By Harrison Howe
Higher Education Reborn
Somewhere between public universities and traditional Christian schools lies what is known as classical Christian colleges. Generally opposed to many of the modern trappings of higher education, including specializations, residential campuses, federal financial aid and even a belief in evolution, these institutions strive to combine religious faith, which is central to classical Christian education, with intellectualism. Founders and officials of these colleges tend to feel that American Christianity has been removed, or has removed itself, from many intellectual settings.
The Association of Classical & Christian Schools points to Scripture when defining classical Christian education, noting that God repeatedly instructs man to teach children in the ways of the Lord. This includes discipline, admonition, purity and truth. For faculty and students of schools like New Saint Andrews College, schools utilizing a teaching model embracing these beliefs represent nothing less than a higher education rebirth.
While some may think it an extreme approach, New Saint Andrews has turned back the clock to achieve the classical Christian goal. There, students have been known to dress in black robes, and the curriculum of the college is compared to that of 17th century Harvard University. Nevertheless, the curriculum is rigorous, which flies in the face of common beliefs about conservative Christian education.
The movement is slowly catching on. Since 1994, half a dozen similar colleges have opened across the country, with up to 20 more being considered. Some existing schools have also begun to include classical Christian programs alongside traditional curricula.
Criticism and Controversy
Not surprisingly, New Saint Andrews and schools like it receive their fair share of criticism. Some feel that the teachings are a bit too medieval. The schools' lack of regional accreditation is another negative, some feel, especially when it comes to pursuing a graduate degree. In some circles, their 'defiantly different' views of residential housing, which New Saint Andrews say are place of 'immaturity, immorality and irresponsibility', are seen as archaic.
All that said, classical Christian colleges know that their way of teaching and learning is not for everyone and in some ways they thrive on the opposition. Samuel Schuman, author of Seeing the Light, states, 'A big part of their definition is how they kind of see the rest of the world as opposing them.'
Criticism has also been directed toward one of the founders of New Saint Andrews, Doug Wilson. Several of his publications, both books and pamphlets, have come under fire for their controversial subjects. For instance, his 'Southern Slavery As It Was' speaks out in defense of what he calls 'Biblical' slavery, writing: 'The Bible permits Christians to own slaves.' Wilson has been referred to as a neo-Confederate, one who generally supports the beliefs and views of the Civil War-era Confederate States of America.
The same has been said of George Grant, founder of another classical Christian college, New College Franklin in Tennessee. Grant is a contributor to a textbook calling for the development of a new Confederate States of America, in addition to writing a book called 'Changing of the Guard: Biblical Principles for Political Action', in which he writes of the 'obligation' of Christians to dominate all forms of government.
Still, classical Christian colleges continue to expand, they are accredited by a recognized accreditor of private Christian colleges and they have the offering of a unique perspective on their side. With some not totally satisfied with how higher education is conducted in the United States, schools like New Saint Andrews College may provide an attractive alternative.
Many students who attend classical Christian colleges are home-schooled rather than products of public education; take a closer look at home-schooling and how these students graduate.