". . . and having done all . . . stand firm." Eph. 6:13


University Protests Are Evidence of a Failed Education System

May 13, 2024

There is irony in the fact that all of the demonstrations in solidarity with terrorist organizations are taking place on university campuses. Aristotle was one of the first to believe the purpose of education was wisdom and virtue. He believed students were educated when they could appropriately apply knowledge to their context.

This means education is not a neutral endeavor. We want students to learn to think for themselves, but the goal is to equip them to get the right answer without assistance.

These protests are evidence that the education system has failed many students at the most basic level. In moral terms, these protestors cannot correctly compute 2+2=4. They sincerely believe it is impossible to do wrong if the group you’re part of is perceived to have a power deficit.

Their critical theory worldview has trained them not to judge the morality of an action based on what a person did but based on the group identity of the person involved. As a result, acts that would be evil if committed by one person (destruction of property, arson, rape, or murder) are virtuous acts of “resistance” when carried out by another person.

So, parents have paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to have their children turned into apologists for the worst people in the world. This is an educational failure of epic proportions that warrants a refund but also exposes the futility of seeing the world through a lens of the powerful and the powerless. A far better lens is to think about things in terms of right and wrong, or good and evil.

The reality is, power will always exist — and that’s not a bad thing. After all, the only alternative to that framework is anarchy. Furthermore, because both power and evil exist, it is the job of good people to ensure bad people never have power. As the old adage reminds us, the only things necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. But the products of today’s “education” system have been convinced the bad people (terrorists) are the good people, not because they do good things, but because they’re not in charge. The rest of us look at the situation where bad people lack power and say, “Thank God.”

Robert Frost wrote about the importance of not tearing down fences before you understand why they were put up in the first place. In this case, we’re talking about literal fences. Why have Gaza’s neighbors in Egypt and Israel — with significant cultural and religious differences — both built fences to keep people from Gaza from going into their countries? It’s because a disproportionate number of those people are trying to kill their neighbors. Gazans elected Hamas, and polling since October 7 has shown most people in Gaza believe Hamas did the right thing on October 7. One can be clear-eyed about this fact without being indifferent to the suffering of innocent people caught in the wake.

Decent people should want those who seek to kill their neighbors to be powerless. Their powerlessness is not a cause for protest, it’s something to be grateful for. Of course, there’s always the risk of exploitation by those who have power, but before you decide to light yourself on fire or go on a hunger strike on behalf of people that TikTok has identified as powerless, you should ask, “Is their lack of power a good thing or a bad thing?” Unless your moral compass is broken, the answer to that question in Gaza’s case is obvious.

But for months we’ve seen the evidence that university campuses have a significant population of people with broken moral compasses. Yes, these kids deserve to get their money back, but that doesn’t solve the problem. At this point, they have become a threat to the rest of us, in large part, because the education system failed to deliver anything Aristotle would recognize as an education.

Joseph Backholm is Senior Fellow for Biblical Worldview and Strategic Engagement at Family Research Council.