The City #8

As I waited for the cars to pass and the light to change on the corner of President and Smith streets this morning on my way to the subway, I heard a mother say to her son as they parted ways:
Mom said, “I love you.”
The son of 7or 8 years of age replied, “I love you, too.”
A nice beginning of the day!


I watched a portion of this year’s American Idol auditions. The question I keep asking myself, and Ashton keeps verbalizing, is how in the world do these people not recognize that they have no talent? How can so many of these people get up before the four (this year Jewel joins Randy, Paula, and Simon) judges and actually expect to be chosen to “go to Hollywood?”
I don’t get it. What is going on in their minds, in their home-life, in their schools that compels them to have such a skewed self-image or an inability to rightly judge their own abilities? Well, when feelings become the most important thing in our pedagogies over and above substantive achievements then what do we expect? It is one thing to encourage children to try anything, but there comes a point were our encouragement becomes counter productive when it changes into lying. There are things we simply cannot do well, and to pretend that we can just because we want it so badly and don’t want our feelings hurt doesn’t cut it. We will end up on American Idol auditions making fools of ourselves, and crying and cursing when we are not esteemed once again, when we are not lied to in order to makes us to feel good about ourselves once again, despite how well or badly we actually do.
I read a review this morning of the book, “The Decline of the Secular University: Why the Academy Needs Religion” by C. John Sommerville and published by Oxford Univ. Press. The reviewer is Stephen Carter, a professor of law at Yale University. The book is basically a critical commentary on Higher Education. This isn’t anything new, of course. The author, Sommerville, also laments the hostility expressed towards religion in general as retrograde and the religious disciplines.
The reviewer writes that the Sommerville comments on how campus-life is moving swiftly to bypass secularism to favor “post-secularism.” “That is, the appeal to reason is being replaced by the appeal to fashion… Worse still, to the extent that the university becomes post-secular, it will hopelessly flounder at preparing students to use the knowledge they gain.” The review comments on Sommerville, who claims that secular universities have lost the sense of why they are educating students in the first place.
“The modern campus does nothing to help students ponder the most significant questions of life,” the reviewer paraphrases Sommerville. These are the categories that religion can address.
Having worked and taught and ministered in secular Higher Education for over 20 years, I think there is a lot of truth in his statement.
The reviewer comments that Sommerville is calling universities to better enable our natural human propensity to question and wonder. He then writes, “Because the secular project demanded ‘destroying traditions,’ it kicked away the props on which might rest answers to the great questions. As the university now becomes post-secular, it replaces those props with a celebration of feeling and ‘fashionable moralizing.'”
The review continues, “My date book contains cartoons first published in the New Yorker. One shows a young boy in front of his class, doing arithmetic at the blackboard. He has just written ‘7 X 5 = 75’ and says to his astonished teacher, ‘It may be wrong, but it’s how I feel.’ There, in a nutshell, is the problem with the post-secular university. Faith is dead, reason is dying, but ‘how I feel’ is going strong. Should we ignore warnings like Sommerville’s, ‘how I feel’ will be all there is.'”
The Simpson’s had a related episode. A new school principal took over the elementary school where Bart and Lisa attended. She was all about the “woman’s way of knowing.” She divided the school into two schools in one building – one for the girls and one for the boys. Lisa was all excited, until she got to her math class. The new principal, who also taught math, only wanted the girls to “feel math” and talk about how numbers made them “feel.” Lisa, all disappointed, asked if they were going to do any real equations. The teacher/principal chastised her saying that only stupid boys did things like that, but that the most important thing was how the girls felt about math and numbers. Lisa quietly slipped away and crashed the boys’ math class were they were figuring out parabolas and the area within a cylinder – stuff like that.
There you have it. One of the reasons people go to American Idol auditions when they have no talent (which is just a very mean and wrong of me to say because it hurts their feelings) is because they have grown up being told that their “feelings” are the most important thing, not their accomplishments. Now, when they hit the real world and are told the truth, they aren’t going to be feeling very good about themselves, are they? Oh, the years wasted and the false sense-of-self these kids have been programmed into believing. How long will it take for them to develop a true sense-of-self, if ever?