Leonardo Briceno on the development of rigorously-trained thinkers
A Consistent Need in Education
Patrick Henry College, as an institution, is dedicated to the principle of academic excellence. It’s an old-fashioned idea. It’s the idea that students should be trained to deal with a wide range of real-life problems by providing college attendees with day-to-day challenges that will cause growth and solution-finding capabilities. Academically, Patrick Henry College hopes to equip its students to do just that. In this manner, graduates from Patrick Henry College will enter the workplace, an institution of higher education, or wherever they might find themselves, with the ability to thrive and to perform excellently. But all those hopes start with a good college education. Academic rigor is a principle that—ideally—all colleges, universities, and all other centers of higher education would adhere to. But the tragic fact of the matter is that the American public school system and the quality of education in the nation has decreased as is evidenced by a decreased performance in standardized testing. Its standards have lowered and as a result, those using the system have also received a lower quality product. But that’s not to say that the product has become any less valuable—quite to the contrary. More than ever, the United States needs qualified and skilled leaders who are willing to work hard to compete with international power. Perhaps more specifically still, the United States needs biblically-trained students who recognize the importance of Christian values and know how to rise above the challenges in front of them. As a school that’s dedicated to the future of the United States and equipping the leaders of tomorrow, Patrick Henry College understands and affirms that the first step to training quality citizens, employees, voters, and decision-makers is by providing them with a quality education.
Here’s how they do it.
A Dedicated Faculty
The faculty at Patrick Henry College are uniquely invested in the lives and in the development of their students. Because of a smaller student body, faculty and professors are able to have personable interactions with students to encouragement them in their development. It’s the belief of Patrick Henry College leaders that good instruction is fundamental to a good education. Without this student-professor connection, the many achievements of the students at Patrick Henry College simply wouldn’t be possible. Professors and faculty are able to know students by name, recognize their strengths, and work on their weaknesses. Going beyond a simple teaching setting, faculty at Patrick Henry College are able to mentor their students personally, working on things like character and work ethic. Part of a classical liberal arts education is helping students create a more holistic, well-rounded character for themselves. Our faculty aims to do just that and aid their students in the pursuit of excellence through academic rigor.
The Classroom Setting
As already mentioned, the number of students in each class if far smaller at Patrick Henry College and this dynamic encourages and promotes individuality of thought in a classroom setting. Students will have to think on their feet and be able to engage during in-class discussions. Because classes can range anywhere from five to twenty in size, Patrick Henry College students will be unable to hide in the crowd if they wish to avoid class discussions. This prompts students to come to class prepared. This, in turn, causes a higher level of class participation. Because students at Patrick Henry College take active steps to be equipped to engage in discussion, hand-raising is a central part of class. Moreover, many of the classes are designed to revolve around conversation and discussion—especially within upper-level classes where students are expected to have more general knowledge. This format encourages dialogue and argument between students and the teacher, creating an environment that’s uniquely advantageous for examining different types of thought under different lights and alternate opinions. In this manner, the rigor that might be seen in tests or on a paper is a result of or the product from a vibrant and stimulating classroom setting at Patrick Henry College. For professors and students alike, the experience of academic improvement at Patrick Henry College starts in the classroom.
The Student Body
One of the reasons students at Patrick Henry College learn so much in their quick four-years is largely due to their classmates. While the academic rigor ultimately comes from classes and the work that’s presented from them, it doesn’t stop there. Instead, the student body at Patrick Henry College takes it upon itself to continue developing a multitude of ideas in the hallways, in the dorm, and in the dining hall. You must consider that the kind of person that comes to Patrick Henry College is one willing and ready to engage in discourse, not only as an academic endeavor but also as a form of amusement, entertainment, and betterment. Students here understand the importance of continued discourse and do their best to solidify their thoughts on current events and the things they learned in class by a rigorous sense of discussion. And this principle is true from classes such as history and various ways of interpreting the past, to theological debates on the nature of God, to the economic principles of conservative government. It takes more than a class to make a student. Fortunately, at Patrick Henry College, the student body itself is one of the largest reasons the academic rigor here continues to prompt students to new heights and new aspirations.
The Long and Short of It
If you give a man a book and prepare him for a test, that doesn’t necessarily make him a thinker. At Patrick Henry College, a dedicated faculty, a purposeful classroom setting, and a motivated student body are all factors that contribute towards the development of rigorously-trained thinkers—students who are being readily and adequately prepared to lead the world of tomorrow in whatever scenario they might find themselves in.