The color of the political world may be changing in Washington on Jan. 4, but at many American universities, like ancient monastic orders, things apparently remain pretty much the same.
The conservative Students for America has completed a survey of 13 college campuses in the Southeast, and the findings are not encouraging to those who believe the ideas and values from the ‘60s are primarily what has caused the economic and social turmoil with which the new Congress will wrestle.
The universities and colleges surveyed were in states generally considered among the most conservative in the nation: South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. Students were asked to answer questions about their political leanings, their view of taxation and whether they think right and wrong can be objectively determined.
Of those responding to the survey, 46 percent said they considered themselves to be liberal, 39 percent said they were conservative, and 15 percent said they would not label themselves as either.
Most surprising to the survey’s sponsors was the finding that 56 percent said that right and wrong is a matter of personal opinion. Only 38 percent said they believe right and wrong is not a matter of personal opinion and that there are absolutes. If this is the trend in conservative states, could things be worse in the more liberal Northeast or in California, a state with a history of radical university professors?
Some bright spots from the survey included these findings: 94 percent of the students said that family is the most important institution for society’s well-being (they were not asked to define “family,” however, which, given the response on right and wrong, might have brought a less optimistic response). Regarding taxes, 73 percent said they are too high, while only 25 percent thought that the tax rate is acceptable.
In a finding that says something about this generation’s view of itself, 56 percent of the students surveyed said their student government leaders do not possess the qualities needed to lead America.
The survey indicates a confused set of standards in which the reality of the consequences of the failed ‘60s ideology continues to rub against the true believers - the tenured radicals - who refuse to abandon the ideology they embraced in the free-sex, drug-induced halcyon days of the Age of Aquarius.
One respondent, a theology graduate student at Emory University, said he didn’t know if right and wrong is a matter of personal opinion. One might ask what good it does to study theology if the subject doesn’t point the student to an authority higher than his or her own mind. Whatever this student’s, or the student’s parents, are paying in tuition, they are being overcharged.
One of the Students for America leaders involved in the survey, Jeff McCraw, tells me that, in the ‘60s, students rebelled against a conservative society. “It was a rebellion against morality, a matter of immorality. But today, attitudes and belief systems among so many college students are not a matter of immorality. Rather, I believe it stems from the absence of morals and values. Today’s “liberal” practices and beliefs may be a matter of amorality. If this is the case, where will we be in another 30 years?”
It may be that parents and students are awakening to the re-education camps too many universities have become. Eleven of 13 states report a moderate decline in college enrollment at the start of the 1994-95 school year. While tuition increases and a shrinking of the pool of high school graduates is blamed, there is a growing awareness among parents and students that in too many institutions of “higher learning,” the learning is more about lower than higher things. Increasingly, people will hunt for schools that give them a real education and avoid those which seek to propagandize according to the principles and fads of a failed decade.