…one reads Peter Conn’s woefully belligerent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education about “The Great Accreditation Farce”, in which he argues that Christian colleges, by virtue of their ‘statements of faith’, make a mockery of the academic accreditation system. By “Christian”, he’s referring to Evangelical schools, not Jesuit ones like the university I attended, which probably hints at the true roots of what’s going on here. Surely there are some fringe schools that do push the boundaries of what can/should be considered legitimate scholarship, but his main beef is with Wheaton College in Illinois, a school whose graduates are almost uniformly impressive and, surprisingly to those in some contexts, free-thinking. I’ve met quite a few myself. What’s most offensive about the tirade, though, is its complete lack of humility or self-awareness. He makes not even the vaguest concession that the academy *may* ascribe to its own set of presuppositions, or dare I say, dogmas. The irony is, I’m not sure I’ve ever read a less reasonable–or more transparently hot-tempered–tribute to the primacy of ‘reason’. As Alan Jacobs, a former Wheaton professor, points out in a spirited response: “The idea that religious faith and reason are incompatible can only be put forth by someone utterly ignorant of the centuries of philosophical debate on this subject, which continues to this day; and if it’s the primacy of reason that Conn is particularly concerned with, perhaps he might take a look at the recent (and not-so-recent) history of his own discipline, which is also mine. Could anyone affirm with a straight face that English studies in America has for the past quarter-century or more been governed by “the primacy of reason”? I seriously doubt that Conn even knows what he means by “reason.” Any stick to beat a dog.
In this morning’s sermon, I mentioned Prof. Alan Jacobs’ response to Prof. Peter Conn’s attack on the accreditation of religious colleges. David Zahl writes in his article “A Few Thoughts on Righteous Minds and Religious Liberty” at Mockingbird about this interchange: