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In his State of the Union address this week, President Obama called for more spending on education. While many of us instinctively agree that such an "investment" is good, have we ever stopped to ask a basic question: Education for what purpose?

 

You see, there was a time when all of our schools were dominated by a specific worldview. The goal of American higher education during its first two hundred years was not only to propagate knowledge but also to advance civic duty, to nurture moral development, and to encourage personal and corporate responsibility.

 

Regardless of the vocation for which students were preparing, colonial colleges from Dartmouth to Princeton sought to provide an education that was distinctly moral and, yes, even Christian. Examples of this are replete in the early mission statements of Ivy League schools such as Harvard, which admonished, "Let every student consider well the main end of his life and studies is to know God . . . [and] to lay Christ at the bottom, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning," and Yale, which likewise declared that the goal for its students was "to know God in Jesus Christ and . . . to lead a Godly [and] sober life."

 

So when someone tells you they want to spend more money on education, ask why. Ask if our future CEOs, CFOs, politicians, preachers, and teachers should graduate knowing more about what is right and wrong rather than less. Ask if our universities should be teaching bankers, accountants, doctors, and lawyers about why it is good to tell the truth and bad to tell a lie. Ask them if we should be spending our money to defend a certain ethical code rather than tear it down. Ask if they believe Harvard and Yale might have had it right in the first place.