Address written for entering students of Wabash College, Class of 2012 by Stephen H. Webb, found at the First Things blog.
A couple of excerpts:
Education used to hold students to the highest standards of Western culture, but now it gives students bits and pieces of many cultures. Nonetheless, multiculturalism is not a plot devised by left-leaning liberals to dumb down America, though it often seems like that. Instead, multiculturalism follows inexorably from the rejection of a universal human nature. If there is no single human nature, then there is no single standard for human excellence either. Indeed, there is no single standard for anything, from rationality to morality. When rationality and morality are reduced to social constructions, the best we can do is learn how societies construct things, rather than why certain constructions endure the test of time. Learning becomes a matter of uncovering the social and historical context behind every book and every idea. Rather than ask what a text has to teach us, we now have to dig deep in order to ask what the text is trying to hide. And the answer to that question is presupposed from the start: What is foundational to all social constructions just happens to be what is so self-congratulatory about modern education. All books and ideas are trying to hide their prejudices about race, gender, and class. Learning is about identifying with the experiences of the victims of social injustice�experiences that will be held up for you as absolutely different from your own.
Multiculturalism might seem like a harmless game of cultural tourism mixed with a little detective work, with the crime (sexism and racism) always being the same, but it is actually much more serious than that. Liberal professors assume that you, the student, come to their classes believing in universal truths, and they think that it is their job to get you to leave such baggage behind. Since professors these days do not believe in human nature, they think that the most important thing they can do is to teach you that all values are relative. And they do this by trying to convince you that you do not understand other cultures because you are trapped in your own.
To return to the central truth of Christianity, Christians believe that God experienced the totality of the human condition by becoming incarnate in Jesus Christ. That is, God did not need to become incarnate in each one of us in order to understand every one of us. Each one of us can experience a personal relationship with Jesus because Jesus was completely one of us. If cultural relativism is true, then Christianity is doomed, because God became incarnate in a very specific person at a particular time and place. From the perspective of multiculturalism, God could not have understood what it means to be human by becoming a Jewish carpenter from Nazareth. It follows that if God did understand man by becoming a man, then multiculturalism is a lie.
Applying this truth to the world of higher education, we can say that every human life is, in principle, sufficient for the discovery of every truth. You don�t need new experiences to become educated; you just need deeper ways of understanding your own experience. As a human being in the midst of passing into adulthood, nothing human is alien to you. You need to learn how to think more carefully, imagine more fully, and judge more humanely, but you do not need to learn that your beliefs are wrong because they are limited by your experiences and that the only way to broaden those beliefs is to immerse yourself in radically new experiences. What is true in any book you read or any idea you consider is true because it is true for everyone, and its truth is available to you because you already have the rudiments of what it means to be human.
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