Parsing Rick Santorum’s claim that college undermines young people’s religious faith

A few weeks ago, you’ll recall, Rick Santorum foolishly labeled President Obama “a snob” for allegedly advocating that all young Americans go to college.

But Obama didn’t actually say that everyone should attend a four-year college. Rather, he SAID that everyone should get “at least one year or more of higher education or career training,” maybe at a community college or in an apprenticeship.

Santorum said in his diatribe that “the indoctrination that is going on at the university level is a harm to our country.” He said Obama “wants you to go to college (because) he wants to remake you in his image.”

And what exactly is that image, as Santorum sees it? Well, of course, it’s an antipathy toward religion. He said that “62 percent of kids who enter college with some sort of faith commitment leave without it.”

In other words, Santorum thinks college is turning most kids into agnostics or atheists. And he implies that Obama favors that result. Such rhetoric, of course, invariably prompts cheers from the theocrats who support Santorum’s presidential candidacy.

But this whole argument from Santorum is utter nonsense.

For starters, his claim concerning the 62 percent of college kids who lose their faith is a misreading of a STUDY in which researchers “found that 76 percent of kids who don’t go to college end up attending church less often, a higher percentage than those who do go to college.”

According to author Garry Wills, a former student for the priesthood and prominent Catholic lay scholar, Santorum is simply PEDDLING ANTI-INTELLECTUALISM:

I think it inevitable that questioning of childhood beliefs should take place at various stages of adolescence. This does not happen in junior year or senior year on campus. It is part of a long process called growing up.

At some point, late or early, children disengage themselves from the stories crafted for them. Their loss of belief in the tooth fairy is only slightly behind their loss of teeth. There is a slow motion race to disappear between Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. The Stork undergoes, for some, a lengthier demise—and “the birds and the bees” do not long outlast it. Others, I hope, soon disabuse themselves of belief in their parents’ infallibility. Certain religious myths are discarded without necessarily losing faith. That I do not believe in Noah’s Ark does not mean that I must stop believing in God—though certain home schooling parents force that connection on their kids.


Santorum has mistaken his enemy. It is not colleges that steal his kids from him, but growth, especially the wrenching growths of adolescence. He should get at root causes. Abolish adolescence. I am sure modern science, with the help of hormonal retardants, could make this practicable in most cases. Of course, it would wipe out the human race. But perhaps a tested few, home schooled to insure arrested development in all other matters, could be permitted to grow up and breed. And we know they would breed prolifically, denied all contraceptives.



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