[dropcap3]E[/dropcap3]very few years the faculty in the School of Education takes the time to examine “today’s” generation to determine how to best understand, engage, and educate the new set of students that enroll here. This exercise often leads to modifications, not only in our understanding but in our behaviors and relationships with our students. It can be a challenge for faculty from prior generations to commit to change in order to effectively educate a new generation that may come with characteristics, negative and positive, different from their own and to do so without changing what really matters most in programs and courses of study. Generational adaptation is not always easy.
Today’s students are a questioning generation. They are asking questions such as “who am I and what is the basis of my worth?” They question: Who is God? What kind of God is He? What is the nature of the external world? How do we come to know? Is there really truth? How do I determine right and wrong? These are some of the basic questions that frame a worldview. Grappling with answers to these questions informed by God’s perspective in His word is not only a demanding academic activity but transformational.
Understanding the questions and passions of the students and being willing to meet them where they are is essential in an academic setting that views as its goal scholarly thinking that leads to transformation in the understanding of God and His creation. While this has been the educational goal for many years, each generation must be reached where they are, and that often means change. Each generation over the nearly 100 years of PBU’s existence has accepted the task of exploring the changes necessary to serve the next generation of Christian leaders without changing the staying power of the integrating core of God’s Word.
Sometimes change can be threatening to alumni and friends of a university. Maybe that is why I have been asked to write an article about this, nearly century-old, academic institution. I have been affiliated with PBU as a faculty member for almost 30 years, a faculty wife for five years (my late husband, Don, began teaching at PCB in 1969), and before that as a student at PCB. I have seen both change for the good and the solid staying power of the integrating biblical core.
Alumni of the 1950s-1980s will remember a beloved professor who would often declare, “PCB is the Harvard of Bible Colleges.” Why would he say that? His goal was not really to become Harvard but rather to be noted for academic excellence in biblical education as Harvard had been known for many of its early years. In 1642, the aim of education for the Harvard student read like this: “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, John 17:3, and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning.”
There was a strong awareness that the aim of education is tied directly to the aim of life. As Robert Rusk put it in The Philosophical Bases of Education, “The answer to every educational question is ultimately influenced by our philosophy of life. Although few formulate it, every system of education must have an aim and the aim of education is relative to the aim of life. Philosophy formulates what it conceives to be the end of life, education offers suggestions how this end is to be achieved.”
Harvard began as an institution to combat the dreaded condition of an “illiterate ministry to the churches.” It began as an institution of academic excellence. The curriculum was consistent with the prevailing Puritan worldview espoused in New England at the time and the institutional motto was, “Veritas Christo et Ecclesiae,” (Truth for Christ and the Church). The basic biblical foundation of that first American institution of higher learning and its noteworthy academic excellence seen as a unified whole, once provided a worthy model.
Os Guiness, in The American Hour, quotes Librarian of Congress James Billington’s condemnation of the American university, “the modern university drifts into a kind of conformist non-conformism…we are seeing a growing split between those who are morally concerned but not intellectually trained and those who are highly articulate but morally insensitive.” A moral, or rather a biblical, sensitivity and intellectual development are seen as a unified whole at PBU. This has not changed. PBU has not followed the “conformist non-conformism” of so many schools.