Who Accredits the Accreditors? A Deeper Look at Education in America

I will never forget my first of several visits to WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges) when I was launching my new University of Creation Spirituality.  It was a jaw-dropping experience that totally confirmed my intuition that we have to start education over in America.

Cash and monopoly letters. Photo originally posted by 401(K) 2012 on Flickr.

When I broached the subject of accreditation for our new university to the director, Mr. Wolfe, his answer went like this: “We just accredited a fundamentalist college in Southern California in a six-month period because they walked in the door with $5 million in their pocket. Do you have $5 million?”

My jaw dropped then; it drops now, seventeen years later. I said to myself, “So if Hitler walked in the door with $5 million he would get immediate accreditation from WASC?”  No question was asked about our pedagogy, our values, or the content of what we were teaching. (Nor apparently was the fundamentalist school asked any questions about their likely fascist values in gaining their fast-track accreditation.)  It was all about numbers and money.

Creation Spirituality class being taught at the University of Creation Spirituality in Oakland. Photo originally found HERE.

To me this scandal haunts all of academia as we currently understand it. Never in my many visits to WASC did an interesting discussion ensue about the meaning or purpose of education, about knowledge vs. wisdom in education, about how to awaken curiosity in students and thus keep them engaged.

No wonder Albert Einstein said, “I abhor American education.” I too abhor its inability to educate the whole person and to teach values that truly put justice and truth ahead of greed–not to mention the scandalous pit of debt that so many young people find themselves in after college.

Albert Einstein. Photo by Orren Jack Turner. Call Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA. Public Domain.

When I watch the disinterest in truth and justice exhibited by so many political “leaders” during impeachment hearings and the rest, I cannot but think back to “value-less” education of which they are graduates. 

The negative experiences I had with WASC raised in my mind the following very serious question: Who accredits the accreditors?

In all my experience in higher education in America, I have been left singularly unimpressed by the bureaucrats who make decisions about accreditation and who pronounce on education for everyone else.

Thomas Berry, “Geologian” taken by Lou Niznik on 10-6-1999 and originally posted to his website.

I have yet to meet such a bureaucrat who was in touch with his or her spiritual roots and even had the curiosity to ask about what learning spirituality would consist of.

I have seen decisions made that purposely excluded alternative models of education. No wonder the late and wise geologian Thomas Berry spoke often of “academic barbarism.”

In the midst of academic barbarism few have been the voices courageous enough to speak out. 

The presumption is that education is doing just fine.  But it isn’t.  Otherwise our culture and its politics would not be as corrupt as it is.  Nor would so many children be fleeing school.

Adapted from Matthew Fox, Confessions: The Making of a Post-Denominational Priest, pp. 335-336, 338-339.

Banner Image: Photo of typewriter taken from Flickr. Originally posted by Trending Topics 2019 HERE.


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Queries for Contemplation

We have been meditating on many efforts at alternative education.  I once spoke on this topic in Northern  California and a woman came up to me.  She said: “I am a teacher and a good teacher.  And I am quitting.  I did not become a teacher in order to demand constant exams of the students.  I am not alone.  All the good teachers in my district are quitting.”  Do you have stories to tell as well? 

Recommended Reading

Matthew Fox’s stirring autobiography, Confessions, reveals his personal, intellectual, and spiritual journey from altar boy, to Dominican priest, to his eventual break with the Vatican. Five new chapters in this revised and updated edition bring added perspective in light of the author’s continued journey, and his reflections on the current changes taking place in church, society and the environment.

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4 thoughts on “Who Accredits the Accreditors? A Deeper Look at Education in America”

    1. Gail Sofia Ransom

      Dear Clinton,
      I believe Matthew is reporting of a $5,000,000 bribe from a newlyl forming conservative Christian college that resulted in their receiving accreditation in a time so short that a thorough examination of that college’s purpose and processes could not have been examined. At the same time, Matthew was working on getting his innovative University of Creation Spirituality accredited and would have never considered seeking an unfair advantage. Fair treatment of all applicants was all that was necessary.
      Gail Sofia Ransom
      For the Daily Meditation Team

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