We know Christian colleges often teach students false information (Creationism, David Barton-esque revisionist history, etc).
We know some of them treat adult students like babies, handing out “demerits” or taking away “points” like they were Hogwarts, instilling a curfew on campus, and preventing students from hugging for more than three seconds.
But what’s happening at Cedarville University in Ohio is so absurd, you have to wonder how any of these students function in the real world after graduation.
According to a blog post made last November by the school president Dr. Thomas White, and referring to Philippians 4:8 (which honors “whatever is pure”), Cedarville will soon institute a new policy that essentially scrubs anything even mildly salacious from the curriculum.
Kate Shellnutt, writing for Christianity Today, explains how far this goes:
In its Biblically Consistent Curriculum policy, nicknamed for the Apostle Paul’s admonishment to Christians in Philippi, Cedarville has spelled out new guidelines officially barring any materials that “may be considered ‘adult’ in nature, that represent immorality, or that may be a stumbling block to students.”
The new policy’s instructions for faculty assigning reading material: “Passages that are clearly pornographic, erotic, obscene, or graphic must be avoided. While it may be important to expose students to various genres of writing, examples need to be selected to avoid inappropriate material.” For films: “As a general rule, ‘R’ rated movies will not be shown. PG-13, PG, and unrated movies should be evaluated based on language, sexual content, graphic violence, and nudity.” All scripts for plays put on by students cannot include swearing and must be approved by Reno.
What does that mean in practice? Professors would need permission before showing students Schindler’s List. Many works of classical literature, which include detailed love scenes, couldn’t be assigned. Goodbye, Jane Austen. And if obscene and “inappropriate” materials are prohibited, then Donald Trump‘s Access Hollywood tape couldn’t even be shown in a Political Science class.
The school says these are not hard and fast rules. Exceptions will be made with good reason. But no university, even a Christian one, should need that sort of loophole. At what point are the students — who are adults, in case you needed a reminder — responsible for making their own decisions in regards to what movies, music, books, and pop culture they consume?
Maybe they’ll argue the intention is pure, but that’s not the case either. Real life is messy. Real life involves sex. Real life exposes you to language you may find offensive. To even attempt to shelter students from that material — especially when they could be discussing the subjects with their classmates and professors — seems completely irresponsible for any university that claims to prepare students for their future.
(This is the same school, by the way, where the School of Biblical and Theological Studies only has female instructors teaching female students. Because a woman teaching a man about the Bible is blasphemy.)
If there’s any saving grace here, it’s that several current and former Cedarville faculty members oppose the move and feel even they’re being treated like infants.
At Cedarville, professors were frustrated that the university did not seek their approval before enacting the policy change. “The lack of insight and the message of distrust to the faculty is insulting and demoralizing,” one said.
[Assistant vice president of academics Thomas] Mach acknowledges that the approach to leadership and accountability at a Christian institution necessitates that faculty have less say than they would at a state school.
The faculty have less say and the students receive a lower quality education (and I use the word “education” very loosely).
One other point: There was nothing in particular that prompted this change, but check out the justification given by Mach:
“We hear from parents regularly,” said Mach, attributing the uptick to generational concerns of so-called helicopter parents. “Part of the thinking on this policy is to be able to say to a parent who disagrees with what’s being used in class, ‘This is our approach. This is what we expect from our faculty. They’re maintaining that.’”
It’s natural for Christian parents, especially those who homeschool, to make sure their kids’ classes match the biblical standards and setting the school claims.
There’s no doubt helicopter parents can be frustrating to deal with… but this is a university, not a nursery school. The administrators have a responsibility to expose students to ideas and opinions that exist outside their bubble. If their parents don’t like that, they can stuff their kids back in their metaphorical Christian cages until it’s time to breed. Why send them to school at all if there’s a concern they might actually learn new things?
That’s the fear, of course. Cedarville is a private school that exists because parents are willing to pay for their kids to go there. If the parents are unhappy, they might pull their children (who, I can’t believe I have to say this again, are adults) from the campus.
But really, what’s the point of having a university at all if certain, relevant, important ideas are considered too taboo to discuss?
At this rate, orientation week for new Cedarville students will include a ceremonial distribution of blindfolds and earplugs.
***Update***: As many commenters have pointed out, if the school is getting rid of material that include obscene acts, graphic scenes, and immoral actions, then should we assume that also means they’re no longer using the Bible?
(Image via Shutterstock)