John A. Tures: College is not the enemy of religion

jtures@lagrange.eduFebruary 22, 2013 

Our pastor told us a tale about a girl who felt picked on in college because of her faith. She eventually withdrew from the school to move home with her folks. He described it as a missed opportunity to "stand your ground" on your faith and not exclude yourself from society, as the early Shakers did. But is her story the exception or the rule?

Former presidential candidate Rick Santorum tried to make a stronger case condemning colleges. He went on the Tony Perkins show "Washington Watch" and said, "If you look at the popular culture and what comes out of Hollywood, if you go to our schools and particularly our colleges and universities, they are indoctrinated in a sea of relativism and a sea of antagonism towards Christianity."

Last year, while on the campaign trail, he referred to Obama as a snob for trying to make college available to everyone. I think that (a) not everyone needs to go to college; (b) people who don't go to college should not automatically be judged poorly for not going through higher education; and (c) you can succeed without going to college. Some folks find it isn't for them.

But that's a lot different from calling someone a name for giving someone the choice and chance to go to school. Even those who don't go and succeed probably don't feel it is a terrible thing to be given a choice.

Are colleges driving young people away from church and God? Are they inhibiting conservative views in favor of liberal ones? You may recall my prior analysis of the 2004 and 2008 elections. In 2004, George W. Bush won both the "college graduates" category and those with "some college." John Kerry did better among those that never went to college or finished high school.

In 2008, Barack Obama won all education designations. But John McCain did his best among those with "some college" or a college degree. Obama won the categories Kerry did, but by bigger margins than the college crowd.

But what does data from the 2012 election show? You might think that Obama won because of college students and graduates. ChristianPost.com cited a pair of polls, one by NBC News in conjunction with the Wall Street Journal, the other from Gallup. Both showed Mitt Romney with double-digit leads in surveys among those with a bachelor's degree.

Voting is one thing, but maintaining your Christian faith is another. Do colleges really inhibit those of faith? The New York Times recently reported on that question. One study showed that college students are no more liberal than others of their age (18-24). The other demonstrated that college students maintain their faith much better than other young people their age. That study comes from sociologists Jeremy Uecker, Mark Regnerus and Margaret Vaaler, using what's known as the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/04/opinion/sunday/college-doesnt-make-you-liberal.html?_r=3&).

Do the studies prove that every professor and student is a conservative Christian Republican? Of course they don't. But they help dispel the myth that colleges are anti-conservative and anti-Christian, no matter what politicians and media pundits say.

John A. Tures, associate professor of political science at LaGrange College; jtures@lagrange.edu.

Ledger-Enquirer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service