Peter Schramm beat me to the punch in linking to Jeff Jacoby’s fine article. But I can’t resist adding my two cents.
Jim Sleeper, former columnist of the New York Daily News and current lecturer in political science at Yale University, wrote this in the immediate aftermath of the election:
The challenge for liberals is not to mock those who are being oriented like magnet filings toward a darkening, doomed crusade but to acknowledge American liberalism’s own estrangement from a national character that is often, heaven help us, a balancing act as weird as that of a Jack Nicholson movie character, tottering along on a tightrope between rampant materialism and rapturous faith.
Many places besides Yale have been crucibles where people learn how to keep that balance constructively enough, in themselves as well as in their public posturings, to sustain a republic. But those crucibles are being drained now, or cracked, or chilled, or heated into cauldrons of selfish ambition masked by warlike rhetoric about saving "freedom" from its enemies. Freedom may first have to be saved from Bush, who once said that he "never learned a damned thing at Yale." He certainly didn’t stay on the tightrope of a liberal education any better than Dick Cheney, who dropped out after two years.
For Sleeper, liberal education seems to produce liberalism, which means above all liberation from religion. The balancing act, as he describes it, is accomplished by reason and puts religion in its place, which is surely not the same place that many red state folks put it.
I’m uncomfortable with this formulation and am here making a promise to blog more about this subject (or post something on the main site) after I dig myself out of the blizzard of papers and exams that strikes at the end of the term. Indeed, I’ve promised John Seery and Peter Lawler articles on liberal education and democracy due after the break.
Here’s what I’ll be reading to prepare for this task: William J. Stuntz’s fine "Faculty Clubs and Church Pews"; Naomi Schaefer Riley’s new book, God on the Quad: How Religious Colleges and the Missionary Generation Are Changing America, and Harvey Cox’s recent book, When Jesus Came to Harvard. I’ll no doubt remind myself also of what folks in the founding generation had to say on this subject and will consult Thomas and Lorraine Pangle’s invaluable volume, The Learning of Liberty.