Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, recently upgraded its curriculum to include new electives for undergraduates. Chief among these are Political Science and Cinema, Denying the Holocaust, The Death of God, and—wait for it—Oh Look, a Chicken!
This is not satire. In fact, Belmont endorses these classes with confidence. The quasi-unintelligible course description for Oh Look, a Chicken! reads: “Those who choose this course will be invited (I smell bacon, what time is it? I’m hungry) to examine ways of knowing (little ants, carrying a morsel of food across the table) through embracing what it means to be a distracted learner.” This course aims not only to study but to glorify distraction. What was once the studious pupil’s Achilles’ heel, and in extreme cases was recognized as a learning disability, is now considered an asset. Distraction is not something to be avoided, but rather to be embraced.
Sadly, this is not a shock. The veneration of distraction in classes such as Oh Look, a Chicken! emerges within the preexisting fallen world of higher education. A major symptom of this is grade inflation. Earning a high grade is not nearly the achievement it used to be; instead, it is all too common. A’s represent 45 percent of all letter grades given in universities. This is a 30 percentage point increase since 1960, when 15 percent of grades were A’s. It is not surprising, then, that modern students are notoriously unmotivated. A 2010 study by Leisure College USA found that “in 1961, the average full-time student at a four-year college in the United States studied about twenty-four hours per week, while his modern counterpart puts in only fourteen hours per week.” Courses like Oh Look, a Chicken! might therefore lure students to enroll because they appear so easy. Wading through ancient philosophy cannot compete with equal course credit for zoning out.
We have long foreseen the decline of educational integrity and value in the lives of university students. Classes like Oh Look, a Chicken! are the inevitable byproducts of “value-free” study that glorifies and embraces moral relativism. American universities—and the professors and administrators who run them—have succeeded in demonizing value judgments and ethical standards. Who are we to question the dignity or necessity of Oh Look, a Chicken!? How dare we suggest such an absurd course is a waste of students’ time and money? That would require some type of intellectual standard, which is strictly forbidden within the Relativist regime. Its ideological champions have yet to taste the bitter irony: Forbidding moral judgments is itself a penetrating moral judgment. Unfortunately relativism leaves little room for logic, and hence, even less room for learning.