“I feel the pressure all the time.”


Comenius_Logo_5_Gold&Green (2)Comenius students and I sat around the table talking. Our topics of conversation ranged from “internalized misogyny” to Haitian views of American racism to the vocation of being a student.

One of the talking points revolved around a New York Times article about why sports fans may continue to cheer for their team even if the team is caught cheating. Psychologist David DeSteno, an expert on the psychology of emotion, hypocrisy and moral judgment, has studied the phenomenon. His conclusion? You can’t blame the fans for believing their team can do no wrong, even if they are caught cheating. Twice. Part of the article read,

[A team] and their supporters are not unlike any other group and its followers.

It’s not about the true facts, or about how honest you believe a group is, or what the group’s past behavior is,” he said. “Just being a part of a group, any group, is enough to excuse moral transgressions because in some way, you’re benefiting from it. Your moral compass shifts.

compass1“So,” I began the questioning, “Do you ever see peoples’ moral compass shift depending on the group to which they belong?” The students did not miss a beat. “All the time!” a few chimed in, the others nodding their heads in agreement.

“Our professors identify individuals by their group all the time,” offered one student. “Some people are so concerned that they will offend me because I look different than them.”

“Some professors tell us what they believe,” said another, “I have a professor who constantly declares he is a ‘radical leftist’. It’s so obvious that he expects students to accept his position as true.”

Reading booksAnd then there is the reading,” moaned a third student. “You would think that in a university we would be exposed to different perspectives on topics. You would be wrong. 100% of the reading pushes only one point of view. I feel like I’m being brainwashed.”

Do you ever feel afraid to speak up in your classes, to go against the professor’s views, or speak out against what the group thinks?” I asked.

“Who likes to be told they are wrong or be talked down to?” The rhetorical question from one student hung in the air.

Another student offered, “You think twice before questioning accepted beliefs. In the back of your mind you are always thinking about your grade.”

Compass2“Do you think that the article is correct,” I began my next question, “Do you think that a student’s moral compass shifts because they feel pressure to be part of a group, accepted by their peers, or that their point of view will affect their grade?”

“We see it all the time,” one concluded. “It affects how you ask a question or voice another point of view,” said another. “I feel the pressure to change my beliefs all the time.”

“But,” one said, “Having these discussions each week helps. It reminds me that a Christian perspective can be a course correction when the group wants my moral compass to shift.”

Every person around the table nodded their agreement.

September 2016Mark believes that “encouraging each other with sound doctrine” (Titus 1.9) is crucial for Christian students in public university settings. Ask your church to support The Comenius Institute (see our 1 minute video here). Contact Dr. Mark Eckel: or

And for the record, Mark is glad to see that both The New York Times and psychology have finally caught up with the conclusions of Genesis 3.

Picture credit: Wikipedia

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The Comenius Institute is a Christian educational institute that will engage in the teaching-learning craft. In doing so, the organization will encourage study, discussion, research, and collaboration of students and scholars in the pursuit of theological truth with academic excellence. The Institute may present relevant materials for discussion through lecturers, guest speakers, authors, resident scholars, and students. It may facilitate the learning process through small group dynamics, mentoring relationships, and open forum discussion. It is the hope of Comenius to provide a place for learners to engage in spiritual-intellectual growth in an environment that encourages study, reflection, curiosity, discourse and collaboration through the in-depth pursuit of wisdom.

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