Photo by Paul Shultz
In a recent interview, Rachel Maddow, PhD and Rhodes Scholar, took a vicious swipe at millions of Americans who have been educated at the leading Christian-based university in the country, Liberty University. She said that “Liberty University was founded by a televangelist so that your Christian child wouldn’t be corrupted by actual higher education.” She followed that up, drawing a direct link between Liberty and her next statement, by asking: “Is there going to be a resurgent intellectualism in hard line conservatism that isn’t the kind of white supremacist stuff that we’re seeing, which is the pseudo-intellectual stuff, right?” This insinuates that people who attend Liberty get an inferior education (to her mind are uneducated), are not intellectual, and are racist if not white supremacist.
As someone who earned a Master’s in Public Policy from Liberty, I feel that I must address Maddow’s remarks. How about rigor? Maddow implies that people who attend Liberty are not getting a true “higher education.” It doesn’t take an Ivy League school, or Stanford, or a Rhodes Scholarship to get a “higher” education. I can tell you that the rigor in my Public Policy program at Liberty far surpassed that of my first Master’s program, in Library Science at another university. Liberty employs highly educated professors who have attended some of the best schools in the country. Liberty’s education is as good as, if not better than, any non-elitist university in the country, but with a focus on a Christian worldview.
Simply because Liberty puts a focus not just on academics, but also on morals and values, and because they teach from a Conservative and Christian worldview instead of a secular, progressive, and postmodern worldview does not mean that they do not offer a quality, “higher” education. They do. They are also one of the few places that Conservatives can go for an education that does not leave us feeling like our beliefs, values, and voice don’t matter. It has become very apparent lately that many colleges would rather not have Conservatives at all. At others, the professors and classes don’t more than minimally tolerate their views at best. There is case after case proving this. Everyone deserves to learn in an environment where they are not made out to be the enemy of all civil society, nor indoctrinated to a worldview anathema to their own, especially when students are paying to be treated that way. Liberty is, if you will, a giant “safe space” for Conservatives and Christians. The education they are afforded there is no less rigorous than ones in which they would be fighting every day just to be able to live their values in peace.
The idea that people who subscribe to a Christian worldview and would deign to attend a school such as Liberty must not be true intellectuals is so insulting that it’s almost not worth addressing, but I’ll give it a shot. I’m sorry if my four degrees at less than Ivy League schools do not meet Maddow’s qualifications for “intellectual.” Believe it or not, even people with Mensa-level IQs do not always fit into the privileged world in which she apparently grew up. I had working-class parents who did the best they could with my intellect. In the end, that meant putting me in Mensa, and convincing a couple of colleges that even with my mediocre grades in high school, the result of my abject boredom and lack of any motivation to actually apply myself, that I would be a good candidate for their Bachelor’s programs at 16 years old. Obviously Stanford, Maddow’s first college experience, was not an option for someone like me, even if my parents, who wisely eschewed student debt even in the early 90s, could have afforded it. But I did manage to get a couple of colleges to let me in at 16, without a high school diploma or GED, and I got the first of my four degrees at the age of 20. That was not at Liberty. My last degree was at Liberty, by my choice, and still debt-free as all of my degrees have been. Matriculating there has not inspired Mensa or Triple Nine to revoke my memberships for lack of intellect. Maddow’s privilege and elitism is abundantly showing when she implies that just because people attended Liberty University, they are only pseudo-intellectual and are not worth listening to, as she did with Kerri Kupec, new spokesperson for the Justice Department and Liberty University Law School alumnus. She not only insulted Kupec with the remarks, she insulted millions of Liberty alumni in the process.
The last allegation, that Liberty alumni must be racist if not outright white supremacist, is just sad. Indulge me momentarily, as I have not been to law school, but my first degree was in Philosophy, and I have an odd affinity for logical fallacies as a result. Maddow’s insinuation here is so full of logical fallacies that I could write a whole article just on that. Appeal to fear, ad hominem, and faulty generalization are just a few of them. To put it bluntly, in terms she should be able to understand, this allegation is beneath her “intellectual prowess,” and is just a crass attempt at pandering to her base, who these days seem to believe that anything or anyone in any way associated with Trump is racist. It’s a pathetic trope that has long since worn out its welcome, especially after eight years of accusing anyone remotely critical of Obama of the same. It’s time to put some actual powder in their arsenal and start trying to attack actual facts instead of stooping to such pseudo-intellectual hogwash.
Liberty President Jerry Falwell, Jr gave a response to Maddow’s criticism, explaining that all major universities were founded by pastors and evangelists, and extolling the caliber of the Liberty faculty. While I’m personally not a Trump sycophant, and I disavow Falwell’s blind adulation for everything Trump does, this university is impressive on many fronts, and I am a proud alumnus. In fact, now that they have instituted a PhD program in Public Policy, my new bucket list includes that program. As I am still firmly committed to debt-free education, and they are not currently extending their very generous discount for military veterans and their families (proud Air Force veteran wife here), I will bide my time for now. In the meantime, I will continue to strongly praise the university and suggest it for all of the Christian parents of college-age kids that I know.