Archive for June, 2013


I wrote yesterday that the U.S. Supreme Court had punted on its recent affirmative action ruling, leaving key issues unanswered and passing the buck back to the appellate court with only narrowly construed legal guidelines to reconsider the case. That assessment (and the football metaphor) has been widely shared.

However, advocates and defenders of affirmative action are now voicing concerns that the court’s demands on the appellate court have so significantly narrowed the grounds for considering race in college admissions that it will likely undermine race-based affirmative action more than initially thought. As Scott Greytak, a lawyer, supporter of affirmative action, and author of West’s Education Law Reporter, said in an Inside Higher Ed report, “This is a very quiet death sentence for affirmative action that is race-conscious.”

If that’s the case, then the Supreme Court may have just kicked a very high, long, and unreturnable punt that effectively pins the affirmative action team deep against its own end zone. That would be worth cheering about. Go team!

Read more here:

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a long-awaited affirmative action case today, providing only narrow legal guidance to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and offering little direction to colleges and universities as to how race can be considered in college admissions.

The Supreme Court ruled 7 to 1 that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals erred by not applying “strict scrutiny” to the admission policies of the University of Texas at Austin (UT).

Abigail Fisher, a white woman who was rejected for admission to UT, had brought the case against UT, claiming the university had violated her rights because of the role race played in UT’s admissions  decision. Fisher’s lawyers argued that UT didn’t need to consider race in admissions because it had found other ways to encourage student body diversity.

The Supreme Court Justices wrote that UT’s “good faith” alone is not sufficient to justify the consideration of race in its admissions practices, but that it needed to provide compelling evidence to justify race as an admission criterion. The Court did not address the evidence of UT admission policies themselves, but criticized the Fifth Circuit for not addressing that question in its review of the case and for not using the high bar of “strict scrutiny” when evaluating the constitutionality of this race-related question.

The case, which has been closely watched by American colleges and universities, will now return to the Fifth Circuit and may come back to the Supreme Court before the issue is finally settled.

Read more about the case here.

Many contemporary discussions of the demise of the liberal arts, especially by their supposed defenders and advocates, often reveal the fundamental inability of a secularistic or naturalistic worldview  to come to grips with the inherent contradiction of a liberal arts education without Christ or the paideia of God.

The liberal arts, I believe, are inextricably and historically rooted in a radically biblical vision of paideia, first articulated in the Scriptures (Moses: Deuteronomy 6-8, Solomon: Proverbs 1-3, Paul: Ephesians 6, Paul/Apollos?: Hebrews 12, et al/etc.), institutionalized by the Medieval church, and promoted by the Protestant tradition. Historically, the liberal arts have only flourished and endured  in a self-consciously Judeo-Christian context.

Over the centuries, the liberal arts may have been borrowed and mimicked by pagan Greeks, Romans, and Moderns, but only partially, never wholly. That borrowing always lacked the spiritual and social capital to sustain them over time.  The attempt by Enlightenment Europe to rationalize the liberal arts and amputate them from their deep spiritual foundations in paideia was doomed to failure. Without spiritual capital and a healthy Christian culture to sustain them, the liberal arts in American society were doomed to wither, atrophy and die by the early 20th century. The “liberal arts” in today’s academic context are often a random and incoherent collection of wildly variable courses without foundation, relation, or telos.

Here’s a video, Who Killed the Liberal Arts?,  via the Wall Street Journal’s Uncommon Knowledge program (associated with the Hoover Institute), with Andrew Ferguson and Joseph Epstein who address the value and challenges of the liberal arts in American education and society today. Sadly, their comments and criticisms are somewhat scattered and fail to recognize the deeper spiritual problems that underlie the current implosion of American universities.

Note the brief discussion about the new liberal arts colleges at 22 minutes into the video. They also go on to discuss the limited ability of the internet to perpetuate  liberal learning.