Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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The Lost Children: How Higher Education Has Misled America’s Youth

Res Publica

March 1990

by Gregory Dunn

We, the students of this age, are a lost generation. Now I know that I stole this phrase from Hemingway when he wrote about a similar generation in another time, but if the shoe fits…

I look at my peers and myself and despair at what I see. We are a generation without any values, ideals, Gods, or landmarks by which to guide us. We are a generation of Existentialists. We are lost.

What happened? America used to be a land where right was right and wrong was wrong and the good guys wore white hats. Today we are assaulted by people who construct their own systems of values without any criticism from others because, hey, the others constructed their own value systems too.

Well, it all started when somebody tried to kill God. And when everybody believed that God was dead, then all the values and morals of His died too. Then people started talking about "relevance" and "subjectivity" and everything went to Hell in a hand basket from there. Then all these guys went to college and really threw a wrench into the works. They decided that what was true was whatever worked for them, and there was no way to reprimand them because they already killed God and all that went with him. In a sentence, they killed truth.

Nothing was true, or at least nothing was false, everything goes, just do it.

And since they decided that nothing was false, then who were we to judge anything? They felt that things were beyond good or evil. In fact, to judge something as good or evil, right or wrong, became the ultimate sin. It was the only thing that wasn’t permitted and those who dared to do so were branded as Nazis or fascists or just plain crazy.

Well, if people who can judge things are crazy, then look out ‘cause the real loonies are in control now!

All these people graduated and went to work, most of them as college professors. Suddenly they had changed higher education from a search for the true and the just into a search for whatever feels good to you. Truth and justice were no longer taught—how could they be? No one understood truth, for their search for it was distracted in their calls for relevance in the curriculum.

And now we have the curriculum from hell—Womens studies, Gay studies, Black studies, Dog studies, Blue-collar-workers-from Queens-who-had-immigrant-parents-from-Latvia studies. We no longer teach truth in our colleges; we teach relativity. Truth becomes relative depending on your social class, race, and creed.

So my generation grew up on this. We were breast fed it, spoon fed it, and now we get it three times a day, seven times a week for two semesters a year served up hot on cafeteria trays. We have no grasp of the truth, although we have a sense of it as dogs have a sense of themselves.

A liberal arts education used to teach truth and justice. Liberal comes from liberty as in freedom. A liberal arts education freed one’s mind. "Know the truth and it will set you free." And knowing the truth could allow you to judge between good and evil, right and wrong. Now, colleges do little more than training, in some way that one would train a dog. But I guess that’s all we are thought of as. We are lost, betrayed by our parents and our schools, and we have no idea.

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