Christian Curriculum

Links: Yo-Yo Ma honors Ukraine; evangelical and Latino churches; the state of higher education

The great cellist of our time, Yo-Yo Ma, visited the Russian Embassy this week, pulled out his cello and played the hauntingly beautiful Ukrainian national anthem. WUSA9 has a short snippet of the performance, which is hard to hear over the din of traffic on Wisconsin Avenue. I was pleased to see that the section of this busy road in front of the embassy has been renamed “Zelensky Way”. Ma was in DC for a performance at the Kennedy Center with Emanuel Ax and Leonidas Kavakos where the trio opened the concert with the Ukrainian anthem and NPR released a full recording of that tribute.

To CNN: Democrats won a rare victory in the U.S. Supreme Court when the High Court refused to throw out redistricting maps that were being contested by Republicans in Pennsylvania and North Carolina. The North Carolina case is particularly significant because the plaintiffs asked the court to rule that state courts do not have the right to review presidential election laws because the Constitution grants the right to appoint voters in state legislatures. But don’t pop the champagne corks too soon. It’s not hard to conceive of situations in which the Supreme Court’s silence on state decisions hurts Democrats — and perhaps hurts democracy.

Our friends at Millennial have a new episode of their “Whole Life Rising” podcast in which they interview Marcus Mescher, associate professor of Christian ethics at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. Mescher is one of the up-and-coming theologians who actually looks like a theologian, someone who has taken the time to learn the tradition, not like an activist spouting platitudes and slogans.

In the Los Angeles Times, Cindy Carcamo examines the role evangelical churches play in politicizing conservative Latinos. Sixteen percent of Latinos in the United States identify as evangelical, according to the Pew Research Center, and the percentage of Latinos who are Catholic has fallen to 47%. In the long run, this diversity within the Latino community will increase their influence in politics: if party leaders know they cannot take Latino votes for granted, they will have to pay more attention to what Latin American voters want. In the short term, this ideological diversity greatly complicates the strategies of the Democrats to mobilize Latino voters.

Three related articles on education: In the New York Times, Emma Camp, a senior student at the University of Virginia, wrote about pressure on students to conform to approved ideological positions in the classroom and in private conversations, leading to self-censorship or worse. Twitter exploded with attacks on the young woman, with people suggesting she was auditioning for a job on Fox News. It is true that his article sounded like a formula, but no more than the critics. Worse, the attacks conveniently ignore questions that are more pressing than Camp’s job prospects: Is what she wrote true? And even if that’s true, why aren’t more teachers advocating for liberal education and the free exchange of ideas?

Second, at the Chronicle of Higher Education, Oyin Adedoyin examines several student surveys and what they indicate about the degree of self-censorship. The picture these surveys paint is admittedly more complicated than the picture painted by Camp, but there is still enough smoke to worry that campuses have become less liberal in recent years and that people are even afraid of raise the question.

And, third, to the Kansas City Star, Melinda Henneberger explains that the threat to liberal education in red states is bad or worse than stifling debate on college campuses. Henneberger also points to a motivation for the attacks on public education coming from some conservatives: they have financial interests in private schools. These attacks by lawmakers posing as curriculum experts are horrifying and have the force of law. And one thing everyone should agree on? Henneberger continues to produce superb journalism.

At the Literary Hub, author Lee Cole writes a hateful and condescending article describing the homogenization of rural life in America. There’s something about what he says, but his opening metaphor, about getting off the freeway, is telling: it’s not clear he’s leaving his car to actually engage people, their lives and cultures. Yes, consumerism has wreaked havoc on America’s soul, although it began long before the rise of “Kmart realism” in the 1980s. It was a hot topic among cultural critics in the 1980s. 1950, as detailed by George Marsden in his wonderful book The twilight of the American Enlightenment, which I reviewed for the Los Angeles Review of Books. Equally important, couldn’t Cole show any sympathy for the subjects of his rant? Is he aware of the devastating effects of neoliberal economics on rural America?