Along with content knowledge and pedagogical skill, teachers’ personal qualities impact their classrooms and their work with depth and significance. The moral qualities that teachers bring with them into the classroom inform decisions, direct practice, and guide the culture of the learning community. Hope is an important virtue and motivation for teachers in every teaching situation and context, for hope pervades every aspect of the experience of teaching.
It is probably no surprise to anyone that it is increasingly difficult to maintain a Christian witness on many college campuses. Recently, InterVarsity has had to fight to remain at Harvard, Rutgers, and North Carolina. At North Carolina, a Christian fraternity was “de-recognized” and, according to Jo Stanley, a Christian group at the University of California Hastings College of the Law lost an appeal to be reinstated as a campus organization just this last April. The main reason these groups are facing problems is that they insist their members be Christian, something which flies in the face of non-discrimination policies that allow participation and membership in university organizations without regard to age, race, color, national origin, religion, disability, sex or sexual orientation. Writing in the October, 2003 issue of Christianity Today, Andy Crouch states:
There is nothing so close to the university’s heart as the dream of education as a liberating force. The liberation being most avidly sought in universities today is sexual—removing the shame from a wide variety of sexual orientations that are summed up in organizational names like “The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning Alliance…At UNC, some members of the gay community, aware of InterVarsity’s traditional views, were vocal in calling for the group’s removal from campus. (64)
There can be no doubt that Christians who work in the secular university face many obstacles today. How do we maintain our witness for Christ when the temptation, perhaps even the threat, to be silent, is very real? At what point must we decide to speak up or hold our tongue? What will speaking up cost us in the way of prestige or even our careers? It is a time when we must truly be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. Is there anyone to turn to for advice?
Recently, two cultural analysts have written books that talk about the future of humanity. Thomas Friedman, foreign affairs columnist for the New York Times, in his book The World is Flat, explains many of the consequences of globalization on our world. In a recent meeting of the National Governor’s Association, he discussed advances in technology so powerful that anyone with a computer in Beijing or Bangalore can plug in and compete with anyone else in the world, and what will happen if we grow complacent in our education of today’s young people. Joel Garreau, a Washington Post Editor and cultural analyst, in Radical Evolution: The Promise and Peril of Enhancing our Minds, Our Bodies, and What it means to be Human gives an overview of the implication of four technologies that are growing exponentially. He calls these technologies GRIN: Genetics, Robotics, Information, and Nanotechnology. He explains that these technologies are bringing the ability to enhance memory with pills or bioengineer our children or have robots fight our battles; outcomes of which can be what he describes as Heaven, Hell, or Prevail. What both these recent books bring to light as they define these incredible paradigm shifts is the need for a view of humanity that is rooted in ethics and values. In addition they pose questions about what we are doing in education to give the next generation the resources and stronghold of values they need to make sure that the growth in power of technology and science does not overwhelm our humanity.
C. S. Lewis published The Abolition of Man in 1944 in the midst of World War II. We can perhaps imagine the ominous and suggestive nature of this timing. But, as readers soon discovered, the book was not at all about the War, or Hitler’s eugenics, or the looming nuclear threat. Lewis’s real subject is the soul and its education. According to Lewis, the real enemy—more dangerous than any nation, weapon, or science—is a philosophy: nihilism. It is perhaps a bit misleading to say that nihilism is a “post-modern” philosophy, for there have been nihilists and advocates of nihilism as long as there have been men. But it is true that this philosophy has come to be more widely preached and practiced in our time than ever before. In The Abolition of Man Lewis both explains and combats this modern (post-modern) development.