Evangelical Protestants, once the leaders in American higher education, have forfeited that leadership by default. Look at the record. Each of the nine colleges founded during the colonial period was prompted by Christian motivations. According to Cubberly, the “prime purpose of each was to train up a learned and godly body of ministers.” The statement of purpose of the founding of King’s College (later Columbia) in 1754, as reported in New York newspapers, is typical:
The chief thing aimed at in this college is to teach and engage children to know God in Jesus Christ, and to love and serve Him with all sobriety, godliness, and richness of life, with a perfect heart and a willing mind: and train them in all virtuous habits, and all useful knowledge … useful to the public weal.
The nineteenth century saw the great development of Protestant colleges. In 1800 there were only two dozen colleges; it is estimated that at most there were 100 teachers and from one to two thousand students. Then, from 1820 to 1870, came the major period of denominational effort. By 1870 there were 300 colleges. Actually, almost twice that number were organized, but scarcely more than half survived. The vast majority were Protestant and evangelical. Even the few state institutions were often under Christian leadership and oriented toward Christian faith. Many of their first presidents were ministers and many graduates became ministers. Of the first 94 graduates of Illinois, 45 entered the ministry. Thus for the first 230 years of American higher education, Protestant leadership and motivation led the way. In fact, the religious revivals that advanced the growth of Protestant denominations also promoted many new colleges.
Two significant ...1
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