In the more conservative Christian circles, education is often viewed through a very skeptical lens. A means to an end. On the one hand, it is very important and many parents sacrifice a great deal to make sure that their child's education is the best, either through private schools or homeschooling. Of course, the added caveat is that those educational systems also promote their brand of Christianity. Admittedly, there are some of these Christians who are more concerned about the insulation and indoctrination of their children then they are about education, but my experience as a homeschooler says that those people are few. Among my many home educated friends and private schools friends (both of which I did), I know very few who didn't go on to college. Now, those friends fall into a couple of categories. They either went to extremely conservative Christian colleges, lived at home while attending college, or went to a state college. I am the only person I know of who attended what would be considered a very liberal college. I chose my college because they had an undergrad program that I wanted to do and I had heard of them. I did not, not once, consider the political and ethical makeup of the college I was attending.
I didn't begin my undergrad degree until I was twenty-three, by that point I had abandoned many of the things my parents had taught. By this time I believed in intelligent design evolution, heresy to my young earth creationist parents. I no longer believed in faith healing, was skeptical of being slain in the spirit, didn't think homosexuality was a sin. I found a church in my new city that was much more liberal in thought and focused on racial reconciliation and community outreach, both things being very important to me. My mother visited once and I had to tell her that she couldn't dance at church. She balked and demanded to know why I would pick a church that was so "oppressive". I just rolled my eyes, knowing that what she meant was why didn't I pick an charismatic church where people do whatever they want, no matter how ridiculous. That too I had abandoned, when I realized that the only reason I was closing my eyes during worship service was because I couldn't stand watching these people gyrate like a bunch of fools.
Most of my classes were literature, writing, or publishing focused. I already had an associate's degree and my new school took almost all of my credits and so I had 2 1/2 years of classes focused in my major. But there were a few exceptions. One was psychology. My sociology credit didn't transfer over and I was required to take one philosophy or ethics course. I chose Contemporary Ethics as it seemed interesting. I think it was after the second class, I realized that announcing I was a Christian would probably not be in my best interest. The first reason being just the educational environment I was in. The second was because there was a super Catholic girl in the class who kept using the Bible to back up all of her viewpoints and she sounded like a complete fucking moron. People treated her like she was one too. And so I convinced myself that God told me not to tell anyone that I was a Christian. What I told myself though, was that I was going to attempt to argue my own ethical viewpoints without using the Bible. And so the semester moved on.
Here is what happened though. By the end of the course, I had successfully argued from a principle-based ethics approach for the entire semester without using the Bible. When my classmates found out on the last day that I was a Christian, they were completely surprised because the Catholic girl had essentially made all Christians sound like idiots. I was so proud of how I had shown them that Christians can argue for the "right" things without resorting to "because the Bible tells me so" as an answer.
It was then that I also realized that one could have morals and values, strong ones too, without being backed up by a religion. It was a small moment, but it was another seed of doubt to add to my growing garden. I had, without the Bible, proved that you didn't need religion to be a good ethical person.
My parents feared how higher education would change me, sure that this would be like God's Not Dead where an atheistic professor would try to convince me that there is no god. I went to an extremely liberal school and that never happened. No professor even suggested it and only one liked to complain about the president and conservatives. Believe it or not, I actually shut that shit down with a, "Aren't we here to learn? Why are we spending so much time bashing the president? Can we move on now?" And we did, because my professors were awesome like that. My parents fears were unfounded. I didn't become an unbeliever because of a professor or even a particular class. The seeds of doubt were created through me. They happened because I was fearful to be open about my religion because I could see how stupid it sounded and a bit because it was a hostile environment for the religious. My school definitely loses points on that front. It wasn't hostile in a physical sense, but in a, if you want to be seen as smart you won't announce you are religious.
This is not something I have ever challenged a Christian to do, to argue certain ethical standpoints based purely on logic and not religion, but it is something people should all do. For some people, it will just be a series of justifications and rewordings, trying to make the Bible not sound like the Bible. But for others, it may be that additional seed and provide them some insight into the idea that you don't need religion to believe certain things are right or wrong.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.