The more university education a person receives, the more likely he is to hold secular and left-wing views. The secular Left argues that this correlation is due to the fact that a college graduate knows more and thinks more clearly and therefore gravitates leftward and toward secularism. But if you believe that the average college graduate is a clear and knowledgeable thinker as a result of his or her time at university, I have more than one bridge to sell you. A radio talk-show host for 29 years, I long ago began asking callers who made foolish comments what graduate school they had attended. It takes higher education to learn that America and Israel are villains, that men and women have essentially the same natures, that human nature is good, that ever-larger governments create wealth, etc.
Conor Friedersdorf responds:
This beggars belief, especially if you’re someone like me who attended Catholic school for 14 years. The institutional structure was expressly designed to turn out practicing Catholics, and given more than a decade of our most formative years and formal religious instruction they didn’t manage to hold onto most of my peers. Do the university professors know something they didn’t? I just never understand it when conservative critics of academia presume it is so single-minded, effective and powerful in its impact.
To me, there are better explanations for the fact that “the more university education a person receives, the more likely he is to hold secular and left-wing views.” One is that people who attend college leave home. That is to say, they leave their church, the community incentives to attend it, and the watchful eye of parents who get angry or make them feel guilty when they don’t go to services or stray in their faith. Suddenly they’re surrounded by dorm mates of different faiths or no faith at all. For many of these students, it turns out that their religious behavior was driven more by desire for community, or social and parental pressure, than by deeply held beliefs.
David Sessions is the founding editor of Patrol. He covers religion for Newsweek and The Daily Beast, and is a graduate student in the Draper Program for Humanities and Social Thought at New York University. He can be reached at hdavidsessions at gmail dot com.
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