Former Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz called it “the worst scandal involving elite universities in the history of the United States.” An FBI investigation determined recently that several wealthy and famous parents had paid twenty five million dollars to bribe and cheat their children’s ways into prestigious universities.
Of course, academics alone has never been the basis for acceptance at schools such as Yale or Georgetown. Legacies, certain racial minorities, athletes, and large scale donors receive preferential treatment. Not to burst anyone’s bubble, but no one graduating from Belding High School with a 4.0 GPA and a high SAT score is likely to attend Harvard – not unless their parents are named Kennedy, or they are able and willing to endow a multi-million dollar scholarship.
The question not being asked by opinion-makers in the media is, why does anyone want to attend these schools in the first place? Is it the promise of higher social standing or career potential? Granted, most recent U.S. presidents graduated from Ivy League schools or one of the U.S. military academies. But not all of them did. Ronald Reagan attended Eureka College, a small religious school in central Illinois. Harry Truman never graduated from college.
Whether elite colleges and universities truly provide superior education depends upon what you consider education.
It used to be understood that education involves more than just learning how to make money. Education is about developing reasoning skills, exposure to great truths, equipping with specialized proficiencies to serve God and others, and most importantly, the development of spiritual character. When Harvard, America’s first college, was founded, its motto was, “Truth for Christ and the Church.” Part of the school’s original “Rules and Precepts” included these wise words: “Let every student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the main end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning.”
Unfortunately America’s so-called elite colleges abandoned this understanding long ago. Higher education today is largely secular. It seems focused on obtaining a credential, making social contacts, and challenging traditional values. In the Midwest, schools in the Big Ten Conference have long been the standard of excellence in education. Included in the courses offered currently by these highly regarded institutions are: Marx for Today (Minnesota), Trans/Gender in Historical Perspective (Wisconsin), Eco/Queer/Feminist Art Practices (Michigan), Breaking the Law: An Introduction to Gender Justice (Ohio State), and Star Trek and Religion (Indiana). A student’s course of study may not include these classes, but why attend a school that provides instruction in depravity and banality? The real scandal involving elite schools is that they are training young people in socialism, secularism, and sin.
I was privileged to attend Bob Jones University, a fundamentalist Christian college. Not only did I want to train for the gospel ministry, I also wanted to attend a school where there was prayer, chapel, and a biblical world view. BJU provided a challenging curriculum and high academic standards. I was also taught ethics, service, and high ideals in an environment that emphasized discipline and godly deportment. I associated with quality young people whose positive influence marks my life today. I also met a wife who is devoted to Christ. I was not hindered or handicapped because I did not attend an elite school. On the contrary, I am eternally grateful for all the good my college experience did for me.
The founder of my alma mater said that he was starting school that would do more than teach young people how to make a living; it would teach them how to live. That is precisely what quality higher education should do.