Cloudy Thoughts: An Educated Generation?

My thoughts are scattered and they’re cloudy
They have no borders, no boundaries
They echo and they swell
From Tolstoy to Tinker Bell …
They don’t know where they are going, and, my friend, neither do I.

(Simon and Garfunkel)

Educated Generation?

Many say this generation in the West is the most educated in history. This is a misleading statement and mostly false. They certainly know how to navigate electronic devices and complex technologies. I do not define education this way. For me, ‘education’ is education in the cultural and historical treasures of civilization, and the center of that cultural treasure is the Bible.

A higher percentage of the population does graduate high school and college. However, there has been a dumbing down of the curriculum. Cultural-historical education is the most diluted in the history of Western education. Multiple surveys have demonstrated an appalling level of cultural ignorance. Students cannot find China on a globe. They cannot grasp many important aspects of World War II, and know barely anything about literature. One young graduate was asked if she knew about Martin Luther. She responded by asking, “You mean the civil rights leader?” The cultural deposit of the West is simply being squandered. Why?

Cultural Relativism

This problem is rooted in the pernicious influence of cultural relativism. This philosophy teaches not to judge any religion, culture, art or philosophy as superior to another. This is a postmodern orientation. In a self-contradictory way, new values are dogmatically asserted, but cannot be defended. These new values are anti-colonialism, multi-culturalism, and “non-judgmentalism”. They cannot be defended as more truthful or more ethically established than the ones they replaced since – according to these relativists – there is no objective basis for ethics and morals.

So how does this affect a school curriculum? Education becomes a potpouri of whatever interests the teacher or student. The Harvard 100 Great Books for the educated are dismissed. Why should one read the books of white oppressors? The values of the American Founding Fathers are suspect since they were slave owners. Evangelicals were the key to ending slavery in the British Empire and America, but who knows that?

The Values of the Western Heritage

Not long ago public schools asserted that there was a valuable heritage to convey, a heritage that has led to greater freedom and human respect. It was considered central to the purpose of education to pass this on. This was the key to a democratic republic so that an educated public could safely be given the power of voting!

In my school days we did learn about some of the faults of the Founders, but did not judge them by the standards of our day. Rather, we respected how they transcended the limits of their time and moved history toward greater human rights and freedom. That was a long historical process. We learned Western Literature in high school where biblical references were pervasive.

The Loss of Judging Good and Evil

So we have produced generations of young people who no longer think in terms of good and evil. Their concept of right and wrong has no basis in classic biblical values. There is a loss of history since university leftists (who dominate the humanities and social sciences) teach young people that historical writing was merely the skewed narratives of white male oppressors, merely the assertion of power by the ruling class. So history must be deconstructed. Yes, there is prejudice in history writing, but is it so hopeless? What history does post-modern deconstruction leave us?

Political Implications

All of this affects politics in the West. It empowers demagogues who can easily sway a public devoid of wisdom and discernment. It prepares the way for an anti-Christ. The saddest thing is to see Evangelical young people weakened by this influence. My recent experience at Wheaton College revealed an alarming problem of young people without the categories to understand authority or moral judgment.

The contradictions are numerous. For example, feminist leaders of American universities voted to boycott Israel, when Israel is the only country in the Middle East with full women’s rights! Why? Their anti-colonialism simply abandons the women who are so oppressed in the Muslim world. Christianity is despised, but Islam is respected!

The same trends are affecting Israel and weakening the nation, as some Israeli educators here reject the legitimacy of the existence of the State of Israel. There is no historical balance in their judgment: Israel is the oppressor of the Palestinians, and that is the whole story.

The Discipleship Challenge

It is even hard for people to fully embrace the Gospel, since that requires that they embrace God’s objective truth. There is right and wrong. It is difficult for the young to commit to congregations and submit to the authority of elders and even to submit to the Bible’s commands.

Let’s stop wringing our hands, roll up our sleeves and engage meaningfully in the great battle. It will take fervent prayer, preaching the Word and consistent discipleship to deliver our younger generation.

My book The Biblical World View, an Apologetic anticipated these trends. I recommend it for those interested in exploring this topic in greater depth.

This article originally appeared appeared in Israel’s Restoration Newsletter, March 2016.

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Dr. Daniel Juster, founder and director of Tikkun International, has been involved in the Messianic Jewish movement since 1972 and currently resides in Jerusalem, Israel, from where he serves and supports the Messianic movement worldwide. Dan was the founding president and general secretary of the Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations for 9 years, the senior pastor of Beth Messiah congregation for 22 years, and a co-founder of the Messiah Bible Institute in several nations. Dr. Juster serves on the board of Towards Jerusalem Council II, provides oversight to 15 congregations in the USA as well as overseeing emissaries in Israel and the Former Soviet Union. Daniel has authored about 20 books on topics ranging from theology, Israel and the Jewish people, eschatology, discipleship, and leadership.