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Higher Education in America: The Great Divide

Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another.
– Gilbert K. Chesterton –

There are a number of assumptions made in our modern era about a college education, including that everyone needs one and deserves to have one paid for them. Nearly all institutions of higher learning, both secular and religious, have come to expect government to be a silent, if not active, partner in nearly every phase of providing an education to their students. A brief overview of history shows this to be a fairly new concept of what the role of higher education should be.

As already stated, this partnership between government and college is a relatively new phase in the development of higher education. Medieval universities existed almost solely for the purpose of professional education. Of the 79 universities in Europe during this period, almost all were schools of medicine, law, or theology. With the Renaissance came a renewed emphasis on Greek and Roman literature, along with the addition of arithmetic, geometry, and music.

During the Reformation and post-Reformation period, universities placed every aspect of education in the framework of a Christian worldview. Colleges in early America were firmly built on this educational model and nearly all were governed by trustees of one religious body or another.  The religious colleges found during this period read like a who’s who of American higher education:

  • Harvard – founded in 1636 as a Congregational school.
  • William and Mary – founded in 1693 as an Anglican school.
  • Yale – founded in 1701 as a Congregational school.
  • Princeton – founded in 1746 as a New Light Presbyterian school.
  • Columbia – founded in 1754 as an Anglican school.
  • Brown – founded in 1765 as a Baptist school.
  • Rutgers – founded in 1765 as a Dutch Reformed school.

Prior to the 19th century, every college founded in America was a purposefully designed integration of faith and learning. With the exception of the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Virginia, all were Christian-based colleges with a firm commitment to revealed truth.

“A native of America who cannot read or write is as rare an appearance…as a comet or an earthquake.” – John Adams

In the mid 1800s a shift began to occur in both established and newer universities. Career and vocation became separated from faith and truth, leading to a dualism. It was a subtle but unstoppable shift in worldview. There was a breakdown in the visions that saw every discipline and specialization within the framework of faith. This division of faith from learning and teaching was the beginning of the confused and disconnected approach to higher education that is known today, even among church-related institutions.

Following World War II, a rapid expansion of higher education has taken place all across America. Now there are around 3,600 institutions of higher learning: 2,000 public and 1,600 private. Many of the public institutions are community colleges. Others are large research universities. Of the 1,600 private institutions, almost 800 maintain some church relationship (about 400 mainline; a little less than 300 Roman Catholic; and few more than 100 Evangelical).

Along with this division of truth and vocation, and an increasing role of government in every level of higher education, has come a prevailing notion that such an education is both a right and necessity for all people. Community colleges, once designed to be two-year vocational training institutions, are quickly becoming four-year degree granting institutions. Federal student grants and guaranteed loans have further cemented the partnership between government and higher education. The result is a system that has divested itself of the very roots upon which it was built.

The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.
– Albert Einstein –

Many of today’s colleges have become the bastions of liberal and socialistic thought, institutions that disdain the very foundational principles upon which this country was formed. They teach an anti-Americanism that is affecting the way this country operates. Perhaps it’s time to revisit the question of our universities and community colleges and what they teach. We’re going to have to capture the minds and imaginations of our young people to keep this country firmly grounded in its founding principles.

We have allowed others to use our schools for their own ends. They have infiltrated our society at its most vulnerable and highest levels.

For the sake of our future, it may be time to run a little stealth operation of our own, and focus on taking back our schools.

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