I thought I’d call your attention to a speech that New York Times columnist David Brooks recently delivered to a celebration in Washington, D.C. marking the fortieth anniversary of the Consortium of Christian Colleges and Universities. I’ve often appreciated the conservative columnist’s columns and also recently picked up a copy of his 2015 book The Road to Character. In his address to the CCCU, Brooks, although not a Christian himself, made a case for Christian higher education that I wish more evangelicals would take to heart.
Here is a sample of what Brooks had to say:
You [Christian colleges] have what everybody else is desperate to have: a way of talking about and educating the human person in a way that integrates faith, emotion, and intellect. You have a recipe to nurture human beings who have a devoted heart, a courageous mind and a purposeful soul. Almost no other set of institutions in American society has that, and everyone wants it. From my point of view, you’re ahead of everybody else and have the potential to influence American culture in a way that could be magnificent. I visit many colleges a year. I teach at a great school, Yale University. These are wonderful places. My students are wonderful; I love them. But these, by and large, are not places that integrate the mind, the heart and the spirit. These places nurture an overdeveloped self and an underdeveloped soul.
Regarding his students at Yale, specifically:
They assume that the culture of expressive individualism is the eternal order of the universe and that meaning comes from being authentic to self. They have a combination of academic and career competitiveness and a lack of a moral and romantic vocabulary that has created a culture that is professional and not poetic, pragmatic and not romantic. The head is large, and the heart and soul are backstage.
I’m sure that my colleagues and I at Wheaton don’t fully realize the goal that Brooks ascribes to us, but I know that we aspire to do so, and being part of that collective endeavor has been rewarding beyond words.