Monday, April 03, 2006

Darned media's at it again...

If you have access to a library with a periodicals section, check out this week's issue of Chronicle of Higher Education (I'd post a link, but it's subscriber only and not worth the subscription). The cover article is an "expose" of Pensacola Christian College--"research" mostly gathered from disgruntled students, so you can imagine the tone. I frankly thought a lot of it sounded familiar. I do think from my own experiences on campus (my brother went there) and from talking to current students at my church that PCC does tend to be a little more strict than BJ in some areas, but the essence of the complaints does not really change. There were at least two fair criticisms, I think--an absolute distrust of students and a lack of any forum for disagreement. That being said, I thought the article horrible journalism. There was no indication that the author even attempted to interview a current student who was satisfied with the school or anyone officially affiliated with the school. That might have made the article at least LOOK fair and balanced. I'm sure anyone could write a scathing rant about any school if they got their story only from people who had been kicked out of it.


mel said...

If you have a lot of free time that you would like to fill (in what would probably be a less-than-profitable fashion) ;) there's a thread on SharperIron that sort of discusses the article...

The Bard said...

While the article is a classic hit piece and far from fair, it's worth pointing out that the first column mentions that the authors requested to speak to several officials at PCC but they refused.

Monica said...

Here's a link to the full article.

I have say that I disagree a bit with your assessment. David's right that the journalist did try to interview the administration at PCC. And he quotes from at least two students (Blakely and Ghobrial) that like it there and are glad for the rules. Even one of his sources that isn't going back (Peters) said that there are a lot of positive things about the school. So, no, I don't think it's just a hit piece, nor do I think it's a scathing rant.

I've never been a student there, but I have visited and I have talked to past and current students, and there really doesn't seem to be much falsehood in the article. It's not a surprise to me that a secular journalist would pick out the things that he emphasizes as the main oddities about the school. From a non-Christian viewpoint, it's exceedingly odd to forbid any kind of physical contact between the sexes (including shaking hands and helping someone off the sidewalk), yet simultaneously allow same-sex contact and preach against homosexuality. You and I can understand that, but I can also understand why the author doesn't. Same for the chaperoned dates, the dress code, and the required church services. Those are all things that we expect in a Christian environment to some degree, but there's no reason for him to expect or understand them.

He also accurately depicts the extreme amount of censorship that goes on and, as Becca so aptly puts it, the absolute distrust of the student body. I mean, I thought BJ was bad about that until I visited PCC and talked to some of the students. It's crazy! There's absolutely no forum for dissent at all. All the reports are that at any point on campus, you're being recorded on at least two video camers. Why? I know they claim in loco parentis, but even the most conservative parents I know didn't video their kids' every movement. That's the kind of stuff that gives all the rest of us a bad name. Optical intercouse?! Please.

As an academic question, how can you learn if you're afraid to question? You don't really "own" your beliefs until you've questioned them thoroughly, and you can't question in such a stifling environment.

Worst of all, living under that kind of a system can easily have an affect on your thinking. We all saw it at BJ where obeying and/or agreeing with the rules became a measure of your standing with God. That doesn't come from any explicit statement, but it's there nonetheless. And then there are the ones that conform until they graduate and then go nuts. Sure, they bear a large part of the responsibility for that, but I think a portion of it can also be attributed to the environemnt.

It's sad, really. I'm sure it's possible to get a good education there, but there are just so many obstacles in the way.

yankeedunlap said...

Rebecca mentioned that there was a discussion about the PCC article going on here at this site. So I thought I'd give my viewpoint, given that I'm a PCC grad. Though the paranoid tone of the article would make one think that normal people can't graduate from PCC and make their own comments on a blog, here I am :-)

First of all, the article is indeed a classic hit piece. It cites only dissatisfied students. Though the PCC officials refused to comment, I have no doubt they did so because of their past experiences with authors twisting their words. Why make the same mistake twice?

Second, Monica made a good point in saying that we can't expect an unsaved author to understand the rules at PCC. I had been pretty upset by the article, but once I remembered the fact that this was indeed an unsaved author, I realized that we can't expect much else. However, I do have an issue with other Christians who frequently mischaracterize and unfairly critize PCC's stands.

Third, don't necessarily believe everything said by those who have been expelled from the school regarding the reason for their expulsion. Expelled students regularly lie about the reason for their expuslion because they have every motivation to make themselves look good and the school look bad. How do I know? I've had people lie to my face about the reason they were expelled. Believe me, there has been no one expelled for 'optical intercourse.' Never happened. Period.

Fourth, the school does not put cameras up to 'crush dissent' or enforce rules. The only reason that the cameras are there are for campus security. (And they don't cover the entire campus). Enforcement is solely carried out by the floor leaders and administration.

Fifth, it is categorically untrue that PCC represses dissent in such a way as to be damaging spiritually or academically. I had four years of classes at PCC and had interesting and stimulating discussions about various topics in class and outside class. Moreover, I and many of my friends grew spiritually over our years there. When I went to the school, my faith wasn't really 'mine' but by the time I left it certainly was. Why? PCC helped challenge me to understand more about the Bible. Moreover, there is a difference between honest questioning of one's beliefs and rebellion. PCC encourages people to honestly grow in their faith, but does seek to stem unprofitable rebellion.

Moreover, I don't think it is a fair criticism of the school to say that it causes people to 'go crazy' because of its rules. To say that the school's environment caused their rebellion is to adopt the world's viewpoint that people can't help their actions, that they are simply victims of circumstance. In any event, far fewer 'go nuts' than fall into the traps of drugs, alcohol, etc. in secular or other "Christian" schools.

Finally, one's obedience to the school's rules does reflect (notice I did not say determine) in some measure one's walk with God. How can I back up that statement? Heb 13:17 says "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give ccount..." Quite frankly, it isn't a matter of choice to obey the rules, it is a simple Biblical command. It is in that way that obeying the rules reflects one's walk with the Lord. Moreover, anyone who has been at PCC for a while has heard chapel speakers and administration officials say that many rules are simply institutional rules that have been imposed either to make the school function well or to benefit the students. They don't claim that they are necessary outside the school, that they determine one's spirituality, or that they come from the Bible.

There are many other things I'd like to say (to clarify the author's inaccuracy as to PCC's stand on the KJV for one), but I don't want to bore you any more than I have. Feel free to make comments or critique what I have to say. I'll check back in and respond to what you have to say.

Until then...

Becca said...

See there? Not so different from BJ as you might think. Good and bad. You have to weigh the two and figure out where it balances for you. My only point was that the author of the article really wasn't in a good position to be making those criticisms. And whatever you think of the relative merits of PCC and BJU, it is at least a little irritating to read an "outsider" like that passing judgment on something he simply cannot understand. But then, isn't that all journalism...?