I’ve visited a lot of campuses in the last few years, including Princeton and Yale, and at only one school, the much maligned Patrick Henry College in Virginia, did I encounter quite the same combination of intelligence, maturity, broad reading, and sharp analysis of current cultural diseases, as I encountered at Biola. What I mean is that, while most schools have abandoned any notion of a coherent course of study required of all students, and while old Catholic colleges disdain Aquinas and old Protestant colleges disdain Luther and Calvin, students at Torrey — and at a few upstart new schools, both Catholic and Protestant — are reading several hundred pages of Thomas, combing the whole Divine Comedy several times over for Oxford-style tutorials, immersing themselves in ancient philosophy, in patristics both Latin and Greek, in Pascal, Dostoyevsky, Nietzsche, Burke, and so on.
Esolen rightly gives the credit to the students and recent alum of the Torrey Honors Institute, who thought of inviting him, made the plans, carried them out, and of course flocked to his lectures, classes, and meal conversations. Don’t get me wrong, the faculty and staff are important, too. They (that is, we) know enough to recruit good students and then trap them in small rooms with great books for four years. We give just enough adult supervision to make sure the education’s happening. We pick something like the hundred greatest hits of western civilization, and they dig through them, on a mission from God, looking for goodness, truth, and beauty. Students and faculty agree about what an undergraduate degree is for: holistic education, not narrow specialization, for the formation of disciples of Christ.
Torrey‘s not the only place for a college student to get a Christ-centered general education. And that’s a good thing, since we can only accept about one hundred incoming freshmen next year. But Esolen’s right to be amazed by the kind of education that’s going on in La Mirada, CA, where the century-old Biola University is using the Torrey Honors Institute to carry out its mission: “equipping men and women in mind and character to make an impact on the world for the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Read Esolen’s whole report, along with a lively open comment thread, here.