Sommerville, C. John. The Decline of the Secular University. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006.
Chapter 11, “Postsecularism and the University” pp. 135-141.
Sommerville asserts that a hundred years ago, and even as recently as the 1960s, there was some cultural agreement about what was important. “So critics argued such amtters from some principle that seemed convincing, like rality or sincerity. At least in looking back they thought they could discern an arrow of development and a canon of classics in art and thought” (Sommerville 2006, 135). However, by the 1990s academia had largely isolated itself from society at large. Discussion within institutions was devolving into shrill arguments. Sommerville takes this effect to come largely from a lack of agreement on ruling principles (Sommerville 2006, 136). Schools at all levels have emphasized diversity to the extent that they consistently attack any common culture, breaking up all ideas of social cohesion (Sommerville 2006, 137). The lack of cohesion is also likely driven b y the daily nature of the news cycle, which prevents us from thoughtful and in-depth analysis of ideas. Through this propcess we expect a new world and a new set of interests and priorities daily (Sommerville 2006, 138). Sadly, the universities have embraced the frequent changes of priorities. While the world of academia was designed to be set apart from the momentary, it is now embracing the short-term vagaries of the media’s interest. The deadlines and the brevity of analysis, normally making sound bite citations in under 20 seconds, prevents thoughtful discourse (Sommerville 2006, 139).
In the process of pursuing the popular, cultural thought is pulled apart with no forces left to put it back together. The secular academic rationalism has proven unable or unwilling to do so. At the same time, a secularist bias in academia shuts religious voices out of the intellectual world (Sommerville 2006, 140). Sommerville suggest that the intellectuals within the world of religion, those who have not merely followed the dictates of entertainment-based media models, need to keep speaking up and engaging in educated discussion of real issues (Sommerville 2006, 141). This could be a key factor in restoring religious discourse to academic life.