Brainwashing and Mennonite Colleges

For those of you who have been reading the Jerry Jenkins thread, there’s been a separate ongoing discussion that has developed about brainwashing and Mennonite colleges. Skylark asked me to move this discussion to a separate post to make it easier to sort the two conversations out. So this is an attempt to do that. Here’s an excerpt from the comment by Pete Dunn that started the conversation:

I’ve heard it said that for the most part college professors take their personal liberal ideology and feel obligated to impart their elevated revelations to the hoi polloi that we parents send up for an education – Mennonite colleges being no exception. If I have issues with Tom it would be partly what I would call the “brain washing” that occurs in our Mennonite Colleges – but it all comes out in the wash – water seeks its own level – the truth comes out – just like in blogging!!

I’ve moved all subsequent responses to this comment to the thread below. Feel free to continue the conversation here.

Comments (33)

  1. TimN (Post author)

    Pete,

    Thanks for sharing your take on intergenerational differences. Its very interesting to read your frank reflections on some of the factors that affect the way older generations interact with younger generations. While it would be easier to simply agree and blame older folks for intergenerational differences, I think us younger folks also need to take responsibility to put energy into intergenerational relationships. Our culture is so saturated with images of youth and superficial beauty that we can often forget the importance of the maturity and wisdom that come with age. Too often we don’t see the importance of conversations or relationships with older adults and prefer to just spend time with people our age.

    That said, I’m surprised by your characterization of a Mennonite education as brainwashing. This term implies that young people can’t make choices for themselves as to what they choose to believe or choose not to believe. If this is the case, at what age do you think we do have the maturity and discernment to make intellectual decisions for ourselves?

    In my experience at Goshen College, I was taught to ask questions, listen carefully to many different perspectives and discuss new ideas with my learning community. I was encouraged to confidently explore my identity as an Anabaptist and as a Christian through service abroad and at home and taking action for peace and justice. My professors were down to earth, approachable and made it clear that they valued me as a person, not just a customer to be dealt with. In classes they shared from their personal faith and experience while challenging us to reach our own conclusions from the texts we read and the research we did.

    As I understand it, the brainwashing process process involves isolating the prisoner or initiate and then breaking them by assaulting their identity, shaming them and forcing them to betray themselves. After the victim has been broken, they are gradually shown leniency in exchange for unquestioning submission to the authority of the perpetrator. Famous brainwashing victim Patty Hearst said she was “locked in a dark closet for several days after her kidnapping and was kept hungry, tired, brutalized and afraid for her life while SLA members bombarded her with their anti-capitalist political ideology”. (from How Brainwashing Works).

    Can you explain more about how you see a similarity between these two experiences?

    Reply
  2. petedunn

    Curt – notice I used quotation marks around the word “brain washing”. “Brain washing” occurs as much through the professor as it does through the peer pressure of the students response to the prof. Are you indicating that the majority of students would choose to differ, especially with a theology prof? I sincerely doubt it. I would venture to say that the scoffing that would occur with a Jerry Jenkins would start with the prof, reverberate throughout the class room, with the lone dissenter not dare saying a word, and end up questioning his own set of values if everyone else agrees with the prof – that is how “brain washing” would occur….but again, note I use the word “brain washing” in quotation marks. Would a young college student even know when they are being “brain washed”? Is it not so insidious they would not even be aware of it? I’ve heard other parents say it took them ten years to get their kids deprogrammed from their child’s experience (in this case it was at Goshen). Thanks for challenging me! This is what I call “iron sharpening iron”.

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  3. Skylark

    Administrators, could we move the “brainwashing” discussion out into its own area? It could be confusing to have comments going back and forth between this topic and Jerry Jenkins.

    Now, responding to Pete Dunn’s comments about brainwashing at Mennonite colleges…

    First, I didn’t attend a Mennonite college. I attended a college loosely connected with the Friends/Quaker church, Malone College. From what I hear, it’s fairly similar to Mennonite colleges.

    This could just be me, since I’m not the sort anymore to just take what someone tells me and believe it fervently without questioning. That was part of my growing-up process in college. I went from accepting what my parents and church taught me—except they never taught me to be a vegetarian—at age 17 to branching out and listening to people of all sorts of perspectives. And yes, when I was a 17-year-old college freshman, I would have agreed with Left Behind theology.

    I remember having countless debates in English class with an adjunct instructor during my first semester. Granted, she was a leftist atheist, and I have no idea why the school allowed her to teach, but whatever. I was hardly the only student to openly disagree with her rantings against anything and everything Christian or conservative, but I did speak up more than anyone else. I would bump into her over the years after that class, and all I can say is she respected me for addressing her directly back then instead of muttering to the person in the next seat the way some of them did. [Edited: I got an A in her class.]

    In the years following, I would challenge professors’ statements in class when something seemed askew. There were some students who just wanted to get through the material so they could take the test and get college over with, but that’s never the way I looked at it. I was paying a lot of money to get an education, and I wouldn’t let a little thing like a syllabus schedule get in the way of learning. I left college with a cumulative 3.33 GPA, and it hasn’t mattered one iota since then.

    I audited Hermeneutics in my last semester solely because I wanted to. While the class helped the transformation I was already experiencing in my theology, it did not force me to agree with the professor at all costs. I’d have to dig through my notes (which I kept, information collector that I am). The professor explained the frameworks scholars tend to use when interpreting the Bible. I was always flipping through my Bible when he’d give us a reference but then not turn to it himself. “Wrong reference,” I’d say, “Do you mean such-and-such? And by the way, that doesn’t indicate what you’re saying it does…” Could be I felt freer to disagree with him because I had no grade to worry about.

    As you can see from the rest of my post, I’ve never had a problem with opposing a professor on one point or another even when my grade was in their hands. I had lengthy conversations with some profs during office hours about how they are thrilled to have students speak up to disagree. It means they’re thinking, the profs said, and their biggest frustration is the students who more often than not sit in the back and refuse to participate. Not every professor felt that way, but I got the impression from most that they appreciated my frequent participating in class, even when I didn’t concur with their thoughts. Mind you, usually they knew more than I did (ergo why I’m the one in college), and I’m humble enough to defer to their years of experience and research.

    Maybe the students in the back are brainwashed, but I wasn’t. It could be different at Mennonite colleges—maybe students are so ingrained in the “don’t be prideful” mantra they’re afraid to question authority.

    In closing this long-winded comment, I’ll share a funny graffitti message I saw once: It said “Question Authority.” Someone else had come along and spray-painted, “Why?”

    Reply
  4. Eric (Post author)

    Admin’s note: Eric made my job more difficult by responding to both the Jerry Jenkins thread and the brainwashing thread in this comment. Here’s the excerpt that related to this thread.

    From my (unaware, young, brainwashed) perspective, anyone who sees a need to “deprogram” their kid from anything is more likely a perpetrator of brainwashing than any college ever can or will be. So much for children having minds of their own – it’s obviously up to the college and the parents to fight over who will control the child’s mind.

    You learn things from role models and peers anywhere you go – sometimes things your community or parents may not approve of – but to call that (even in quotations) “brainwashing” is fairly simplistic and closed-minded in itself. My music tastes adjust some based on the friends I spend most time with. They aren’t brainwashing me, and I don’t need to be deprogrammed from it. I hardly agree with the theology taught at most Christian colleges, but I would never call it “brainwashing” or imply that the poor victim students went in healthy and came out needing to be “deprogrammed”. Your argument uses exactly the sort of closed-minded and dismissive logic that you are complaining about.

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  5. Dan S

    I’m late to this discussion, but Pete, I’d be interested to know what specific ideas that you consider youth are being “brainwashed” with, that they would need to be deprogrammed from.

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  6. petedunn

    Dan S: My apologies for not responding prior to this, and I’ll further apolgoize that I’m out of time to respond right now – but I’ll try to address this in the next day or too – but no promises. “Deprogrammed” should be in parenthesis along with the “brain washed”.

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  7. Drick Boyd

    As a college professor at a Christian College (Eastern University, not be confused with EMU), I find this discussion interesting. I too, would like to know how students are being “brainwashed”. For as I talk to professors at Christian colleges, what irks us most is the lack of questioning and critical thinking in general, not just of our views, but of the cultural milieu in which we all live and work. As a teacher of courses on social justice, I work hard to stir up conversation, just so students will think through their views, whatever they are.

    Remember, we who have dedicated ourlives to teaching are dedicate also to student learning.

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  8. Steve Dintaman

    I was tipped off to this discussion by my intergenerational friend, Tim Nafziger. I taught at a Mennonite school, EMU, for 15 years and have some resonances with the “brainwashing” charge. I felt at times that EMU had become a P&J mill, turning out predictable theological and political analysis of a leftist sort. I found that students were actually getting bored with “the party line” and were eager to be challenged by someone who was attempting to interpret and apply the Christian faith, not merely come up with absolutely predictable social justice applications of the faith. But on all of our campuses there are instructors who are committed to interpreting and applying the faith, and students who have the good sense to keep their bearings in the midst of what they were hearing. Many years ago I wrote a piece trying to describe how Mennonite schools end up alienating students from faith. If you are interested it can be found at http://www.goshen.edu/mhl/Refocusing/DINTAMAN.htm. I wrote it partly out of my perplexity at why so many P&J students on our campuses end of becoming so alienated from the Christian faith.

    I am currently in my 5th year of teaching Theology at Lithuania Christian College and loving it. It’s good to be away from the squabbles of Mennonite academic life!

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  9. carl

    Steve: Doesn’t seem like there’s much difference between “attempting to interpret and apply the Christian faith” and “merely com[ing] up with absolutely predictable social justice applications of the faith”. Only difference I can see on the face of it is that you apparently like some kinds of interpretation/application, and you don’t like others. Which doesn’t say much of substance.

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  10. Shirley

    A couple things to remember. It’s easy to be “brainwashed” if 1. you have never been allowed to challenge authority and b. if you have no internal solid base of belief that is yours.
    I went through Mennonite schools up to graduation from high school. One of the things I noted was that I was one of the very few females who felt free to express my opinions anywhere at anytime. Part of that freedom was that my father encouraged me to debate with him and would often create arguments to challenge my thinking. AS I got older I started to realize what a gift that was. At the same time my parents made sure that I had an indepth knowledge of the Bible backwards and forwards and inside out.They never used ” We believe this because the church says so.” they expected to me to able to respond to any questions with a Biblically based answer NOT with “I dunno thats just what we always do” Unfortunately most young people dont have that same background. Its one thing to challenge a young person to think ABOUT what they believe. What I think most people have a problem with is when students have deeply held Bibilically based convictions and stick by them and are consequently mocked and their views ignored. Thats when its going too far. I had more respect in expressing my views at the Catholic college I went to than I did at the Mennonite high school.

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  11. Steve Dintaman

    Carl wrote, “Steve: Doesn’t seem like there’s much difference between “attempting to interpret and apply the Christian faith” and “merely com[ing] up with absolutely predictable social justice applications of the faith”. Only difference I can see on the face of it is that you apparently like some kinds of interpretation/application, and you don’t like others. Which doesn’t say much of substance.”

    No, there is a dramatic difference, and students notice it immediately. Please don’t reduce everything to “you like some interpretations and don’t like others”. It is a question of how we approach biblical texts and matters of faith. More than once in my educational pilgrimage I had to confront the fact that some of my cherished ideas and commitments simply were not confirmed by careful reading of text and tradition. Particularly my college age ideas that Jesus was primarily a social activist and discipleship meant being the same, started to be qualified and displaced as I committed myself to faithfully reading and teaching faith to students. What I am at odds with is a kind of utilitarian hermeneutics that says the meaning of the text is the behavior it produces in us. So truth claims about the saving work of God in Christ, the work of the Holy Spirit in us, and the hope of God’s kingdom coming are simply background motifs that need to be converted into something meaningful….human behavior.

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  12. Dan S

    Steve, surely you are not saying that a commitment to following Jesus need not result in behavior changes, or at least in aligning one’s behavior with Jesus’ teachings?

    However, I’m still not sure how this relates to brainwashing. Am I brainwashed because I do believe the meaning of the text relates to the behavior it produces, or should produce? Am I brainwashed because I believe that Jesus cares a lot more about whether we advocate for the poor and powerless and least among us than he cares about whether we accept his divinity? Or am I just wrong, and brainwashing others when I’m able to convince them? :)

    Sorry to needle you on this, but too often I’ve seen the attitude that “my interpretation is wholly correct, and others are brainwashing or bad or evil”. I suspect that isn’t your position, so it would be good to elaborate.

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  13. Steve Dintaman

    Sorry, hadn’t checked this thread for a while….
    Surely I am not saying that being a believer does not result in behavioral changes. Nothing I said could possibly be construed that way.

    I think one of the weaknesses of Mennonite colleges is that we have not (at least in the past) had strong Philosophy programs, and have not been strong in teaching students to read the methodological assumptions behind a position. We are practical, not just theoretical, etc, etc. To me a student is being brainwashed when they are being taught a way of reading and thinking without being taught to analyze and critique the methods that are at play in the process. It leads to thin readings of scripture and thin interpretations of the world we live in. A thin reading of Jesus goes something like…Jesus lived and taught peace…now that we have settled that lets go learn peacemaking techniques. I would say that in such a reading a p&j utilitarian hermeneutic is at work. That’s fine, if that’s what you want to do, but then you should say that’s what your doing and acknowledge it is a very recent, modernist way to read our texts. A “thicker” reading of the Jesus story would also pay attention to the larger theological framework of the story and would produce analysis and actions that were more truly countercultural, less uniformly in agreement with popular leftist social analysis.

    Sure I think my views are right, but as a teacher I feel I haven’t done a good job unless I’ve helped students understand my position in a way that would enable them to analyze and critique it. I have several hundred former students around…ask them if I brainwashed them in class or demonized faculty who disagreed with me!

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  14. Tony Jones

    As an EMU graduate and EMS matriculate, and former student of Steve Dintaman,(to whom greetings across at least ten years), who just happened across this website while web-surfing theology articles, the topic at hand is of special interest on several levels. During my time at EMU – ’92-’94, the theme of “brainwashing” was very much on the minds of faculty, students, and parents/church communities back home, though I don’t recall hearing the term itself that often. My own perspective on the subject has transformed itself completely several times through experience, prayer, study, and (hopefully)spiritual growth, or regression as the case may have been.

    I remember one professor in particular who was accused by many, not without merit, of indoctrination rather than teaching. During my undergrad years I’m not sure I would have understood the distinction, because I tended to rather emphatic exhortation of (what I considered to be) biblical propositions without much sense of hermeneutical nuance, as I recall. But in later years I came more and more to appreciate the real difference between indoctrination – which itself involves a kind of disdainful utilitarian manipulation for the production of cookie-cuttered “witness-bots” to go forth into society – and the kind of real instruction which involves respect for the student, willingness to be challenged spiritually and existentially as well as intellectually, and unfeigned mutuality. (I warmly remember Steve D. as a representative of the latter kind of instructor, to whose teaching I owe much of my personal and theological formation as a believer, but that’s another topic…)

    There is some legitimacy to the concern about “brainwashing”, at least as it applies to my somewhat dated experience. (I’m not sure where things stand in academia now because I’ve been out of there for a few years.) But there is also a dimension that includes a generalized frequent mistrust of various societal entities for academia itself, i.e. the “my child went to college and lost their soul” argument. This applies obviously not just to the notional debaucherous worldliness that is said to occur there, but more to the point, doctrinally and spiritually in the Christian sense.

    Perhaps the issue is more one about the willingness – or even the ability – to think critically, and how that is negotiated along the lines of student/teacher relationships and in the ecclesial community generally. Issues of faculty politics and collegiality feed into this as well, a dynamic that I understood almost nothing about in 1994 and have come to grasp more through work experience in the secular world and relationships generally. The real bugbear here is the tendency of social networks to stultifying, ossified group-think. And this of course is particularly problematic in an educational/confessional/ecclesial establishment (the Mennonite) in which community is treated with a reverence that possesses near-sacramental overtones. I’m rambling a bit and also limited by my lack of recent experience in Anabaptist academia (to which it seems I’m returning for a bit) but these are thoughts that occur as I look back, at times with wonder and more than a little amusement.

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  15. Melissa Green

    Boy Tony, if you’re late coming to this thread – I’m really late!!

    I am also a former student of Steve Dintaman, and a peer of Tony’s. My problem during my years at EMU was that the profs who harped the most about critical thinking – and having problems getting the students to do it – were rarely the ones who actually wanted us to apply critical thinking. What they wanted was for us to think like them because (in their opinion) any intelligent thinking individual would. Some of these professors were every bit as rigid and intractable in their beliefs/thoughts as they accused fundamentalists of being. My memory of Steve was that he was always very transparent/honest in his faith journey and wasn’t ashamed to admit in front of the students that he had come to believe some of his older beliefs were wrong/changed his stance on issues. He made it okay for us to think that we didn’t have to know what we believed on a certain subject RIGHT NOW, and that it would be equally okay for us to change our minds down the road. I am proud to be an EMU alumni, but I’m even more proud to be able to say that I was one of Steve Dintaman’s students.

    EMU’s loss is LCC’s gain!!

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  17. Steve Dintaman

    Hi Tony! Hi Melissa! Bless you both! Melissa summed up perfectly what I see as the failure of EMU at least when I was there when she wrote, “My problem during my years at EMU was that the profs who harped the most about critical thinking – and having problems getting the students to do it – were rarely the ones who actually wanted us to apply critical thinking. What they wanted was for us to think like them because (in their opinion) any intelligent thinking individual would. Some of these professors were every bit as rigid and intractable in their beliefs/thoughts as they accused fundamentalists of being.” This is it…critical thinking equals a certain kind of radical political criticism, and anyone who thinks otherwise simply is not to be taken seriously. My fear is that this has produced a generation of young Mennos who really are not capable of self-criticism, or of thinking seriously about faith…thankfully I keep finding young Mennos who prove me wrong and continue to do both!

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  18. urbanmenno

    I would hope that many of us at EMU during the Steve D. vs Ray G. years (that is essentially what this is boiling down to, right?) learned that faith is both internal and external.

    The one thing that I always appreciated from the politically radical Bible professors was that the application of faith had real meaning in real life; that if you were going to live your faith you would think about your actions and the consequences of those actions.

    Neither camp was perfect; that was made abundantly clear over and over again.

    It wasn’t that one camp taught better critical thinking than the other camp but that critical thinking happened because students held the two extremes in their hand and learned to navigate between them in a way that was personally meaningful.

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  19. Melissa Green

    I could be completely wrong, but my observation was that the only one of the “politically radical” professors I saw really trying to put their faith into action was Titus Bender. Yes, I know he was not a Bible prof, but the point remains since he was of that same general philosophy as Ray G. And, let the record show that the student body responded to Titus and his honest quest much the same way they did to Steve. You might not have agreed with him, but you had to respect him.

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  20. Melissa Green

    William Wilberforce said, “True faith is something that so pervades lives that it affects everything we do.” I don’t think anyone with even a passing knowledge of history would argue that Wilberforce’s faith was not “politically radical.” But, his radical faith was an expression of his internal faith. As a matter of fact, he believed you couldn’t have the external without first having the internal. Similarly for General Booth (heart to God, hand to man) of the Salvation Army and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

    The problem with the radical liberation theology as taught at EMU was that they seemed to think the internal wasn’t neccessary, and they leaned toward moral relativism, “Well, what’s right for you may not be right for ________. We shouldn’t judge, we should just love,” an attitude very soundly rejected by Wilberforce, Booth, Bonhoeffer, and Calvin Shenk ;-)

    Wilberforce also said, “Authentic faith will always be evidenced by changed lives,” and let me tell you all – I witnessed that first hand when I worked for the Salvation Army in Winchester, VA. I saw the love and grace of Jesus Christ put in action like I never saw it before, and I saw the fruits of it. When I worked in the shelter on Sunday night 4-12, people would come over from the church and tell me all about when the lived in the shelter and how their lives were changed. The people working at that Salvation Army LOVED those people, and that was what made the difference. I later worked for another Salvation Army where the attitude was more, “We help the scum because we’re the Salvation Army and that’s what we’re supposed to do,” and the difference/lack of love was evidenced in the lack of lives changed.

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  21. urbanmenno

    But then what do you do when someone’s external actions are so completely at odds with their “internal” faith? Too often the internal faith first argument leads to people doing actions that are just morally wrong but as long as they are “Christians” or “right with God in their soul” we’re supposed to be OK with it (Zimbabwe anyone?).

    And while I was at EMU, we were sometimes asked to forgive people and professors who made choices or engaged in actions that seemed fundamentally at odds with their strong internal faiths. Loving rather than judging seemed to be the right choice to make.

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  22. Melissa Green

    When we were asked to forgive professors whose actions were at odds with their faith, the professors were acknowledging they’d done wrong, and asking for forgiveness. They weren’t up there saying, “Who are you to judge me? You’re not perfect either…”

    When their actions are so at odds with their “internal” faith, then according to the Bible and all the theologians I mentioned in my last post – then there’s something wrong with their inner faith. They’re either out and out lying about what they believe, or seriously misgudied/deceived (afterall Hitler sincerely believed he was doing the right thing). James said, “Show me faith without works, and I will show you my faith with my works.”

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  23. Tony Jones

    Hello Steve and Melissa, greetings to all,

    Melissa, I agree with Steve that you hit the nail on the head with your comment about – how to summarize this in a nutshell? – profs being unwilling to stand the same critical scrutiny of their views by students that they expect the students to perform to some disliked reactionary ideology. My point really isn’t about specific professorial personalities of the 90’s but rather what it means to have a thorough, humane, compassionate, biblical critique which one is just as willing to apply to oneself as to someone else. This is still something I have to work on daily in my own life.

    I have been out of the academic fold for about 10 years, but am at least briefly returning to finish my MAR at Eastern Mennonite, so I would be interested to pose a question to the forum as a whole (if anybody is still reading this one that is:))…What are your feelings as students, faculty, staff, admin, family members and fellow believers, about where the situation is today? Is “brainwashing” what really happens in Mennonite Colleges – bible departments or otherwise – today? In what ways might it be similar or different to the 90’s? Just getting my feet wet after a long hiatus…

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  24. somasoul

    I’m not a Bible Student in any sort of college. I do worry that academics has an agenda. Typically I have felt that persons in academia seek out positions to mold young minds, typically meaning minds like their own.

    Among conservatives we usually think that colleges are run by liberals and courses taught by liberals. I don’t know if this is a problem. I do know that I don’t like to be taught to by people who are unwilling to ask questions, who see their own beliefs as the end-all-be-all.

    I think that’s why I left school. I was tired of being told, I wanted to be asked.

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  25. Melissa Green

    Somasoul, are you saying that YOUR beliefs are the end-all-and-be-all?

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  26. somasoul

    “Somasoul, are you saying that YOUR beliefs are the end-all-and-be-all?”

    Of course. ;)

    Actually, I assume you are referring to my last sentence “I want to be asked”.

    What I mean is that I want professors to ask questions and see where a class draws its conclusions from. Not that my answer would be correct, but open ended questions produce thought.

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  27. Melissa Green

    Okay – I was a little concerned.

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  28. Aaron

    I read a journal article once that showed how colleges in general have a liberalizing influence on students (from the sixties to present). Of course within this general context, there would be institutions that would be more liberalizing and some that would make you more conservative.

    In general, I think a lot of professors are liberals, at least by US standards, though moderates by those of most other countries. A counter-balancing force is that of administrators, donors, corporations, and government.

    The curriculum is skewed to the right, with entire programs deserved to serve corporate interests (compare the size of business schools to those of peace and justice ones).

    Also, the problem with the liberal professors is that they are selling solutions that don’t get at the problems. The few radicals that you find, are often too divorced from reality – academics that lack the practice element, who have been convinced that writing academic articles/books for an elite minority audience of their peers is the way to go. And radical solutions are also hard to envision as they are often a far step from our current circumstances.

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  29. Tony Jones

    Returning to this conversation after, frankly, having forgotten about it in the pursuit of Other Interests(tm):)

    Aaron, a couple of things you say resonate with me. The apparent divorce of so many faculties from any kind of grass-roots reality, and the sense that they are basically talking to other (elite) academes. Of course, this cuts both ways, since in general, those outside academia have absolutely no interest in what goes on in academia and at least a great deal of suspicion of academic methodologies anyway. My own experience is that my time in undergrad and then in sem did absolutely nothing to help me live life in the “real world,” but that is a story for another time perhaps. (And I know now at 37 what I didn’t know at 27, namely, that I am autistic, which knowledge would probably have been useful back then…) I don’t regret the schooling though, because Biblical Studies and Theology are still my main passion along with philosophy and writing poetry. I digress…

    On the “liberalizing” influence of a college education, I think that the trend is pretty well documented. What some would see as an insidious tendency within higher education though I think is largely a result of students beiong confronted with a wider spectrum of memes and ideas, especially if they get cross cultural experience, than they would have without attending college. Generally speaking, those influences tend to be liberalizing. Even students who come out of those experiences with a basically conservative political/theological orientation are usually more liberal than their friends and family who have not. But your point on the more conservative influence generally of administration is well-taken. I remember well in the early nineties at EMU vigorous discussion of “mission” vs. “financial solvency,” and where different members of administration and faculty stood on those issues. I have a feeling those debates continue to this day.

    Somasoul, re the issue of “molding minds,” I also resonate with you there. I think generally it’s not so much a question of a specific liberal agenda as the fact that many professors – presumably of various ideological stripes – are not comfortable with sound pedagogy, what I think of as real teaching, which you allude to in wanting to be asked questions. I.e. they don’t understand the difference between teaching – with it’s give and take and respect of the one taught as well as openness to being corrected on the part of the prof – and indoctrination. (I look back and see I’m starting to repeat myself from an earlier post so I’ll shut it down…)

    blessings…
    Tony

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  30. Melissa Green

    Hey Tony,

    Are you local these days – meaning in the general H’burg area?

    E-mail me: tallgirl71@yahoo.com

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  31. Melissa Green

    I was also going to say while we’re hating on Mennonite Professors, I should mention I go to a book club that has three professors from two other institutions of higher learning in the area. Not a soul from EMU comes. These guys can be such arrogant blow hards – interrupting other group members when they’re talking, telling us what we’re thinking, and generally talking down to us – that well, they make the most arrogant EMU professor look humble by comparison. Really, if I could get someone from EMU to show up, I’d probably jump for joy at seeing them.

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  32. Andy Hershberger

    I’m pretty late to the conversation here, having just stumbled upon the website. I found this discussion to be quite interesting. I had the privilege (that’s not a typo) of graduating from and then working at EMU. As a business major I only took the requisite bible classes and actually got to know most of the professors better while working there.

    Before I get ahead of myself, I’ll comment on the original theme of brain washing. What a term…I mean if I don’t know I’ve been brain washed, or believe the claim to be false how does the accuser prove that it happened in the first place without going through the same experience that I had? I do know that I was challenged to think for myself and that some very important events changed my view on political and social issues. Did I come out more “liberal”…I guess, but I still consider myself somewhat conservative (although I prefer the independent label).

    Like many of my Mennonite college brethren I had the opportunity to spend time in a third world country (Lesotho). That experience alone taught me more about social justice then any professor (who may have brain washed me). When I take part in discussions on other websites with others who haven’t had this opportunity I soon realize how lucky I was. How do you discuss poverty with someone who simply believes it is nothing more than a matter of hard work? Do my views that Jesus calls us to feed the hungry and cloth the poor equate to something other than what is based on the teachings of Christ?

    Secondly, when it comes to the academic setting you can ALWAYS figure that there will be squabbling amongst the ranks. However, I say it’s actually healthy. It forces discussions and pushes the envelope. Would you really want to attend a college where everyone agrees with everyone? I also find it a little unfair to label professors…as a student I thought I “knew” many of mine. However, what I thought was not always all that spot on.

    All said…I would go back to EMU if I had to do it all over again.

    Reply
  33. Melissa Green

    Andy – I have no regrets about going to EMU and I tried to get my son to go there.

    Reply

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