Forming Followers

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

I’m not inclined to hire a graduate from one of America’s elite universities. That marks a change. A decade ago I relished the opportunity to employ talented graduates of Princeton, Yale, Harvard and the rest. Today? Not so much.

R. R. Reno in The Wall Street Journal, “Why I Stopped Hiring Ivy League Graduates

Reno argues that while elite institutions may graduate many fine individuals, these campus environments do not “add value” to job candidates who may want to write for Reno’s publication, First Things, a religious and socially conservative magazine and online outlet, even if the graduates of these institutions identify as religiously and socially conservative thinkers and writers.

Reno opines that on elite campuses, “Dysfunctional kids are coddled and encouraged to nurture grievances, while normal kids are attacked and educationally abused. . .Deprived of good role models, they’re less likely to mature into good leaders themselves.”

Absent conservative perspectives and a healthy campus environment where a vigorous discourse is fostered and encouraged, religiously and socially conservative students often choose instead to go along in order to get along, keeping their head down and doing what’s needed to get by. Why speak up if it will only earn you further marginalization, ridicule, and exclusion?

This means conservatives often cede the field, acquiesce, and steer clear of trouble. Reno observes that this is not good, and that over time this choice has a formative effect. He states, “I don’t want to hire a person well-practiced in remaining silent when it costs something to speak up.”

Reno concludes:

A few years ago a student at an Ivy League school told me, “The first things you learn your freshman year is never to say what you are thinking.” The institution he attended claims to train the world’s future leaders. From what that young man reports, the opposite is true. The school is training future self-censors, which means future followers.

In a few years my children will likely consider a college education, and as they explore their options our primary evaluative factors will not be the prestige or social connections a given institution may secure by way of attendance and/or a degree. Rather, we will be asking about the quality of education and the type of person the institution has as their formative end. We won’t only focus on things like post-graduate job prospects or overall campus climate, but what the institution views as their understanding of human flourishing and how they encourage students to pursue “the good life.”

Discern, then Respond

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