Patrick Henry College's plan is working, says The New York Times
About 7 percent of the White House interns this semester are from Patrick Henry College, reports The New York Times today. Not bad for an unaccredited school that launched less than four years ago and currently has only 240 or so students.
"The college's knack for political job placement testifies to the increasing influence that Christian home-schooling families are building within the conservative movement," says Times "conservative beat" writer David Kirkpatrick. He credits Patrick Henry president Michael Farris, who is also founder of the Home School Legal Defense Association.
"We are not home-schooling our kids just so they can read," Farris told the Times. "The most common thing I hear is parents telling me they want their kids to be on the Supreme Court. And if we put enough kids in the farm system, some may get to the major leagues."
Back in 2001, The Washington Post had a much more dramatic quote from Farris. "You guys have got to get into the United States Senate—that's the solution," he told his constitutional law class in that story. "Go take over. That's the answer." (A 2003 Post article on Patrick Henry College has disappeared from the Post website, but is reposted elsewhere.)
And so Patrick Henry College is a tech school of sorts. With a mission "to train Christian men and women who will lead our nation and shape our culture with timeless biblical values and fidelity to the spirit of the American founding," the school blends some aspects of classical liberal arts education with apprenticeship. It's department of government, in which about two thirds of its students study, aims "to promote practical application of biblical principles."
That's quite different from most evangelical Christian colleges, and Kirkpatrick deserves credit for not trying to make Patrick Henry some kind of representative of Christian higher education or of the evangelical movement. Patrick Henry is representative of a part of this movement, but many evangelicals have a very different view of education. Look, for example, at the mission and vision statements of Wheaton College ("To help build the church and improve society worldwide by promoting the development of whole and effective Christians through excellence in programs of Christian higher education"), Calvin College ("To engage in vigorous liberal arts education that promotes lifelong Christian service"), or Westmont College ("To provide a high quality undergraduate liberal arts program in a residential campus community that assists college men and women toward a balance of rigorous intellectual competence, healthy personal development, and strong Christian commitments").
Here's the article that hasn't been done, but should: Compare the study of politics at Patrick Henry and a more mainstream evangelical college. (For an example, see Alan Wolfe's take on Wheaton political science classes in his 2000 Atlantic Monthly article.) There's much potential there in examining evangelical faultlines in the views of education, intellectual life, politics and civic life, and cultural engagement.
Another possible comparison: Pat Robertson's Regent University, which also puts a strong emphasis on professional training (especially in law and media).
Meanwhile, don't miss Kirkpatrick's sidebar on Patrick Henry's school rules, which highlight a policy on courtship.
"Before spending much time alone with a female student, a male student must ask her father or guardian for permission to court," Kirpatrick summarizes. "Even then, displays of affection on campus are limited to holding hands while walking. If a couple stop moving, they must step apart." This rule, however, isn't spelled out in the school's honor code along with other prohibitions.
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