There are different ways to respond to a crisis. The first is to bellyache about it. We can document what’s wrong with our institutions, expose the bad guys, complain and write letters, maybe even go to rallies. That’s the first way: to seek improvement by calling for improvement. The second way is to tackle the problem at the surface level. If we think Washington is dysfunctional, we can work to elect a congressman who seems different from the rest. If we think academia is too liberal, we can push for a conservative speaker who will offer an alternative point of view. That’s the second way: to make improvements on the margin. It’s needed, but it’s not enough.
At The King’s College we offer a third way. We don’t just want to document the problem; we want to be part of the solution. We aren’t satisfied with improvements on the margin; we want to help transform the core institutions of society. In short, we are here to make a difference. That’s why we’re in New York City, the capital of the world. One has to be in the capital of the world to understand the world, and only when one understands the world can one change it. That’s what we’re about at King’s: changing the world.
How can we do that? Each year we seek to send several hundred students out into the mainstream institutions of society. These students will go to Wall Street, to Silicon Valley, and to leading corporations. They will go to Capitol Hill and the White House, to Fox News, and to ABC. They will go to Hollywood, to graduate school at Duke and Columbia, and to such entrepreneurial hot spots as Hong Kong and Shanghai and Bangalore. Imagine the impact on America and on the world if King’s were to dispatch five hundred or a thousand students a year into key positions.
Many Christian institutions seek to shelter their students from society. Even if they succeed, they marginalize those students because, in shutting them out from mainstream institutions, they leave them with no access to those institutions. Right now, if someone were to ask me, “What is the Christian capital of America?” I’d have to say Orlando, Florida, or Colorado Springs, Colorado, or Tupelo, Mississippi. The problem, of course, is that the major political and economic and cultural decisions in America are made in New York, Washington, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. These are the secular capitals of America. If we want to make a real difference, we have to go where the action is.
At King’s, if I may borrow a phrase from Matthew Arnold, we expose students to the best that is being thought and said. Our core curriculum is built around the ideas that shape nations: politics, philosophy, and economics. Some people may wonder, what’s the point of learning about all that? Well, politics is about who is in charge and for what purposes. Economics is about how we eat and survive and prosper, about what’s to be done with wealth and poverty. Philosophy is about what and why: what is truth, what is justice, why is there a universe, what is happiness, what is the purpose of life. All these words are in the Bible, hundreds of times in various forms. And these are practical questions. By figuring them out, we are better prepared not only to have successful careers but also to be good citizens and to live full and happy lives.
Our goal is knowledge, but knowledge applied to the world in which we live. Our mission is academic excellence, but not excellence for its own sake or effort and achievement for their own sake. Rather, our goal is effort and achievement for the sake of America, for the sake of society, and for the building of God’s kingdom. We are a Christian college. We are not embarrassed by that; we are motivated by that. We are, one might say, unapologetically Christian.
We intend to become a leading center for the new apologetics in America—an apologetics that is needed to counter the new atheism. We welcome the challenge of atheism and radical secularism, and we intend to engage it with its own weapons. We are not intimidated by radical Islam; we have an effective response. But we aren’t going to win these arguments solely by citing passages from the Bible. We have to recognize that we live in a society that is religiously diverse and secular in the terms of public debate. Citing Scripture on a given question—that of creation, say, or gay marriage—is not likely to work when one is addressing someone who rejects the authority of the Bible to adjudicate that question. As Christians we must be able to speak two languages: one language in church and another when we address people who don’t share our Christian beliefs. This is what I call Christian bilingualism.
We are Christians who believe that reason is not opposed to revelation; that reason is a valuable tool with which to discover and affirm the truths of God and creation. We believe that the Bible isn’t merely about the next world; it has important things to say about economics, about war and peace, about ethics, and about human nature. At King’s we aren’t afraid to say what we stand for; we stand for the truth and for political, economic, and spiritual freedom. We don’t hesitate to say that a free society is better than a totalitarian society, or that free markets are a better way to generate prosperity than socialism. We don’t hold these truths dogmatically; we hold them empirically. We affirm them because they are congruent with the facts. At the same time, we are all about open debate. We don’t avoid tough issues; we plunge into them. Freedom and truth aren’t opposites; they go together. Freedom of inquiry and open debate are the mechanisms by which we arrive at the truth.
If we do our job, and our students do their job, they will graduate from King’s as dangerous Christians. Dangerous because they are spiritually equipped and intellectually equipped. They have lived in the big city and encountered the slings and arrows of atheism and radicalism and secularism. They aren’t intimidated by such challenges; their attitude is “bring it on.” That’s what makes them a force to be reckoned with .
An author and public speaker who previously served as a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Dinesh D’Souza was named president of King’s College in August.
The Soul of a College
Baylor University is named for Robert Emmett Bledsoe Baylor, a lawyer and judge who joined with two pioneering Baptist pastors to create an institution of higher learning in the new Republic of Texas. From its beginnings, Baylor welcomed young women; the legendary Sam Houston was drawn to the campus in the village of Independence for the education of his daughters. From Independence, where Baylor’s original four columns continue to stand on Academy Hill, and through which new members of “That Good Old Baylor Line” still march, our predecessors came in 1886 to the city of Waco, on the banks of the Brazos. Baylor’s motto for all of its 165 years has been Pro Ecclesia, Pro Texana: “for the church and for Texas.” Quintessentially American, Baylor’s ecclesiastical tradition is deeply respectful of individual conscience. The Baylor tradition honors what Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson eloquently called the “one fixed star” in our constitutional constellation—freedom of the mind.
Early in the history of the New World, upholders of this tradition set their faces against the state establishment of religious communities. This tradition, a powerful one, is exemplified by Roger Williams, a Baptist who, in search of religious freedom, fled from the Massachusetts Bay Colony to found Providence Plantation as a haven of religious liberty.
With this tradition comes an unyielding commitment to education. Baylor’s mission is unmistakably clear: “to educate men and women for worldwide leadership and service by integrating academic excellence and Christian commitment within a caring community.”
Ours is a time of great challenge for higher education in America. In his book The Decline of the Secular University, Professor C. John Sommerville laments, “Universities are not really looking for answers to our life questions.” Harry Lewis, dean emeritus of Harvard College, asserts in his book Excellence Without a Soul that the “role of moral education has withered.” Lewis charges that “universities have forgotten their larger educational role for college students . . . to help them grow up, to learn who they are, to search for a larger purpose for their lives, and to leave college as better human beings.”
We lament this sense of loss—this hollowness. All around us we see that critiques of higher education are increasing in both breadth and intensity. All too often, the modern academy appears as something smugly remote and arrogantly aloof from the people who support and sustain it. An unprecedented gulf separates the American people from their leading institutions of higher learning. Americans, after all, are people of faith. Public-opinion surveys, including those from Baylor’s Institute for Studies of Religion, confirm what we see and what we draw from America’s history. And we grieve for what we have lost.
In this environment, which Yale professor Stephen Carter has aptly labeled “the culture of disbelief,” Christian higher education has an increasingly compelling role to play. We are, as critic Carlin Romano says, “one university, indivisible, under a coherent idea.” To be sure, wide-ranging opinions on a rich variety of important issues swirl through the Christian academy. We at Baylor are (to put it mildly) no strangers to debate. But at Baylor a consensus obtains—a consensus on what we call our foundational assumptions, our core convictions, and our unifying academic themes. With all our differences, we remain e pluribus unum: “out of many, one.”
For many years these unifying assumptions, convictions, and themes have been set forth boldly in our description of what, at its core, Baylor is. These are the guiding principles we proclaim as foundational: that all truth is open to inquiry; that human life has a meaning and a purpose that is not simply a matter of human choice; that we are a created part of nature but have been given responsibility as stewards—made in the image of God—for its care and management; that we find the highest order of personal fulfillment in working constructively for the betterment of others, and that we have an obligation to do so; that human beings flourish best in a functional and beautiful physical environment and among colleagues who respect, love, forgive, and support one another.
At Baylor these principles take concrete form in a rigorous core curriculum for undergraduates. A national study recently praised this core curriculum and gave it an A—the study’s highest grade. Of 714 institutions of higher learning, only sixteen—including Baylor—received this summa cum laude honor. We at Baylor cherish the university’s generations-old commitment to a rigorous core curriculum in the context of a caring community of faculty, students, and staff. Baylor is rightly renowned for superb teaching and mentoring, and these values remain nonnegotiable and surpassing in their importance.
We also remain committed to the noble human ventures of discovery and inquiry. With our gifts of intellect and curiosity, we are called on to explore our world with energy and creativity. Baylor has been a research university for decades, and our commitment to inquiry is ever more compellingly needed. We give thanks that our efforts have resulted in the Carnegie Foundation’s ranking of Baylor as a research institution with “high” research activity. Our scientists make important contributions in areas such as cancer research, water quality, and avionics. And our scientists’ faith informs both the questions they explore and the way they employ their knowledge to help our hurting world. By demanding that good research inform good teaching, we actively involve our students in this process of discovery.
Herewith, a single, but important, example: We take pride that nearly one-third of first-year Baylor students indicate they want to pursue careers in health care. Many will go on to become doctors; others will become nurses, medical missionaries, or researchers. Increasingly, medical schools demand that applicants have serious undergraduate research experience. Students who, as undergraduates, have engaged in the discovery of knowledge are more competitive in the medical-school admission process and perform better when admitted.
One of Baylor’s core convictions is to “facilitate the discovery of new knowledge to the glory of God and the betterment of humanity.” We want to produce the next generation not only of scientists but also of lawyers, pastors, businesspeople, and service professionals—men and women who will be leaders in every area, from the laboratory to the boardroom and from the courtroom to the classroom.
Baylor welcomes one and all with a spirit of warm hospitality and the fervently embraced conviction that it is better to know than not to know. Baylor is a place where we study great texts with profound respect; where together we learn the duties of active citizenship in a constitutional republic; where we study other lands, languages and cultures; where we unfold the mysteries of creation not only in our laboratories but also in our seminary. Baylor is a place where, at our best, we develop the manifold gifts of body, mind, and spirit and, by doing so, seek to glorify the creator whose handiwork we are and whose creation we study and celebrate.
A former court-of-appeals judge and solicitor general, Ken Starr was installed as president of Baylor University in June.
The Idea of a Catholic University
At a time when there is so much in this part of the world to depress and trouble us as to our religious prospects, the tidings which your circular conveys of the actual commencement of so great an undertaking on the other side of the ocean on the part of the Church will rejoice the hearts of all educated Catholics in these Islands.”
John Henry Cardinal Newman wrote these words in 1885 to James Gibbons, the archbishop of Baltimore. The circular Newman referred to had announced the creation of The Catholic University of America, founded two years later. When he wrote this letter, Newman was nearing the end of a long life in the twilight of English Christianity. British intellectuals felt a growing freedom to reject the faith as unfounded, if not actually immoral. Charles Darwin compared the biblical God to a “revengeful tyrant.”
This helps explain what depressed and troubled Newman, and why The Catholic University of America’s founding delighted him. Catholic University was not precisely the sort of institution Newman envisioned in The Idea of a University. He frowned on the idea of a research university. (He believed that “to discover and to teach are distinct functions . . . not commonly found united in the same person.”) Catholic University began as a graduate research school that did not admit its first undergraduate until seventeen years after its founding. But such details mattered less to Newman than his grand vision. “The object of the Holy See and the Catholic Church in setting up Universities,” he said in an 1856 sermon, as rector of the Catholic University of Ireland, “is to reunite things which were in the beginning joined together by God, and have been put asunder by man”—namely, faith and reason.
More than a century after Newman’s death, many American Catholic institutions are experiencing the same process of secularization that Oxford and other English institutions (including Parliament) experienced in his day. This has made the idea and role of Catholic universities less clear. With faculties far less clerical, indeed less Catholic, than in decades past, Catholic schools often struggle to identify what makes them unique.
Some schools identify their Catholic mission with the good works their students perform in a volunteer capacity, serving faraway missions and inner-city youth, the elderly, and the ill. Others conflate it with a fastidious practice of the faith—frequent opportunities to receive the sacraments, chapels in every dormitory, and so on.
No Catholic university can survive without these essential elements, but they are not sufficient to constitute a Catholic university. What unique purpose is served by a school where young Catholics learn to serve others and frequent the sacraments outside the classroom, only to learn in classes that their faith is irrelevant; that God is dead? Or that scientific truths about the world he created prove in fact that he does not exist? How would a school like that differ from a large state university with a good Newman Center and a flourishing culture of volunteerism?
What makes a Catholic university unique is the Catholic intellectual tradition that suffuses its academic work as well as its campus life. In our classrooms at Catholic University, we begin with the premise that we do well always and everywhere to serve God, and that all human knowledge works toward this end. We approach our work through the lens of faith—not only in our ecclesiastical faculties of philosophy, canon law, and theology but also in art, music, history, literature, law, architecture, and even the hard sciences.
Newman’s 1856 sermon, preached on the feast of St. Monica, treated of that mother’s solicitude for her son Augustine, whose formidable intellect grappled with her faith for possession of his soul. Adrift from the lessons he learned in his youth, he dabbled in Manichaean thought and indulged his carnal desires for many years before becoming a great saint himself.
Monica’s concern for Augustine had much in common with Newman’s concern for his Catholic university: “It will not satisfy me,” Newman said, “what satisfies so many, to have two independent systems, intellectual and religious, going at once side by side, by a sort of division of labour, and only accidentally brought together. . . . I want the same roof to contain both the intellectual and moral discipline. Devotion is not a sort of finish given to the sciences; nor is science a sort of feather in the cap . . . an ornament and set-off to devotion. I want the intellectual layman to be religious, and the devout ecclesiastic to be intellectual.”
The goal of the Catholic university, then, is to unite intellect and virtue, which man’s fallen nature has allowed to drift apart. We engage the whole person and point him or her toward knowledge and true happiness. The two lie along the same axis and are best sought in concert.
This notion is more countercultural today than in Newman’s time. The modern university (not unlike First Amendment law of the late twentieth century) lives by a creed of separationism—in this case the separation of knowledge and belief. Its patron saint is John Dewey, not John Newman. Dewey thought that religious education caused unnecessary social division. He saw the Catholic Church specifically as “a powerful reactionary world organization” whose role in education resulted in the “promulgation of principles inimical to democracy.” This was not a simple prejudice but a part of a consistent educational philosophy that held that “apart from participation in social life, the school has no moral end or aim.” Education, Dewey believed, equips us with the ability to get along with others and with a set of intellectual building blocks. Students are then free to choose their own adventures—to form religious and moral opinions apart from their intellectual instruction.
Catholic universities take a different approach. We are not in the business of serving up facts and ideas, then leaving students to grope in the dark for direction. As Psalm 119 says, we view God’s word as a lamp to our feet and a light to our path. When we speak (as academics are wont to do) about the search for truth, we really believe that there is a truth we are searching for. The search for truth goes hand in hand with the pursuit of virtue. They are most successful when we do them together. This is the quality—in the art of Fra Angelico and Josef Albers; the music of Verdi, Olivier Messiaen, and Dave Brubeck; the poetry of Dante, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Dana Gioia; the writings of Shusako Endo, Flannery O’Connor, and Mary Karr; the philosophy of Augustine and Alasdair MacIntyre—that sets them apart and marks the Catholic intellectual tradition.
At Catholic universities we strive to provide students with the full intellectual harmony Cardinal Newman referred to—to teach students that knowing, loving, and serving God are part of the same enterprise. They represent not just one option in a universe of equally good ideas, but our fulfillment. As St. Augustine ultimately discovered, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”
—John H. Garvey
Formerly dean of the Boston College Law School, John H. Garvey assumed the presidency of the Catholic University of America in July.