U Penn’s Latest Conn: Religious Schools Shouldn’t Be Accredited

We sell only the best educations. Trust me!
We sell only the best educations. Trust me!

Tell the truth: English Departments at our “top” universities are stuffed to the quad with (A) Progressives or (B) Conservatives?

Anybody claiming (B) is either ignorant (I mean this politely) of university politics or lying, and probably lying. Does the correct answer, (A), thus imply English Departments contain only leftist ideologues? No, sir, it does not. It does however mean that the majority of the faculty will be slavishly devoted to NPR and Jon Stewart, and that the minority of tradition-minded faculty will have learned to keep their mouths shut, or face being purged.

Here’s another opportunity for truthfulness: would you rather have your offspring learn English from a Department which bases its lessons on books chosen for (A) political correctness and the demographic characteristics and sexual proclivities (and excesses) of their authors, or (B) their intrinsic beauty and cultural importance?

If you said (A), then you’ll be happy to learn that our top universities, each accredited by sober agencies, are just the place. Think of accreditation as a secular imprimatur, an official guarantee that your child will not be able to take her mind off race and sex, even if she wanted to.

But if (B) is your choice, well, you’re running out of options. Best bet is to try a smaller school, perhaps even a Christian one (like many top schools used to be, e.g. Harvard, Georgetown). If you told the truth on the first question, you already know why.

Christian and religious schools are accredited, too. They (think they) have to be. Money is on the line. Our government, in its wisdom, says schools must be accredited else no loans to students, and no money to the schools, either (a simplification, but largely on the mark). If a school lacks accreditation, the credits earned by students won’t be transferable, and degree-obsessed employers might not accept the diploma.

The aptly named Peter Conn, a professor of English and education at the University of Pennsylvania, wants Christian schools to lose their accreditation. He says that any Christian school receives accreditation is a farce, as he writes in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Conn is upset at the insularity of religious schools. His obvious unfamiliarity with Christianity explains why he doesn’t know Matthew 7:3. Don’t bother to look it up. It’s the one about the plank in the eye.

Conn, a man, says accreditation “confers legitimacy on institutions that systematically undermine the most fundamental purposes of higher education.” Purpose? Hmm. Conn’s school is hosting a talk by Amanda Lock Swarr, “Forcing Sex: Violent Contestations over South African Masculinities.” Where “In preparation, we will be reading the introduction to Sex in Transition as well as ‘Paradoxes of Butchness: Lesbian Masculinities and Sexual Violence in Contemporary South Africa.'”

Or you could attend the Queer Method Conference, but I’m afraid we’ve already missed the ARCH center’s symposium on Addressing Global Rape Culture.

Conn, a man, says, “Skeptical and unfettered inquiry is the hallmark of American teaching and research.” Conn, a man, says, “such inquiry cannot flourish—in many cases, cannot even survive—inside institutions that erect religious tests for truth. The contradiction is obvious.”

At U. Penn, you can sign up for ENGL 090.401, Gender, Sexuality and Literature: Our Cyborgs, Our Selves: “Women’s bodies have also been among scifi’s most persistent objects of analysis…” Or ENGL 390.401, Reproductive Fictions: “fictional narratives often prompt us to consider how and why certain bodies, lives, and social structures are reproduced.”

Conn, a man, says accrediting Christian schools is a “scandal” and a “fiasco” and that it “makes a mockery of whatever academic and intellectual standards the process of accreditation is supposed to uphold.”

At U. Penn, you can take ENGL 769.401 Feminisms and Postcolonialities: “…to explore key intersections of gender and sexuality with the dynamics of colonialism, decolonization, nationhood, and globalization.”

Conn, a man, says, “Let me be clear. I have no particular objection to like-minded adherents of one or another religion banding together, calling their association a college, and charging students for the privilege of having their religious beliefs affirmed.”

Hey, Conn, man, I agree with you. It has “become a melancholy fact of our contemporary cultural life” that university humanities departments have become bastions of asininities and foolish thought.

My advice to tradition- and reason-based schools is to skip accreditation. Do you really want to be in the same camp with Conn’s English Department? Accreditation costs too much anyway. Eschew government money. Do you really want to grip the purse strings of an increasingly immoral Mother?


  1. Gary

    He says that any Christian school receives accreditation is a farce, as he wrong in he Chronicle of Higher Education.

    Briggs, thine enemies hath attacked again.

  2. Dan Kurt

    Don’t worry about accreditation of Colleges. That is the least of their worries for the following reasons:

    1) More than 60% of individuals of college age in America are matriculating college ( at least for a year or two with its attendant debt load ) with the IQ needed to benefit from college being only about 7% of the same population if one assumes an IQ of 120 or more is needed.

    2) Debt burdened college drop-outs and “graduates” who are unable to service their debts because their acquired “skills” in college do not result in employment commensurate with their needs will signal to those growing up that college is no bargain.

    3) The Student Debt squeeze will eventually manifest in a declining percentage of college age individuals enrolling.

    4) Expect a collapse in the colleges themselves as colleges shrink in size and some close. The top tier, e.g. Penn, will not be immune.

    5) Throw in an economic downturn and a real wash-out of the higher education market will manifest.

    Big changes are ahead.

    Dan Kurt

  3. Scotian

    The solution is obvious. Government needs to get out of the accreditation business. Instead there should be a number of independent and competing accreditation agencies with clearly stated criteria. This quote may apply:

    “The behavior of any bureaucratic organization can best be understood by assuming that it is controlled by a secret cabal of its enemies.”
    ― Robert Conquest

  4. Briggs


    They’re everywhere!

  5. Discouraging post, but what isn’t nowadays. Having suffered the academic mindset for 27 years (and finally fled, 1985), I can testify that bias and ignorance aren’t limited to those in the so-called humanities. What is needed for those who want an education are colleges like St. John’s (Annapolis and Santa Fe–a non-sectarian institution where Jews teach Protestants to become Catholic–my son attended), St. Thomas Aquinas, and some others where a Great Books program is followed. What is needed for those who want training to get a better job are access to online institutions and two-year institutions (Phoenix University and McCann come to mind).
    The extravagant cost of higher education is due to 1) cost of administration (to be sure government edicts are met); 2) extravagant salaries of faculty (teacher’s unions for the most part); 3) PC courses on women’s and race topics.
    Let’s get more plumbers, electricians, computer programmers. Let’s change the high schools so they give the education that was given 60 years ago. Let’s toss out of public schools those who are unwilling or unable to learn.
    Let’s cut the public dole so that ditch-digging and dishwashing are the last refuge, rather than welfare.
    There…I’ve finished my rant!

  6. Sander van der Wal

    They teach English at the University level in other countries too.

    BTW, the only SF I know where wonen are used as reproduction machines is in Dune, and there only in the movie (one of the worst SF movies ever made). Everybody else invents machines, if pregnancy is mentioned at all. There is after all much more fun to be had in blowing up space ships with fancy weaponry.

  7. Briggs


    Let’s hope that prognostication is right.

  8. “What is needed for those who want an education are colleges like St. John’s (Annapolis and Santa Fe–a non-sectarian institution where Jews teach Protestants to become Catholic–my son attended),”

    As a graduate of St John’s College, all I can say is: Um, right. Except the ‘Catholic’ part only takes in a small minority of cases, but boy, does it take – out of the 6-8 guys I went to Mass with while there, 4 became priests.

    “St. Thomas Aquinas, and some others where a Great Books program is followed.”

    One son attended, another on the way. Good school, the chief sin of which is not so much reinforcing Catholicism (although it sure does that) but in providing its graduates with the intellectual tools needed to call the bluffs of the likes of Dr. Conn.

  9. To be fair, a lot of these new “Christian” schools are not very good. We’re not talking about the Jesuits or the like here.


  10. Let’s not only be fair, JMJ, but let’s be open and explicit. Which “Christian” schools did you have in mind as being substandard, and what are the values upon which you base your judgment? Aquinas? Christendom? St. Anselm’s? Belmont Abbey? And I dismiss Jesuit institutions–Fordham, Boston College, and others–as being Christian.

  11. MattS


    You have an odd definition of new.

    Professor Conn called out two Christian schools by name, Byran University and Wheaton College.

    Byran is 74 years old (founded 1940) and Wheaton is over 150 (founded as the Illinois Institute in 1853)


    I’d really like to see you try to make the case that Wheaton and Byron are not very good schools. Your effort would likely prove to be quite amusing.

  12. Sylvain Allard

    Your first question miss the mark. The attitude you describe is just as much true of conservatives as of progressive.

    I hardly see how a pro-choice teacher would be accepted at Notre-Dame University or even more at Liberty University.

    The reality is that the person who has the power doesn’t want to let it go. Newton was very detrimental to other scientist he disagreed with, even if time showed they were the one that were right. We see this phenomenon in climate science , but this is also present in any department where there are disagreement.

    Accreditation is not hard to achieve. A school only need to prove they respect the rule and regulation. A very funny movie was “Accepted”.

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