Higher Education - Prestige versus Truth
Earlier this year, a hedge fund billionaire named Ken Griffin gave his alma mater, Harvard University, $300 million. Griffin, rated by “Forbes” magazine as one of the 40 wealthiest people in the world, said of his gift, “I am excited to support the impactful work of this great institution.”
The enormity of this gift if overshadowed by the fact that Harvard has a total endowment of around $53 billion, making it the wealthiest institution of higher education in the world. This is also a larger amount than 123 of the world’s countries.
Now comes news that Harvard graduate students “may qualify” for federal welfare assistance. This comes after massive infusions of cash into Harvard’s coffers. “Harvard’s endowment soared nearly 34% in 2021, adding $10 billion in that year alone,” writes journalist Jackson Walker. “That same year, the university ended with a $283 million operational surplus.”
On the other end of the spectrum is New York City’s Kings College. Founded in 1999 as a center for academically rigorous Christian scholarship, the school in July “announced it was canceling classes for the fall semester, laying off most of its faculty and staff, and struggling to recover its recently revoked academic accreditation.”
King’s College is what Harvard once was — a bastion of Christian orthodoxy, intellectual growth, and vocational preparation. Through its “commitment to the truths of Christianity and a biblical worldview,” the school is dedicated to “preparing students for careers in which they help to shape and eventually to lead strategic public and private institutions.”
Although phrased a bit differently, Harvard’s original purpose was not too different than today’s King’s. “Dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the churches, when our present ministers lie in the dust,” Harvard was intended to “season” its students with “the principles of divinity and Christianity.” In its original “Rules and Precepts” (1646), Harvard’s leaders made clear the intention of their new college: “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 Christ which is eternal life (John 17:3) and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning.”
Oh, how times change. Harvard is well-known, even notorious, as a fortress of political liberalism and “progressive” ideology. And its students are far from the youths who, in the mid-17th century, sought truth anchored in Christ. As of 2018, roughly “two-thirds of students had ‘at some point chosen not to an express an opinion in an academic setting out of fear it would offend others.’ This was particularly the case for Republican supporters (and) almost half of students wanted to have ‘trigger warnings’ if courses were going to include something that could be upsetting or offensive.”
A school animated by the truth of Scripture and the worldview it presents is verging on collapse. Another school, grounded in nothing more than the whining squalls of culture, has an endowment so large it requires its own management company. My friend Joe Loconte, who was for 10 years a professor at King’s, attributes this to “Western civilizational decay.” He might well be right.
A symptom of that decay might come in the form of the near-lockstep uniformity of the Harvard faculty’s politics. According to an April survey taken by the Harvard Crimson, “More than 80 percent of Harvard faculty respondents characterized their political leanings as ‘liberal’ or ‘very liberal.” Nearly 40% identify as “very liberal,” and more than 30% oppose hiring more conservative professors. Perhaps Harvard’s Office of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Belonging (what, nothing about Variety?) should weigh-in on this bigoted animosity. I’m not holding my breath.
My point in all of this is twofold: First, that Christians need to roll up their sleeves and open their wallets to support institutions that are seeking to honor the original mission of schools like Harvard — helping young believers develop a biblical worldview in order to serve Christ, our nation, and our world.
Second, prestige doesn’t mean quality. Indoctrination in the canons of the Left is not education, and the pursuit of material gain (which seems to be Harvard’s major emphasis, when all is said and done) is empty. Lesser known colleges and universities, Christian ones that equip youth for all facets of their future in the context of loyalty to the Word made flesh, are far more beneficial to young men and women than a diploma stamped with a venerable logo.
Rob Schwarzwalder is Senior Lecturer in Regent University's Honors College.