Six students at Cornell University, one at the University of Pennsylvania, and one at Yale took their own lives during the past academic year. One was a noted football player, almost certain to be elected captain. Another was a jokester, great student and kind soul. Two others were from notably affluent communities, Chevy Chase, MD and Boca Raton, FL. So, is this the end result of an academic culture that encourages a nihilistic questioning of all values, a rejection of God, and a moral permissiveness that leads to despair?
Since our [Saint Michael’s, Charleston] parish focus this year on “the hurting coast” (from Richmond to Maine) it’s worth pondering the great influence that our well-known public and private academic institutions in the northeast have upon our culture. We will soon have an “All-Ivy Supreme Court”, with seven of the nine justices having degrees from Harvard, Yale, Cornell, Columbia, and Princeton. And guess how many U.S. presidents have had degrees from these same institutions in the 20th century? If you exclude Nixon and Carter, Warren Harding and William Howard Taft, nearly every president of the past century had a degree from one of them ”“ or in a couple of cases from other similar colleges like Amherst and Stanford.
That is both impressive ”“ and troubling. It’s impressive because it signals the ability of these colleges to attract some of the best students. It’s troubling because of the disproportionate influence these institutions have upon the nation….
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