FAU incident exposes dark side of American universities

FAUThe “stomp Jesus” incident at Florida Atlantic University is in the news. But in truth, it’s merely a symptom of a far fatter can of worms crawling around America’s college campuses today.

As part of an “intercultural communications” social studies class, an FAU instructor asked his students to write Jesus on a piece of paper and then step, or stomp, on it. A firestorm erupted as a result, and the instructor has been suspended “for his own safety.”

First, there is a very real question about why such coursework is needed at any university striving to be taken seriously as an academic bastion.

What FAU officials may not comprehend is that this incident really is only a symptom of a possibly deeper problem at hand. One of FAU’s faculty professors, Marina Karides, wrote an op-ed column in a local newspaper exalting FAU’s social studies courses. Unwittingly, I believe, she opened up Pandora’s education box to reveal the deeper problem. She disclosed that “the mission of a public university” includes creating a “just” society, and further bragged, “FAU has a strong social justice disposition (emphasis mine).”

This, my friends, is the underlying infection in too many schools of higher learning. “Social justice” is an experimental social theory, an ideology that infuses the learning climate in many universities, infecting the curricula. Liberals love the concept because they believe government needs to intervene to engineer “social fairness” and social justice, and what better way to do it than to teach it to students?

Social justice is a political concept that suggests that equal outcomes are more valuable in a society than equal opportunities. Author John Rawls once wrote that the “essential role of government in social justice” is “that social justice requires government, ….whose function is to redistribute wealth.” At its heart, social justice is communistic because it places little value on excellence, personal responsibility or initiative. It says, simply, if you haven’t earned the fruits, you should be given the fruits anyway.

Another dark side of social justice is that it requires forcibly taking things of value from one person and giving them to another. That means, in order to provide justice to one, you must impose injustice on another. You must penalize success to reward incompetence. Where is the “justice” in that?

If FAU’s Karides is correct, it is time for FAU to look more closely at whether to allow experimental social theories into its teaching culture, and to examine whether it wants to risk its reputation on some of the social courses it offers. Actions have consequences. Getting an education to compete and thrive in today’s complicated world ought to be a serious undertaking. But in colleges around the country, students are offered silly courses like “The Science of Harry Potter,” “Underwater Basket Weaving” and “The Joy of Garbage.” And of course, there’s “Intercultural Communications,” along with its questionable exercises like debasing the name of a religious figure.

This is not about academic freedom; it’s about common sense. Students spend time in these kinds of near-worthless social studies classes, learn little that’s beneficial, and then wonder why they can’t get a good job when they leave college. Worse, under the dictates of social justice, they are taught that they’re entitled to be given a job anyway.

John R. Smith

John R. Smith is chairman of BIZPAC, the Business Political Action Committee of Palm Beach County, and owner of a financial services company.


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