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God’s new Harvard

Here is an excellent, information-packed write up about the school where I am the Provost and a literature teacher, Patrick Henry College. It describes our “Ivy League-caliber scholastics paired with a distinctly Christian worldview.”

If you think this is a good combination and would like to support what we are doing here, we’d be much obliged. We’re working on a challenge grant that asked us to increase our donor base to 5000. If you’d like to become one of them, click here.

Oh, yes. The article, on Worldnet Daily, was written by a PHC intern.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    While there certainly seems to be some good news for PHC in that article, I cannot say that the article itself is good news — journalism, that is. I would hope that the usual standards for media criticism on display here would not end at WND or articles that say things we like.

    It is rather distressing — and certainly poor journalism practice — to not note that the author wrote about the school she’s attending. Conflict of interest? Potential bias? If a Hillary campaign staffer wrote a piece about Hillary’s campaign, but the article only mentioned her as a “political analyst”, I don’t doubt there would be howls about media bias. Is this case any different? “Alyssa Farah is a WND editorial assistant.” Well, at least I found out from you.

    But much of the piece reads like a press release. I don’t doubt that there is much that is good about PHC, with more good news on the horizon. But I can’t trust the piece, because it is filled with non-neutral language with an editorial tone. It’s not a news piece.

    The most egregious thing is that the article uses an entire paragraph as link text to direct the reader to PHC’s donation page. Imagine, if you will, a Washington Post article linking to the “donate” page on Hillary’s Web site.

    It doesn’t help that PHC is also an advertiser with WND.

    It would be one thing if WND presented itself as a biased, right-wing mouthpiece, but it doesn’t: it calls itself an “independent news company dedicated to uncompromising journalism.”

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    While there certainly seems to be some good news for PHC in that article, I cannot say that the article itself is good news — journalism, that is. I would hope that the usual standards for media criticism on display here would not end at WND or articles that say things we like.

    It is rather distressing — and certainly poor journalism practice — to not note that the author wrote about the school she’s attending. Conflict of interest? Potential bias? If a Hillary campaign staffer wrote a piece about Hillary’s campaign, but the article only mentioned her as a “political analyst”, I don’t doubt there would be howls about media bias. Is this case any different? “Alyssa Farah is a WND editorial assistant.” Well, at least I found out from you.

    But much of the piece reads like a press release. I don’t doubt that there is much that is good about PHC, with more good news on the horizon. But I can’t trust the piece, because it is filled with non-neutral language with an editorial tone. It’s not a news piece.

    The most egregious thing is that the article uses an entire paragraph as link text to direct the reader to PHC’s donation page. Imagine, if you will, a Washington Post article linking to the “donate” page on Hillary’s Web site.

    It doesn’t help that PHC is also an advertiser with WND.

    It would be one thing if WND presented itself as a biased, right-wing mouthpiece, but it doesn’t: it calls itself an “independent news company dedicated to uncompromising journalism.”

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    It is not a news piece, it is a feature. And WND does not hide its bias, which you characterize as “right-wing,” but is indeed conservative. That is not necessarily inconsistent with “independent,” “news,” “uncompromising” and “journalism.” WND does not hide its perspective, which “left-wing” publications often do. Do you think this is biased in a way that similar online magazines such as Slate are not? Doesn’t Slate use a similar kind of openly biased tone?

  • http://www.geneveith.com Veith

    It is not a news piece, it is a feature. And WND does not hide its bias, which you characterize as “right-wing,” but is indeed conservative. That is not necessarily inconsistent with “independent,” “news,” “uncompromising” and “journalism.” WND does not hide its perspective, which “left-wing” publications often do. Do you think this is biased in a way that similar online magazines such as Slate are not? Doesn’t Slate use a similar kind of openly biased tone?

  • WebMonk

    tODD,
    It’s not like WND was doing a heavy duty investigative reporting piece on PHC. It’s an internet-only, filler piece piece done by a newbie, and every newspaper and magazine has them in abundance. Putting links to donation pages in even a puff piece is a bit tacky, but once again, it’s a internet-only advertising article.

    I do agree that the fact that Farah is a PHC student should have been mentioned, though. Go ahead and let her write the piece, but at least mention her relationship to the article’s subject. When the NYT puts in a blatant puff piece by some CEO or Senator, at least they make it clear that the CEO wrote the piece.

    As for WND claiming to be an “independent news company dedicated to uncompromising journalism.” They are! They just come from a conservative slant, similar to what Slate does from a liberal slant. The slant doesn’t disqualify either of them from truthfully using “independent” and “uncompromising” monikers.

  • WebMonk

    tODD,
    It’s not like WND was doing a heavy duty investigative reporting piece on PHC. It’s an internet-only, filler piece piece done by a newbie, and every newspaper and magazine has them in abundance. Putting links to donation pages in even a puff piece is a bit tacky, but once again, it’s a internet-only advertising article.

    I do agree that the fact that Farah is a PHC student should have been mentioned, though. Go ahead and let her write the piece, but at least mention her relationship to the article’s subject. When the NYT puts in a blatant puff piece by some CEO or Senator, at least they make it clear that the CEO wrote the piece.

    As for WND claiming to be an “independent news company dedicated to uncompromising journalism.” They are! They just come from a conservative slant, similar to what Slate does from a liberal slant. The slant doesn’t disqualify either of them from truthfully using “independent” and “uncompromising” monikers.

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    Ah. Part of the problem was that I found this link through this blog, not from the WND site itself. Veith calls it (@2) a “feature”, and WebMonk (@3) a “filler piece” or “advertising article”, but there is nothing on the page itself to indicate as such — when I first read those comments, they seemed to be pure assumptions. It is presented merely as a “WorldNetDaily Exclusive”, and it reads like a news piece — although, as I’ve pointed out, a very biased one.

    I had to go to the WND home page and search to find that it’s listed under the “Special Offers” (?!) section, introduced with the snippet “Looking to support a real educational alternative? Introducing Patrick Henry College – also known as ‘God’s Harvard’
    –Patrick Henry College.” That makes it look like the PR piece I perceived it to be. But nothing on the article’s page itself gives such context. In addition to not mentioning who wrote it, this comes off to me like bad journalism.

    You both compare WND to Slate, so I decided to see what the two companies say about themselves on their sites. As I’ve noted (@1), WND says it’s a “an independent news company dedicated to uncompromising journalism” and a “fiercely independent newssite committed to hard-hitting investigative reporting of government waste, fraud and abuse.” On the other hand, Slate says it’s “a general-interest publication offering analysis and commentary about politics, news, and culture. Slate’s strong editorial voice and witty take on current events …”

    Do you see how Slate openly states that it is not news but commentary? Historically, in the world of journalism, these were two different concepts. In my local paper (when I got it), they labeled all commentary articles as “analysis” (or put it in the editorial section), to let you know there was an intentional bias in the story. I don’t think WND does this at all. It keeps calling itself a “news” source.

    I agree that its bias is obvious, but it is not stated on their “about us” page (or, rather, the biases they do claim on that page — truth, justice, liberty, etc. — do not sufficiently describe the biases they show). Slate doesn’t officially claim a liberal bias (despite a preponderance of it), but then they do run content that, while still biased, is arguably conservative (KausFiles). Does WND run any politically liberal content?

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    Ah. Part of the problem was that I found this link through this blog, not from the WND site itself. Veith calls it (@2) a “feature”, and WebMonk (@3) a “filler piece” or “advertising article”, but there is nothing on the page itself to indicate as such — when I first read those comments, they seemed to be pure assumptions. It is presented merely as a “WorldNetDaily Exclusive”, and it reads like a news piece — although, as I’ve pointed out, a very biased one.

    I had to go to the WND home page and search to find that it’s listed under the “Special Offers” (?!) section, introduced with the snippet “Looking to support a real educational alternative? Introducing Patrick Henry College – also known as ‘God’s Harvard’
    –Patrick Henry College.” That makes it look like the PR piece I perceived it to be. But nothing on the article’s page itself gives such context. In addition to not mentioning who wrote it, this comes off to me like bad journalism.

    You both compare WND to Slate, so I decided to see what the two companies say about themselves on their sites. As I’ve noted (@1), WND says it’s a “an independent news company dedicated to uncompromising journalism” and a “fiercely independent newssite committed to hard-hitting investigative reporting of government waste, fraud and abuse.” On the other hand, Slate says it’s “a general-interest publication offering analysis and commentary about politics, news, and culture. Slate’s strong editorial voice and witty take on current events …”

    Do you see how Slate openly states that it is not news but commentary? Historically, in the world of journalism, these were two different concepts. In my local paper (when I got it), they labeled all commentary articles as “analysis” (or put it in the editorial section), to let you know there was an intentional bias in the story. I don’t think WND does this at all. It keeps calling itself a “news” source.

    I agree that its bias is obvious, but it is not stated on their “about us” page (or, rather, the biases they do claim on that page — truth, justice, liberty, etc. — do not sufficiently describe the biases they show). Slate doesn’t officially claim a liberal bias (despite a preponderance of it), but then they do run content that, while still biased, is arguably conservative (KausFiles). Does WND run any politically liberal content?

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    Hmm, a sort of correction. Slate doesn’t post about any bias in its “about us” page, but they do tell you who their staff is voting for every presidential election, along with making a case for opinion vs. bias. Does WND do that?

    Also, I thought that conservatives were offended by media bias. Why then, do they seem compelled to recapitulate it? “We’re no more biased than Slate” — is that WND’s claim to fame?

  • http://www.cockahoop.com/ tODD

    Hmm, a sort of correction. Slate doesn’t post about any bias in its “about us” page, but they do tell you who their staff is voting for every presidential election, along with making a case for opinion vs. bias. Does WND do that?

    Also, I thought that conservatives were offended by media bias. Why then, do they seem compelled to recapitulate it? “We’re no more biased than Slate” — is that WND’s claim to fame?

  • Anon

    It does seem like questionable journalistic ethics for a student intern to write advertising copy for her school as a news article. I hope that PHC teaches ethics better than that!

    Now, granted, by all reports, PHC *is* a good school, although there was an air of scandal about the time of Dr. Veith’s move from Mequon. But it probably -is- one of the best colleges in the country.

    WND is just weird. Yellow journalism and an editor who moves from one quasi-Christian cult to another. I rather favor the Declaration and Constitution myself, but I never trust anything I read there.

  • Anon

    It does seem like questionable journalistic ethics for a student intern to write advertising copy for her school as a news article. I hope that PHC teaches ethics better than that!

    Now, granted, by all reports, PHC *is* a good school, although there was an air of scandal about the time of Dr. Veith’s move from Mequon. But it probably -is- one of the best colleges in the country.

    WND is just weird. Yellow journalism and an editor who moves from one quasi-Christian cult to another. I rather favor the Declaration and Constitution myself, but I never trust anything I read there.

  • http://geochristian.wordpress.com Kevin N

    I have no doubt that Patrick Henry College offers an excellent education in the few majors it offers. I have a high overall opinion of homeschooling and classical education. We homeschooled our kids for part of their education, and I taught in a classical Christian school for 1 1/2 years. If PHC is taking the best from these two movements, then it has an outstanding student body to work with.

    I do see a big deficiency in both of these movements, and that is in the area of my vocation, which is science education. For many in the home school and classical movements, science is either considered of secondary importance, or only as a tool for apologetics. I’ve been told by a classical school headmaster that their school only offered science classes because students would need it for college admission. Most textbooks used by homeschoolers and classical schools are poor (Abeka, Bob Jones) or awful (Apologia). Looking at the PHC catalog, only four science classes are offered: physics, biology, molecular nutrition, and neuroscience. I know PHC is not trying to offer science degrees (are there plans for this?), but it looks to me like a continuation of a “science is not important” mindset.

    Side note: WorldNet Daily is, in my opinion, goofy. Between Hal Lindsey’s latest predictions, Bob Cornuke finding a lava flow in Iran and claiming it was Noah’s Ark (“looks like wood to me”), and whatever the latest conspiracy theory is…

  • http://geochristian.wordpress.com Kevin N

    I have no doubt that Patrick Henry College offers an excellent education in the few majors it offers. I have a high overall opinion of homeschooling and classical education. We homeschooled our kids for part of their education, and I taught in a classical Christian school for 1 1/2 years. If PHC is taking the best from these two movements, then it has an outstanding student body to work with.

    I do see a big deficiency in both of these movements, and that is in the area of my vocation, which is science education. For many in the home school and classical movements, science is either considered of secondary importance, or only as a tool for apologetics. I’ve been told by a classical school headmaster that their school only offered science classes because students would need it for college admission. Most textbooks used by homeschoolers and classical schools are poor (Abeka, Bob Jones) or awful (Apologia). Looking at the PHC catalog, only four science classes are offered: physics, biology, molecular nutrition, and neuroscience. I know PHC is not trying to offer science degrees (are there plans for this?), but it looks to me like a continuation of a “science is not important” mindset.

    Side note: WorldNet Daily is, in my opinion, goofy. Between Hal Lindsey’s latest predictions, Bob Cornuke finding a lava flow in Iran and claiming it was Noah’s Ark (“looks like wood to me”), and whatever the latest conspiracy theory is…

  • Don S

    Kevin N — PHC does not presently see its mission as science education. It sees its mission as raising up a generation of Christian leaders and influencers to serve in the government and media. The science courses it offers are only to fulfill general ed requirements for what are essentially liberal arts majors. PHC’s point of view is not that science is unimportant, but rather that training scientists is not its present mission.

    I share your concern that we need more Christian scientists (I have mechanical engineering and physics degrees, and my vocation is serving as a patent attorney). I have discussed this issue with PHC leaders (my daughter attends PHC). They are not opposed to adding science majors in the future, but they rightly observe that expanding into the hard sciences would greatly increase necessary budgets.

    Though I agree with you that the education provided in many homeschooling families is most deficient in the hard sciences and math, this is slowly changing. Apologia is a deficient curriculum, as you suggest, but I disagree with you as to the BJU curriculum (I don’t have experience with Abeka). Overall, I think at the high school level it is pretty robust. I was particularly impressed with the physics curriculum. Families need to budget for performing the labs. Team teaching is important in these curricula so that labs can be done in groups, affording teamwork skills and accountability to doing them right.

  • Don S

    Kevin N — PHC does not presently see its mission as science education. It sees its mission as raising up a generation of Christian leaders and influencers to serve in the government and media. The science courses it offers are only to fulfill general ed requirements for what are essentially liberal arts majors. PHC’s point of view is not that science is unimportant, but rather that training scientists is not its present mission.

    I share your concern that we need more Christian scientists (I have mechanical engineering and physics degrees, and my vocation is serving as a patent attorney). I have discussed this issue with PHC leaders (my daughter attends PHC). They are not opposed to adding science majors in the future, but they rightly observe that expanding into the hard sciences would greatly increase necessary budgets.

    Though I agree with you that the education provided in many homeschooling families is most deficient in the hard sciences and math, this is slowly changing. Apologia is a deficient curriculum, as you suggest, but I disagree with you as to the BJU curriculum (I don’t have experience with Abeka). Overall, I think at the high school level it is pretty robust. I was particularly impressed with the physics curriculum. Families need to budget for performing the labs. Team teaching is important in these curricula so that labs can be done in groups, affording teamwork skills and accountability to doing them right.

  • Pinon Coffee

    I wouldn’t say PHC feels science is unimportant, but simply can’t do everything all at once. The administration, I think, is well aware of the need for more science courses, but is putting more emphasis on getting and maintaining professors in the subjects it DOES offer majors in. I know the students also would like more variety and depth in the sciences offered.

    But, seeing as it’s a liberal arts school, I’d put hiring a modern language professor as more essential than a geologist.

    What would be wonderful would be a sister institution that did emphasize math, science, and medicine. Science shapes culture, too.

    But there are practical limits to what one mortal undergraduate can take in four years.

  • Pinon Coffee

    I wouldn’t say PHC feels science is unimportant, but simply can’t do everything all at once. The administration, I think, is well aware of the need for more science courses, but is putting more emphasis on getting and maintaining professors in the subjects it DOES offer majors in. I know the students also would like more variety and depth in the sciences offered.

    But, seeing as it’s a liberal arts school, I’d put hiring a modern language professor as more essential than a geologist.

    What would be wonderful would be a sister institution that did emphasize math, science, and medicine. Science shapes culture, too.

    But there are practical limits to what one mortal undergraduate can take in four years.

  • Pinon Coffee

    P.S. I don’t like the “God’s Harvard” language, Dr. Veith. I feel like it manages to be presumptuous about our place in the purposes of God, uppity toward all other institutions of higher education, and more of the imitative culture we’re trying to get away from. We’re not the new Harvard: we’re Patrick Henry College.

    Also, I read Hanna Rosin’s book, and the phrase has unpleasant connotations. :-)

    –an alumna (for full disclosure)

  • Pinon Coffee

    P.S. I don’t like the “God’s Harvard” language, Dr. Veith. I feel like it manages to be presumptuous about our place in the purposes of God, uppity toward all other institutions of higher education, and more of the imitative culture we’re trying to get away from. We’re not the new Harvard: we’re Patrick Henry College.

    Also, I read Hanna Rosin’s book, and the phrase has unpleasant connotations. :-)

    –an alumna (for full disclosure)


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