Ever wondered how we got into this mess? Ever wonder how we became the “Divided States” rather than the United States? Has it ever crossed your mind how a culture that so proudly boasted of “co-existence” just five minutes ago became so fractured, so angry, and so hypocritical?
I mean, just look around. Our governors are misogynists. Our Congress is corrupt. Our president is inept. Our borders are a joke. And our streets literally burn while our magistrates fiddle with their masks. It’s no wonder that poll after poll indicates that Americans are pessimistic about their future.
If you want to understand who’s responsible for this cultural chaos, you need to look no further than our nation’s schools. As the parable of the prodigal son, as well as the story of Esau, teaches us - When you sell your birthright for a pot of stew, you’re going to end up wallowing in the slop with the pigs.
And what is that “birthright?” What is that inheritance that our nation’s schools have so foolishly squandered?
Well, put succinctly, it is that of a Biblical worldview.
The history of education in the United States is clear. Schools in our nation were established to propagate a Christian ethos. The guiding philosophy for American education until that last handful of years, historically speaking, was to promote moral development and civic responsibility and to prepare upright, honest and trustworthy leadership. Simply stated, the primary purpose of education in America for the first couple hundred years of our country’s existence was to maintain the nation’s moral order. Schools were founded to galvanize future leaders in a common faith: faith in Christ and faith in America.
Want proof? Consider this:
Harvard’s founding motto was Christo et Ecclesia, “For Christ and the Church.” Princeton’s was Vitam Mortuis Reddo, “I restore life to the dead.” Yale’s was “to know God in Jesus Christ and…to lead a Godly, sober life.” These first three of America’s most seminal institutions were unquestionably charted as Christian schools. Their missions added depth and detail to their mottos. Harvard said its goal was to “let every student be plainly instructed and earnestly pressed to consider well the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life and therefore to lay Christ at the bottom, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning.” Yale declared its purpose was for its students to “live religious, godly and blameless lives according to the rules of God’s Word, diligently reading the Holy Scriptures, the fountain of light and truth….” Princeton’s purpose could not have been more precise: “Cursed is all learning that is contrary to the cross of Christ.”
But it doesn’t end there. Seven of the eight “Ivy League” institutions were founded in like manner to train up future generations in a biblical ethic, to educate a moral citizenry, and, thus, lay the foundation for a free people and a free nation. Dartmouth was founded to “Christianize” the Native American tribes, and its motto even to this day is Vox Clamantis in Deserto: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness.” The University of Pennsylvania’s motto was Leges Sine Moribus Vanae: “Laws without morals [are] useless.” Brown University’s was In Deo Speramus, which means “In God We Hope.” Columbia University’s motto was taken directly from Psalm 36:9, In Lumine Tuo Videbimus Lumen: “In Thy light shall we see light.”
The list could go on and on and literally cover coast to coast. Amherst College: Terras Irradient – “Let them enlighten the lands.” Wellesley College: Non Ministrari sed Ministrare – “Not to be served, but to serve / Not to be ministered unto, but to minister.” Northwestern University: Quaecumque Sunt Vera – “Whatsoever things are true.” Kenyon College: Magnanimiter Crucem Sustine – “Valiantly bear the cross!” Ohio University: Religio Doctrina Civilitas, Prae Omnibus Virtus – “Religion, Learning, Civility; Above All, Virtue.” Indiana University: Lux et Veritas – “Light and Truth.” Emory University: Cor Prudentis Possidebit Scientiam – “The wise heart seeks knowledge.” Valparaiso University: N Luce Tua Videmus Lucem – “In Thy light we see light.” The University of Southern California: Palmam Qui Meruit Ferat – “Let whoever earns the palm bear it.” The University of California: Fiat Lux – “Let there be light.”
These institutions are just a few of hundreds that explicitly cited a Judeo-Christian ethic as their guiding ethos and the very reason for their existence. America’s educational “inheritance” is, indeed, rich with the assumption that the highest goal of the academy should be to teach and model personal integrity within the context of those “self-evident truths that are endowed to us by our Creator:” Truths such as respect for the law, a desire for virtue, a heart for sacrifice, and the value of sobriety, religion, morality, and Biblical wisdom.
Want to know why we are where we are today? Look no further than your local schools and how far they have strayed from their original home. Maybe it’s time they followed the prodigal and returned to their Father with a spirit of repentance.
• Everett Piper (dreverettpiper.com, @dreverettpiper), a columnist for The Washington Times, is a former university president and radio host. He is the author of “Not a Daycare: The Devastating Consequences of Abandoning Truth” (Regnery) and, most recently, “Grow Up: Life Isn’t Safe, But It’s Good.”