Marjorie Pratt

The first chapel message of every academic year at Patrick Henry College features President Jack Haye reminding students and faculty of what the true importance of education is. For members of other institutions, the importance of higher education is the academics, the GPA, or the number of students who graduate with a job in their field. For Patrick Henry College, as President Haye reminds us every year, if a student graduates with a 4.0 GPA and a full scholarship to graduate school or a great job offer, but that student has no humility, the institution has failed that student. We want students to learn, we want them to think critically, but above all, we want students to have a relationship with Christ. We want students to succeed, but more than that, we want to see the Fruits of the Spirit blossom in their lives.

Patrick Henry College is built on three distinctive traits: only the highest academic discipline, fidelity to the spirit of the American founding, and an unwavering biblical worldview. Holding to the American founding allows us to stay true to the principles our forefathers wrote into the Constitution. The high academic rigor helps us push students to do their best academically and to think critically about the world around them. Our unwavering biblical worldview pushes us to focus on individual relationships with Christ in our students, staff, and faculty. Only from a relationship with Christ can the members of the Patrick Henry College community gain the humility necessary for a clear understanding of the world. If a member of the community learns everything he can but has not grown in Christ and learned humility, Patrick Henry College has failed that member.

Patrick Henry College’s three distinctives come together for one goal: to teach students the skills they need to lead the nation and shape the culture. To do that, we push our students academically. We aim for a level of difficulty and uncompromising standard of excellence in order to equip students with the ability to perform at the highest levels of the professional world. That’s why in the span of four years, students at PHC go from graduating high school to working at the White House, the Heritage Foundation, Fox News, and others. 

The faculty, the administration, and student body believe the ideas in a liberal arts education have the ability to further the potential of any student. The faculty at Patrick Henry College has designed the core to grow students’ strengths by pushing the limits on their weaknesses. In a lecture given to freshmen by Professor of History Dr. Robert Spinney, he explains why he pushes young students as much as he does. He compares his assignments to a gym workout. If you never lift heavier weights, you’ll never get stronger; in the same way, if you don’t push yourself to new limits academically, you’ll never get smarter.

That is why none of the professors at Patrick Henry College shy away from bringing some of the toughest practical and philosophical questions. It’s not uncommon to watch questions like “what is the good life?” go up on the whiteboard. Freedoms Foundations, a class about political theory, teaches students to consider and evaluate propositions like “man is a political animal,” and such claims as “God is dead, God remains dead, and we have killed him.”

Those are challenging questions, but they merit consideration. In part, the difficulty of the academics at PHC stems from the wide range of rich, nurturing texts and ideas of a classical liberal arts education. The rigor at Patrick Henry College is not just difficult for the sake of difficulty. It’s there to develop good practices in students by addressing some of greatest topics and minds in history.

The rigor of our classes forces students to work hard to achieve success, but our students are not merely called to a higher academic standard. They are also called to a broader academic standard. The 63-credit core introduces students to every element of the classical liberal arts education: history, philosophy, government, theology, science, rhetoric, language, and apprenticeships.

1 Corinthians 10:31 says, “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” Everything we do, we seek to do it in the name of the Lord, and whether we fail or succeed, we lay it all at His throne. Patrick Henry College uses this classical core to help students reach excellence, but it also uses the core to teach students the objective truths about life, to show evidence of God’s greatness through those facts, and to help students to remember how small they themselves are.

Every class session, every group project, every course syllabus is rooted in a commitment to Christian values and principles. Patrick Henry College has designed a Statement of Biblical Worldview in order to prevent to prevent the school from ever drifting from its mission like so many other colleges with biblical beginnings. Human hearts are, by nature, sinful. And organizations are comprised of humans. To truly honor God and follow his perfect will, organizations—like individuals—require a standard. Organizations need principles around which there is unanimity and accountability. Without these things, the mission of an institution is only as strong as the people in power are principled and reasoning biblically.

There’s nothing wrong with a great education. But—as noted by C.S. Lewis—when removed from guiding principles, education is subject to all sorts of influences. In his book, Abolition of Man, Lewis writes: “Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a cleverer devil.” How often do we see the product of strong minds—and egos—but the lack of intellectual honesty and morality? The world needs principled leaders. Need we explain where those principles come from?

That is why Patrick Henry College’s academic rigor cannot exist without an unwavering biblical worldview. Our dedication to excellence is nothing without a humility gifted to us by Christ.

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