San­to­rum is right about col­leges

Facts back up per­cep­tion that cam­pus life is faith-killer

The Washington Times Daily - - Opinion - By Pa­trick J. Reilly

Chid­ing pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Rick San­to­rum for call­ing Amer­ica’s col­leges “in­doc­tri­na­tion mills,” MSNBC host Ed Schultz re­cently ac­cused Mr. San­to­rum of cit­ing a “bo­gus study” from the Car­di­nal New­man So­ci­ety.

What’s bo­gus is MSNBC’S re­port­ing. Mr. San­to­rum is right about the in­doc­tri­na­tion.

What has the lib­eral me­dia all flus­tered is Mr. San­to­rum’s frank crit­i­cism of Amer­ica’s col­leges and their fre­quent hos­til­ity to­ward tra­di­tional re­li­gious val­ues. What goes on to­day at most col­leges is of­fen­sive and de­struc­tive from a moral per­spec­tive.

Un­like most me­dia re­porters, Mr. San­to­rum’s au­di­ences un­der­stand his lan­guage. “Re­li­gion” is not the same as the un­de­fined “spir­i­tu­al­ity” claimed by many young peo­ple to­day. In some re­spects, the two are po­lar op­po­sites.

But lib­eral re­porters seem to dis­trust any­one they can de­ride as old-fash­ioned re­li­gious folk. So they have set their sights on Mr. San­to­rum and a cu­ri­ous statis­tic that he cited re­cently, claim­ing that 62 per­cent of stu­dents lose their “faith com­mit­ment” dur­ing col­lege.

It seems no one can find the source of that statis­tic, but the fo­cus on it is some­thing of a red her­ring. There’s plenty of data to back up Mr. San­to­rum’s con­cern about the leftist and sec­u­lar­ist bi­ases of higher ed­u­ca­tion in the United States.

What I know, as pres­i­dent of the Car­di­nal New­man So­ci­ety, is that MSNBC falsely at­trib­uted the statis­tic to us while fail­ing to cite an ac­tual study that we pub­lished. We’re not the source.

So why would Mr. Schultz drag the Car­di­nal New­man So­ci­ety into his rant against Mr. San­to­rum? I have a guess.

In ad­vanc­ing our mis­sion to re­new Catholic iden­tity in Catholic higher ed­u­ca­tion, we have vo­cally op­posed the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s ef­forts to force Catholic col­leges to in­sure both stu­dents and em­ploy­ees for ster­il­iza­tion and abor­tion-caus­ing drugs. In 2009, we also or­ga­nized a na­tional pe­ti­tion with more than 367,000 sign­ers protest­ing the Univer­sity of Notre Dame’s honors to Pres­i­dent Obama — a point noted by Mr. Schultz with dis­dain.

So that’s it. Mr. Schultz doesn’t like those who stand in the way of Mr. Obama, even a non­po­lit­i­cal re­li­gious or­ga­ni­za­tion. We’re those old-fash­ioned re­li­gious folk.

Our fo­cus is Catholic stu­dents at Catholic in­sti­tu­tions. For in­stance, in 2010, we re­ported on a find­ing from Ge­orge­town Univer­sity that 12 per­cent of Catholic stu­dents leave the faith by grad­u­a­tion from a Catholic col­lege or univer­sity. For us, 1 in 8 stu­dents is alarm­ing.

But the even greater prob­lem is that among those grad­u­ates who still say they’re Catholic, many are no longer truly com­mit­ted to tra­di­tional Catholic prac­tices and moral­ity. There is ev­i­dence of a sim­i­lar prob­lem among other re­li­gious faiths. That could be the mean­ing be­hind Mr. San­to­rum’s stated 62 per­cent de­cline in “faith com­mit­ment” among stu­dents of all re­li­gions.

Con­sider again the re­sults of the Ge­orge­town study, which used data from the Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Re­search In­sti­tute at the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Los An­ge­les.

Re­searchers found that 16 per­cent of Catholic stu­dents at Catholic col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties were more op­posed to abor­tion by grad­u­a­tion, yet nearly twice as many (31 per­cent) had shifted to­ward sup­port for le­gal abor­tion. Six­teen per­cent had strength­ened their com­mit­ment to tra­di­tional mar­riage, but 39 per­cent had in­creased sup­port for same-sex “mar­riage.” Seven per­cent at­tended Mass more of­ten, 32 per­cent less of­ten.

The data is sim­i­lar for stu­dents at nonCatholic col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties. The Higher Ed­u­ca­tion Re­search In­sti­tute’s 2009 sur­vey of col­lege se­niors found de­clines in tra­di­tional re­li­gious prac­tice and moral­ity across all types of four-year in­sti­tu­tions:

Self-de­scribed af­fil­i­a­tion with most Chris­tian de­nom­i­na­tions de­clined only slightly, ex­cept among Catholics (5 per­cent). But the num­ber of stu­dents claim­ing no re­li­gious faith — 1 in 5 col­lege grad­u­ates — in­creased nearly 50 per­cent over stu­dents’ fresh­man year.

The num­ber of stu­dents fre­quently at­tend­ing re­li­gious ser­vices de­clined 48 per­cent.

More than 40 per­cent of se­niors said they never prayed, an in­crease of 43 per­cent over their fresh­man year.

More than a quar­ter of stu­dents who op­posed abor­tion as fresh­men be­came “pro-choice” by grad­u­a­tion, and nearly a third switched from op­pos­ing same-sex mar­riage to sup­port­ing it.

With re­gard to po­lit­i­cal per­sua­sion, the num­ber of stu­dents who self-iden­ti­fied as “lib­eral” or “far left” in­creased 30 per­cent from fresh­man to se­nior year.

There is a plethora of stud­ies claim­ing that col­lege grad­u­ates re­tain a healthy sense of spir­i­tu­al­ity, im­ply­ing some ex­pe­ri­ence of the su­per­nat­u­ral. But that’s hardly the same as tra­di­tional re­li­gious prac­tice and moral­ity.

The hubris of col­lege pro­fes­sors who think they can ex­clude re­li­gious per­spec­tives from the study of sci­ence, lit­er­a­ture, his­tory and other sub­jects is why the Car­di­nal New­man So­ci­ety thinks it so im­por­tant to re­store au­then­tic­ity to Catholic col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties.

For the na­tion’s sake, help­ing our stu­dents at all col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties re­tain a healthy re­spect for God, re­li­gion and tra­di­tional val­ues would be a good thing, too.

IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY JOHN CAMEJO

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