Honestly I ask you: Has higher education advanced? Is humanity really better off intellectually than it was 300 years ago?
For me, I have always found this topic fascinating: Are we getting smarter as a society? And an even more important question than that; are we producing more noble and dignified thinkers? For many people that question probably isn't that important -- but I think it is.
There are countless ways to begin addressing these questions, but I want to start this discussion off with just one thought, and I think it is quite illuminating: Just compare the first Harvard student handbook of 1636 with the Harvard handbook of today. It is staggering how different they are, but I will let you read them for yourself and let you decide...
1636 HANDBOOK _______________________________________________________________
Let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well, the main end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ, which is eternal life, John 17:3; and therefore to lay Jesus Christ as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning. And seeing the Lord only giveth wisdom, let everyone seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seek it of him (Proverbs 2:3).” — From the first Harvard University Student Handbook, chartered in 1636 (For over 100 years, more than 50% of all Harvard graduates were pastors.)
2014 HANDBOOK _________________________________________________________________
A fundamental goal of the College is to foster an environment in which its members may live and work productively together, making use of the rich resources of the University, in individual and collective pursuit of academic excellence, extracurricular accomplishment, and personal challenge. In the words of the Resolution on Rights and Responsibilities adopted by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences on April 14, 1970, “By accepting membership in the University, an individual joins a community ideally characterized by free expression, free inquiry, intellectual honesty, respect for the dignity of others, and openness to constructive change.”
For this goal to be achieved, the community must be a tolerant and supportive one, characterized by civility and consideration for others. Discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, age, national or ethnic origin, political beliefs, veteran status, or disability unrelated to job or course requirements is inconsistent with the purposes of a university and with the law. Harvard expects that those with whom it deals will comply with all applicable anti-discrimination laws. Therefore the standards and expectations of this community are high, as much so in the quality of interpersonal relationships as they are in academic performance.
The contrast is clear, but does this show that we have really advanced?
My gut reaction to this question, which I sadly must confess, reflects a mind that has been saturated in a profoundly secular culture over the last 45 years. If I were to be honest with you, after reading this I think my secular self would say something like this:
"Absolutely we have advanced, isn't it obvious? Just think, students no longer have to be suffocated by monolithic biblical thinking which probably was enforced by patriarchal old men. The modern mind and modern man (I'm sorry for my insensitivity, maybe I should use a more neutered phrase like "modern people") no longer need to be shackled to such simplistic religious superstitions anymore."
Or my sophisticated self would say: "Learning is all about experimentation, tolerance, and diversity - - ahhh, the new handbook's perspective seems so refreshing, so liberating, so free! Right? People can now-a-days choose and determine who and what they want to become -- no longer are women and minorities held back. All people can break free from the traditional molds and adventure out to new horizons of thought and creativity."
But those responses really don't address the question of "are we smarter?" Are we better off? Has our desire for tolerance achieved it's goal and actually brought peace and a kinder populace to society? Personally, I see more selfishness, more demands for personal rights to be granted, and less service and love toward others than ever before. Honestly, has our freedom helped people become better humans or are we more brutal and addicted to our fleshly passions? (I think that is really the goal of wanting people to consider new sexual orientations... it is more times than not an excuse to explore and indulge in sensuality and lust.)
As a Christian I know that Jesus is everything; but I also know that if I actually live like this people will think of me as simple minded and repressed puritan. A relic of days gone by: "C'mon, is having Jesus as your foundation enough?" I THINK HE IS. "Is it really productive to encourage people to pray?" I THINK IT IS. Solomon, one of the smartest men who ever lived, puts it like this, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge?" (Pr. 1:7)
But more important than that, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and it is pure." (Ps. 111:10 & 19:9) Wisdom and purity is what makes better people. Our society has lost respect for this truth; and it is precisely at this point where I think we as a society have gone wrong. We may know more about science, but we have lost real compassion & understanding of the Spirit in the life of the soul. Like small gods we have captured the fire of Prometheus and built the most brilliant of technological wonders in the laboratories of our universities; but we have lost God himself.
In our highly politically correct world -- living by Solomon's mantra to "Fear the Lord" seems almost silly and easier said than done! But who cares what professors, pundits and politicians say-- Jesus Christ lives forever. And that is still and will always be the truth! (Hebrews 13:8)