College and Universities Entering “Post-Secular Age?”
Two education and religion experts are urging American colleges to do a better job at engaging religion on campus, because students in increasing numbers come to campus seeking to explore, discuss, and live their religion.
That, of course, is what the faithfully Catholic colleges in the newly released 2012-13 edition of The Newman Guide already do so well.
Douglas and Rhonda Jacobsen, who direct Messiah College’s Religion in the Academy Project, argue that American higher education has entered a “post-secular age,” according to Insider Higher Ed. The married couple has toured campuses across the country from “MIT to Ava Maria, Penn State to Pepperdine.”
The result of that tour is a new book, No Longer Invisible in which the Jacobsens argue that both private and public colleges must turn away from the idea of campuses being radically secular and do a better job of understanding and engaging with religions on campus.
The Jacobsens, in an interview with the education publication Inside Higher Ed, said that an effort was made in the mid-to-late 20th century by many colleges and universities to completely cordon off religion from learning, faith from knowledge. “Religion was deemed a private affair, something to keep to oneself, and religious questions were not supposed to intrude into the curriculum, said the Jacobsens. “The hope was for religion to be invisible.”
They said it was a widely held belief by many in academia that secularism would stamp out the need for religion. “Some leading educators assumed that they should be preparing students to live in a world where religion was no longer a significant factor in personal or social life,” they said.
But, the couple points out that things did not work out that way. “At this current point in history, the theory of secularization has lost its credibility,” they said. “It is evident that religion in a multiplicity of forms continues to have significant influence in the contemporary world, and religion has returned to visibility in higher education.”
With students seeking to seek, discuss, and live their religion on campuses that had been secularized, clashes were inevitable. One can’t read the news for long without coming across stories about young Christians clashing with administrators.
Earlier this year, a Christian abstinence student group battled the University of North Carolina, which had refused its request for formal recognition on campus. The university rejected the request as exclusionary and discriminatory. Eventually, the Alliance Defending Freedom got involved and the university reportedly relented.
These kinds of battles are not an anomaly; in fact, they might even be in the majority which makes the role of parents helping students to choose a college with their children where their faith won’t be battled or undermined by teachers and administration is crucial. Choosing a college that doesn’t simply teach your child how to make a living but how to live is paramount.
In the recently released Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College, Archbishop William Lori writes “A Catholic education is not only preparation for a career, but preparation for the rest of your life.”