Patrick Henry College
When Patrick Henry College opened its doors eight years ago, it sought to derive something new from something old. Like the American homeschool movement from which it had been birthed, PHC sought to refresh time-honored traditions of education for the current age. A recent review by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) distilled this truth with uncommon clarity, explaining that “PHC is dedicated to the difficult and delicate task of harmonizing three things that many today think are in tension with each other: a liberal arts education, worldly success, and an Evangelical Christian lifestyle.”
The comprehensive, six-page report provides a concise review of the College’s excellent classical Christian core curriculum, its intellectually vigorous classroom ethic, and its spiritually uplifting, close-knit campus culture. Available for $2.50 from the ISI’s collegeguide.org website, the article details PHC’s majors, touches on its growing record of accomplishments, and gives a thoughtful summary of how remarkably the College has already reached many of its founding goals.
“[PHC’s] mission is anchored solidly in the school’s academic program, which requires of students a strong liberal arts core curriculum, and then complements the academic majors they choose with practical apprenticeship programs,” reads one excerpt. “The unifying element of these two wings of education at PHC is the school’s strong commitment to Protestant Evangelical Christianity, both as a comprehensive worldview and as a way of life.”
The review proceeds to summarize each major and track, listing the strengths of each and concluding that “[a]ll of PHC’s departments are said to have two strengths: dedicated faculty and practical apprenticeship programs.” One student interviewed by ISI said that, while he doesn’t personally enjoy physics, he didn’t want to miss class “because Prof. Kucks teaches it.” And arching over all the majors is “the college’s Protestant Christian faith,” which “takes a neutral position on intra-Protestant doctrinal differences.” The student body is said to embrace “members of all denominations, from Anglicans and Calvinists to Baptists and Pentecostals.”
The report underscored not only PHC’s “solid academics,” but its highly qualified faculty of “excellent, caring teachers who focus their students God-ward.”
Asking what kind of person walks down the stage to receive a PHC diploma in four years, the ISI report noted that, “[f]or the most part, Patrick Henry students are moderate and temperate in their tastes and life style, and are neither ascetics nor hedonists.” They study hard, but are not “monopolized by ‘great ideas.’ Almost every day there is an ultimate Frisbee pick-up game.” Most importantly, there is a “high percentage of enthusiastic Christians,” and “Patrick Henry College can also have a transforming effect on students’ attitudes to learning,” turning them into adults who want to pursue God and wisdom for life. One item the report failed to correctly note is that, at PHC, chapel is indeed required.
“ISI has been a source of sanity in the university world for many decades,” notes PHC President, Dr. Graham Walker, an ISI Faculty Associate for almost twenty years, and a lecturer at their conferences. “It's one of the major sources of resistance to liberal trends in academe, and upholds what they call ‘education for liberty.’ So it is especially gratifying to me to have them recognize Patrick Henry College in such clear terms. PHC educates for liberty—by educating also for Christ—and we stand with ISI against the tide in the world of higher learning.”
Patrick Henry College enjoys an increasingly fruitful association with the ISI, an organization that seeks “to educate for liberty,” desiring “to further in successive generations of college youth a better understanding of the values and institutions that sustain a free and humane society.” Since 2006, four PHC students have participated in year-long Honors Fellowships with this organization. The Alexis de Tocqueville Society, a student club, has also hosted ISI speakers on campus.
On PHC’s homeschooling roots: “… in what is perhaps the greatest monument to its successful coming of age, the Christian homeschooling movement catalyzed the establishment of Patrick Henry College – a four-year undergraduate school offering a complete liberal arts education and preparation for careers in government, politics, media, and education for homeschooled young adults, as well as graduates of private and public schools.”
On media scrutiny: “Skeptical secular media have paid Patrick Henry an enormous amount of attention, given its size and newness. The school has already had an ABC News special, a documentary film (God’s Next Army), and a book (God’s Harvard, by Washington Post journalist Hanna Rosin), dedicated to it. One can find a great deal of information online or in the press about Patrick Henry College—but much of it is inaccurate or exaggerated by journalists unsympathetic with the college’s mission.”
On PHC’s core curriculum: “The core curriculum introduces students to the principles of the Western intellectual tradition, while the majors give both theoretical and practical grounding in particular fields in politics, journalism, or the humanities.”
On PHC’s apprenticeship program: “The apprenticeship program is especially valuable in helping students begin a professional career while still in college.”
On PHC’s faculty: “Students describe professors as very accessible. 'I have the home phone numbers of two of my professors,' one student remarks. 'Some of my best memories are lunches with teachers.' Another student says, 'professors are really personable, not aloof… It’s just like talking to your neighbor. A professor will say, ‘Here, let me pray for you.’ They care about you as people.'”