Leonardo Briceno

Dean of Academic Affairs Speaks on the Core Mission of Patrick Henry College

  • Purpose Behind PHC

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 PHC 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.

  • Mission

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.

  • Students

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.

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Why Patrick Henry College Requires All Students to Complete Such a Broad Core Curriculum

Broad Core Curriculum at Patrick Henry College

The Loss of Traditional Values

            We live in a time in which traditional Christian values are derided because they are traditional, especially in academia. News stories abound with professors denouncing Christianity as the main cause of America’s social woes while the less militant choose to quietly suppress traditional Christianity as “intolerant.” Tradition prevents us from repeating the mistakes of the past along with helping us maintain important values. In the past, it also was effective in influencing the lives of those who were not even Christians in the regular sense. Many traditional biblical values were accepted as societal norms, even among non-Christians. As history has demonstrated, traditional Christianity cannot be thrown away without a distressing change in society, therefore, Broad Core Curriculum at Patrick Henry College is necessary.

            Patrick Henry College understands the power and importance of traditional values. Accordingly, it seeks to teach these values through its intensive core curriculum, covering a broad array of topics such as history, music, mathematics, rhetoric, science, law, theology, and even economics. All of these are taught from a traditional biblical perspective and all students take the core, regardless of their major. These classes are all difficult as well and require actual effort to be completed, unlike many core classes at other schools. What these various and seemingly unrelated subjects do in the core is give the Patrick Henry College student a vast understanding of how biblical values apply to every field of life.

The Decline of Education

            Along with preserving Christian values, there is another major gap that Patrick Henry College’s core seeks to fill. It is the marked decline in American educational standards and success, even though college enrollment and graduation are higher than ever. While it is not easy to pinpoint a central cause for this decline, one main reason is the loss of focus on the students’ development. Public education has turned into a battlefield in which conservatives and liberals are fighting over what the students should be taught along with skirmishes between teacher’s unions, parents, and many other groups. This ideological battle has spread into the colleges as well, leading to politics becoming generally more important than education. Hence, it seems that the main goal is not to have brilliant students anymore but is, in fact, something different for every group. Observing the precedent of success that traditional classical education has had, Patrick Henry College chose to develop its core curriculum accordingly to combat the decay of American education. There are many reasons why a core curriculum is effective and important to Patrick Henry College.

Preparation for a Career

            There is a fundamental problem in assuming, as many colleges do that a core curriculum is outdated and not useful for a student’s future career. Granted, Patrick Henry College alum is not going to use his expertise in classical music history to become a sports journalist. imagine the advantage the journalist has when he is experienced in researching things unfamiliar to him such as classical music. There are many other areas in which skills from the Patrick Henry College core curriculum cross over to completely separate subjects. Modern academia has become pragmatic by focusing all of its attention on narrow areas of interest. This practice creates students who can do their job but know little else and do not have a broad base of knowledge or experience to rely on should they need it. Patrick Henry College solves this problem by having the extensive core curriculum along with a strong emphasis on internships.

How to Think

            Another reason to use a Broad Core Curriculum at Patrick Henry College is that it teaches one to think. Because of the previously mentioned crossover that the subjects give, a student acquires the ability to reason in many different ways. This skill is tremendously useful even outside of the workplace since one can use his skills to make life choices effectively. The brain is much like an athlete in that it benefits more from varied types of training rather than endless hours of one, known as cross-training sports. Football players get better at football by doing jump rope, swimming, lifting weights, and even ballet, not by solely playing football. The brain also gets better at one task by being challenged by other dissimilar tasks. It has been estimated that there are nine main kinds of intelligence humans can have including spatial intelligence, mathematical intelligence, and factual intelligence that involves remembering historical events. All of these types of intelligence are completely separate from each other and can be trained independently. Thus, Patrick Henry College’s core helps train students to be more powerful thinkers overall.

Leaders and Culture-Changers

            The most important reason for the employment of a Broad Core Curriculum at Patrick Henry College is to bring glory to God by cultivating leaders and culture-changers who will transform society. The best adversaries to combat well-educated enemies of Christianity are Christians who know worldly matters, as well as their opponents, do, if not better. Many Christian colleges do correctly in seeking to build leadership qualities in their students yet fall short in giving their students excellent education for the real world. And, though not every Patrick Henry College student will end up being one, the college’s robust education gives them the broadness in perspective great leaders need.

Filling in the Gaps

            Patrick Henry College is a very small school, and new as well. However, its goals are anything but immature. Its founders observed the lack in America of schools that taught firm biblical values along with producing brilliant students. So, they committed to create an intense core curriculum that would reaffirm God’s undying word while simultaneously giving students a deep aspect on the world. While it is imperfect as all man’s creations are, it has been tremendously successful in the short time Patrick Henry College has been in existence.

Author Bio

Jackson Katanic is currently studying Economics and Business Analytics at Patrick Henry College; a classical Christian liberal arts college in Purcellville, VA. He plans to attend law school and work in corporate management. Katanic has lived in seven different states and enjoys songwriting and boxing.

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