Christian Science Monitor details how conservatives are fleeing to start-up colleges


I’ve long been impressed with how the Christian Science Monitor manages to ferret out hidden trends and do a great job on complex, hard-to-nail-down topics.

If you want to see a perfect example of this, check out the Monitor's latest story on how poisonous the atmosphere in college campus has become for the typical conservative student, especially religions and moral conservatives.

These students may not quit the institution they’ve enrolled in, but they’re often permanently silenced for four years, knowing that once they express their views, they can become outcasts quickly.

Sooner or later, this is going to lead to news stories in lots of zip codes.

BOSTON -- As high school students across the US receive college acceptance letters, many are wrestling with the same kinds of questions: How much financial aid will I get? How far from home should I go? Are the course offerings what I want? 
But for conservative students, there’s often an additional, even more important factor to consider: Will the institution welcome, or at least tolerate, our viewpoints?
To hear many conservatives tell it, the answer on many campuses is increasingly, “No.” One student, a standout from a Christian academy, came to MIT last fall to pursue his passion, computer science. But during the freshman diversity training, though there was a theme of encouraging discussion between people of different backgrounds -- including different political backgrounds – he came away with a feeling that it favored a liberal point of view, especially on issues like sexuality and marriage. So he rarely discusses his perspective with fellow students.
Another, at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, put a Trump-Pence sticker on his dorm room window, only to find it shattered. And a mother in Texas became afraid for her daughter’s safety after members of an organization she belonged to swore in a chat group they would ban or even kill anyone who voted for President Trump.

It’s not that college students tend to be liberal. Everyone knows that. It’s that one side believes their views are now being met with violence of various forms and that some professors are giving them failing grades for merely expressing their views.

It’s a whole new academic game. Think classical schools, only at the college level.

Thus, conservatives are starting to flock to more philosophically friendly institutions.

This fall, a Harvard graduate will open Sattler College in Boston, which will require proficiency in Hebrew and Greek, the original language of the Bible -- as well as rigorous training in hard sciences, such as biology. Arizona has recently established intellectually conservative schools and centers within the state university system, backed -- controversially -- by funding from the Koch brothers and the Republican-controlled legislature. And a private classical Christian school in Houston is piloting a K-16 model.
The conservative rethinking of higher education is being driven in part by a nationwide surge in the K-12 classical Christian movement, which offers a grounding in Western civilization as well as a Christian worldview that can range from evangelical to Eastern Orthodox. The Association of Classical Christian Schools has seen a 25 percent jump in the number of member schools in the past three years alone.

Sattler College is Anabaptist in belief and has an interesting mix of founding precepts. It’s anti-war; it does not believe in infant baptism nor in remarriage after divorce, which might limit which faculty they get. Read their beliefs to get a feel for this place. And read this essay by one of their faculty who has adopted a Holiness lifestyle (where women don't wear jewelry), only without the pentecostalism. 

(Sattler founder Finny) Kuruvilla is part of a cross-denominational grouping known as Kingdom Christians, which espouses nonresistance and includes individuals from Quaker, Mennonite, and Anabaptist communities. But he says he would also welcome someone like Mahatma Gandhi, the Hindu leader of India’s nonviolent resistance movement who cited the Sermon on the Mount -- even as he criticized Christians for not following their own text.

Well, that ought to make an impact in Boston, the city of colleges. An institution that teaches how to be a conscientious objector?

As for the national trend in favor of classical education, that’s a huge trend that I’ve reported on since 2011 for the Washington Post, in a lengthy blog report for and in 2016 for VirtueOnline.

“There’s a wave building out there,” says Lee Wishing, vice president for student recruitment at Grove City College in Pennsylvania, an evangelical school that has seen a nearly 20 percent increase in applications since 2015. “When kids come out of that [classical Christian environment], parents and students may think, ‘I want to continue in a like-minded track.’ ” 

Yes, 20 percent. Most colleges would kill for such numbers. Grove City’s allure may also be due to how it’s in a very isolated town about an hour north of Pittsburgh.

The article goes on to talk about the chasm between where the American population sits and what the typical professor believes.

The gap between professors’ politics and the general population has nearly tripled since the 1990s and now stands at 30 percentage points, according to the Heterodox Academy (HxA), a new professor-driven initiative promoting ideological diversity. HxA also found that conservatives today are more underrepresented in college and university faculties than African-Americans.

This HxA link is truly enlightening and I’m amazed this man’s findings haven’t been reported on more.

One question I have: The people fleeing to conservative strongholds all seem to be conservative Protestants. What are conservative Catholics, orthodox Jews and Muslims doing? When will the pressures begin to build there?

The article ends with a description of how some K-12 classical schools are including college students and cites Saint Constantine School in Houston.

John Mark Reynolds, who established the school three years ago, says there are currently four full-time college students and 50 high schoolers that are double-enrolled in college classes. The teaching is done through one-on-one tutorials. No one pays more than $12,000 for the year, and no one is turned away because they can’t pay. The school keeps costs low in part by not hiring administrators. Dr. Reynolds, the president, regularly takes out the trash and vacuums the office.

But who is Reynolds? We’re never told.

It turns out that he’s an Orthodox Christian who used to be the provost of Houston Baptist University and before that, director of an acclaimed honors program at Biola University. And Saint Constantine is a mission of the Antiochian Orthodox Church. Such details would be nice to know.

But who knows? Maybe an editor cut out that explanatory paragraph. The Monitor is one of those rare publications that puts staff time into reporting on important but under-covered trends that say a lot about what’s going on in flyover country. I wish more journalists were offered similar opportunities.

Please respect our Commenting Policy