.
For many years, people have been making observations and writing about the liberal indoctrination of college students by socialist progressives infiltrating campuses. Newsweek reported, “Dissent from, or even a lack of enthusiasm for, woke ideology is no longer tolerated on campus.” The Hoover Institution reported, “The politicization of higher education by activist professors and compliant university administrators deprives students of the opportunity to acquire knowledge and refine their minds.”
While the developments on college campuses are concerning, in and of itself, it does not tell the whole story.
How is it that bright-eyed, anxious, and aspiring freshmen arrive on campus so vulnerable to these progressive ideologies? What, if any, preparation in their secondary high school experience prepared them with critical thinking skills to be able to objectively evaluate these global developments?
The circumstantial evidence seems strong. It is unlikely that these students only started their journey – or slide – to an inability to think critically when they arrived on campus. That process began well before socialist, progressive professors began cultivating their liberal ideology. A recent Education Week article titled “Students Are Easily Duped Online. We Can Teach Them Better” touches on this subject.
It is quite possible that these students missed something substantive before they arrived at college – critical thinking skills. Either that or the same inculcation of progressive ideology affecting them once they reached college was initiated before they ever arrived. Canary Mission, a group that tracks “people and groups that promote hatred of the USA, Israel, and Jews” across the political spectrum, reported that “… 38 percent of the kinds of people who once marched around campus chanting about decolonization go on to teaching careers.”
In either case, we have not served these students well.
We have not served them well if their post-secondary college experience narrows their worldview and makes them see atrocities of rape, murder, and beheading of children, women, and the elderly as acceptable under any circumstances. We have not served them well when all they have is a post-modern perspective that there is no absolute truth and that even rape, murder, and beheading have a place in society. We have not served them well if we have not equipped them to help, serve, and love others, even those with whom they do not agree and may even vehemently disagree.
Secondary and post-secondary education has lost its way when it narrows students’ world by teaching them what to think rather than how to think.
Educators should reflect on the role they may have played in bringing students to a place where human atrocities do not evoke horror.
The unsettling response of students from across the country to the unfolding events in the Middle East shows that, for too long, this has been the case. We have not served our students or our country well.