Dean of Academic Affairs Speaks on the Core Mission of Patrick Henry College
Purpose Behind Patrick Henry College
All the publicity would seem to indicate that Patrick Henry College exists so that the best and brightest students can have a change to prepare themselves for whatever God has planned for them in life. That’s done with the hope so that with that education they can turn around and positively influence the culture. So that they, as American citizens, can have a chance to positively influence the country.
That’s why Patrick Henry College exists.
Part of Dr. Mike Farris’ dream for the college was that Patrick Henry College would be a place where students could become grounded in their faith. Farris had seen gifted Christian friends go to universities and colleges and come back without any of their convictions, never having had the chance to ground themselves in their faith. They had been challenged by their peers and by their professors. No one will challenge you at Patrick Henry College for being a Christian. Maybe they would disagree with you on your sciences, on his views of history, on his political opinions. But at Patrick Henry College, it’s a community that’s not going to attack you just because you’re Christian. It’s a college experience that’s going to come within the Christian family and provide you with an opportunity to flourish from the start of your college career. It’s also going to make your faith stronger. We teach you to defend your beliefs. And, while supplying the grounding for belief, Patrick Henry College gives students that rigorous and challenging education that’s as much like an ivy league as we can make it.
Patrick Henry College achieves this mission by doing some outstanding things. Unlike most colleges where the general program is being taken up by major hours, Patrick Henry College firmly believes and makes use of a common, classical core curriculum. It used to be that 60 credit-hours of general education was something that everyone had. Now at most colleges, it’s suddenly gone down to 31 hours. Now, what that means is that there’s less and less shared knowledge when they go into their jobs in towns and cities. There’s less shared knowledge in science in literature and in history. It makes it hard, not only to have an educated conversation, but also difficult to know where people are coming from when conversations do happen.
Every student at Patrick Henry College takes the same courses. At many state colleges, students are required to take a number of literature courses, a number of humanity courses, a number of history courses, and a few government classes. Mostly, students chose what classes they’ll take from these larger categories. But, for the most part, they just have to make sure they’ve checked the boxes. At Patrick Henry College, every student is taking the same classes and comes from a shared experience and a shared source of knowledge. This ensures that each student gets a rounded education and that we won’t change unless the core mission of the school changes.
There’s another way in which Patrick Henry College uniquely quips its students, and that’s our internship programs. The beauty of PHC is that we are 40 mins from D.C. we have cultivated a number of internships that simply aren’t open to a lot of school unless they imbed a professor in DC and have him teach full time there. For many students, it’s simply not an option. But here, connections and open opportunities provide Patrick Henry College with ample room to take full advantage of D.C.’s professional environment.
In this way, Patrick Henry College makes use of the apprentice teaching model. Classes will teach students material in class that students can then take them and apply them in an internship so that they can leave and hit the ground running.Mock Trial and Moot Court teams are also ways we make use of the apprenticeship model. So between the apprentice-model programs, between internships, between excellent majors, and because of the core, these are the ways that PHC achieves that larger mission.
Here’s the kind of student that should come to Patrick Henry College. The kind of student that comes to PHC should be the one who feels called to come. Once they have an understanding the mission of what we are trying to accomplish and have an idea of some of the unique methodologies here, the student has to decide—this is a place where I want to be.
I don’t know that the kids that come to Patrick Henry College are the smartest kids in the country, but I wouldn’t trade them for the ones that go to Stanford or Yale, Harvard or any place else. We are also interested in students who—at their core—are people who believe and have committed their lives to the Lord Jesus Christ. Between people who aren’t that smart and who are more grounded in their faith; I would rather have the latter. What we will do is give them the best education we can and provide them with opportunities to be in moot court and mock trial to be in debate to be in journalism, things which are associated with strategic intelligence—so that they can develop the gifts and talents that the Lord has given them.
I believe that Patrick Henry College is one of the ways Christians can be outstanding American citizens.