The solution to the culture wars on campus? Radical inclusion.
This article is a response to “Will Catholic universities survive the upheaval in higher education?” The next 10 years will tell,” a feature film by Charles C. Camosy. Read more views on this issue linked at the bottom of this article.
If the Covid-19 pandemic should teach us anything, it is that the unexpected will fall on us. And when this is the case, we have a choice: take care only of ourselves, what Pope Francis calls “the hyperinflation of the individual”, or take stock, look at the suffering world and work for a change that has the common good at heart. .
Charles Camosy’s analysis of the future of higher education, which unfortunately stirs up divisions and uses vague references to “the culture to be resisted”, does not bring us closer to a vision of the work to be done. More fundamentally, I can’t find a compelling reason in his essay for the “why” of higher education, which is where this conversation needs to start. Why should believers worry if we have colleges and universities?
The “why” of higher education today must go beyond everyday campus life or faculty politics. If, as the type of critical theories criticized by Dr. Camosy show, higher education in the United States has, for most of its history, ensured the preservation and continuation of privilege based on race and class (remember the college admissions scandal?), then our present moment calls for new patterns that will reverse this trend. The model of today’s university must involve working for real societal transformation, equipping more of us to be critical and engaged in a shared civic life of truly communal concerns. This must involve inviting more of us into conversations that bridge across borders, continents, classes and races.
Higher education is at its best when it allows us to explore the many intersections where we can meet and discover ‘we’, while celebrating the beauty of difference.
Higher education is at its best when it allows us to explore the many intersections where we can meet and discover ‘we’, while celebrating the beauty of difference. This was central to my own work, which culminated in the book Teaching Global Theologies: Power and Praxis. This expanded view of who we mean by we makes clear that the Catholic intellectual tradition we teach must be rethought to make room for the writings of the Jesuit martyrs of El Salvador, the forceful critiques of feminist theologies, the relentless voices of economic and postcolonial analysis of the Global South, and the ideas of our young people, who are forging courageous alliances in defense of planetary fulfilment.
Our campuses need to engage the many underprivileged, not by classifying “Hispanics” as well-suited to small schools close to home, as Dr. Camosy suggests, but by having young people from very dissimilar communities present on the all of our sites. campus, jostle us, change our spaces, create a new reality imbued with solidarity. Higher education should be abundant and not a rare privilege for the few. If that means seeking partnerships with business or government wherever possible, so that we can multiply resources, then let’s do it.
Let us seek a true culture of encounter where we can affect each other’s worlds. If Google wants to invest in education, then maybe we can work together to get them to embrace the centrality of ethics. As we engage beyond our spaces, we can work to do the challenging work that Pope Francis describes inlet us dream, his book with Austen Ivereigh, as rethinking “the economy so that it can provide everyone with access to a dignified existence while protecting and regenerating the natural world”.
We are Catholic in many ways. We may be pejoratively described as “woke,” but my accountability community, my students, want to be seen – and I want them to know that I see them. The extraordinarily countercultural practice of Jesus was to invite strangers to share the table and, in this unlikely fellowship, begin to create the kingdom of God. This radical inclusion is what allows us to move past unnecessary culture wars and into the Good News.