Darrow Miller and Friends

No More Puritans at Harvard?

Puritan pastor John Harvard, the original benefactor of Harvard University


Harvard University, along with the nation, is busy deconstructing history that made the university great and the nation exceptional.

Most people are likely unaware of the deep historical connection between Harvard University and the Puritans. Harvard and the people of the USA continue to wipe away the legacy of the Puritans, the grandchildren of the Reformation, and their vision that founded Harvard University and the educational philosophy of the early nation.

Like the European Enlightenment thinkers before them, the modern leadership of one of the world’s premier universities is selling its birthright. They are severing themselves from the people whose vision and educational philosophy birthed Harvard and many of the other of the early North American universities. The Puritans’ rich legacy contributed to the governing of the nation and the development of business, as well as the transformative educational philosophy that founded Harvard. Many of these gains have eroded in the ensuing years.

One of the first concerns of the founders of the Massachusetts Bay Company was the need for higher education to prepare pastors, missionaries and civic leaders. So, shortly after the founding of Boston, the first college was founded in 1636, in what was to become the United States. The first benefactor of the college was an English Puritan pastor, John Harvard, who bequeathed his estate and large library to the new school.

It was the “stuffy,” “pious” Puritans that gave us the concept of covenant, a valuable means for binding diverse people together. The constitution of the United States was a product of this covenant idea.

As we have written, the Puritans brought a culture of management to this continent that made their colony successful where Jamestown had been a bitter failure. This Puritan administration model comprised the management culture in the US until the mid-twentieth century. It was a major contributor in making the US such an innovative and economic powerhouse.

The Puritan educational philosophy–Technologia–laid the foundation for colonial education and shaped the founders who would write the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution.

In his article, “Harvard, the Ivy League and the Forgotten Puritans,” Ellis Washington writes, Ellis Washington wrote about Harvard

Did you know that America’s oldest and most venerated colleges and universities like Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth were founded by the Puritans? Yes, those same Puritans who along with the Pilgrims were devout Christians and the original founders of America.

The Puritan vision of education founded America’s first great universities. From this root came the educated population that built this free nation. The Puritan educational philosophy was tripartite:

  • VERITAS – The Pursuit of Truth
  • ENCYCLOPEDIA – The Circle of Knowledge
  • EUPRAXIA – The Practice of Right Living

For more on this read Education That Leads to Freedom.

What happened to Harvard?

Ellis Washington states how this deconstruction happened:

How did the eight so-called “Ivy League” schools – Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Brown, University of Pennsylvania, Cornell and Dartmouth – go from being training grounds for Christian missionaries and ministers and respected citadels of higher education to what they are now – propaganda factories for every leftist, perverted, radical, tyrannical, failed ideology known to mankind? – Marxism, Darwinism, Freudianism, Higher Criticism, communism, multiculturalism, relativism, naturalism, positivism, socialism, liberalism, egalitarianism, feminist studies, gay studies, transgender studies, transvestite studies, outcome-based education, radical environmentalism, etc.

Why? Because by the mid-1800s the secular revivalist movement called the Age of Enlightenment (1600-1830) had thoroughly infected the academy. The French philosophers led the movement – Descartes, Voltaire, Rousseau, d’Alembert, Dumarsais and Diderot…. There were … Anglo-American and Continental philosophers like Hobbes, Locke, Berkeley, Kant, Paine, David Hume and John Stuart Mills, some of whom considered religion generally, and Christianity especially, as passé, anachronistic, barbaric and increasingly irrelevant to humanity’s march towards humanism, secularism, higher learning and utopia.

Therefore, over time, as a new generation of professors and university presidents took over, the Ivy League schools forsook their explicitly religious mandate … and instead pursued newer fields of study that not only denigrated American’s Judeo-Christian traditions, but were increasingly openly hostile to it. The 19th century saw a continued rise of empiricist ideas and their application to old and new disciplines of knowledge – physics, chemistry, biology, zoology, taxonomy, geology, paleontology, archaeology, anthropology, sociology, psychology, psychiatry, economics, political science. This was at the same time Charles Darwin’s theories on evolution and non-theistic creation became popular among intellectuals and academics. Darwin’s famous book, “The Origin of Species” (1859), became their new Bible – its priests and prophets, the professor, its pulpit, the classroom or the seminar, its temple, the academy.

Harvard scrubbing their Puritan heritage

For more of Washington’s insight of the deconstruction of Harvard go here.

Harvard emblemThis philosophy was symbolized in the original Harvard school emblem that reflected the pursuit of truth at the intersection of God’s revelation through Creation, Reason, and the Word of God. Just as the Puritan legacy and educational philosophy have been forgotten and consciously de-constructed, so the original symbol of Harvard has been changed.

Now, we witness another level of deconstruction: the removal of the word “Puritans” from the Harvard alma mater, Fair Harvard. This wonderful piece of music has been sung at every commencement service since 1838. The second stanza of the anthem reads:

Farewell! be thy destinies onward and bright!

To thy children the lesson still give,

With freedom to think, and with patience to bear,

And for Right ever bravely to live.

Let not moss-covered Error moor thee at its side,

As the world on Truth’s current glides by,

Be the herald of Light, and the bearer of Love,

Till the stock of the Puritans die.

Click the video to hear the two verses of this song. (Go here to listen online.)

Did you catch the offensive line? “Till the stock of the Puritans die.”

The Enlightenment would never have produced Harvard University

Evidently the line is seen as exclusive and racist by the postmodern students and administrators. They have started a competition to develop a new final line. English professor Stephen Burt will be judging the submissions. In a recent interview Burt explained why the last line is problematic. People might misunderstand the meaning as “Harvard’s power and glory will last as long as but no longer” than the “bloodline of the descendants of the Puritans.”

The stock of the Puritans has not died. It is foolishly being killed! And besides, what made Harvard (and its nation) great was not the Puritans’ bloodline. It was their vision and ideals, their educational and management philosophies. Harvard is deconstructing its own history. It is abandoning its legacy, the very people, vision and ideas that led to the university’s greatness and nurtured the United States of America to become exceptional among the nations.

Secular, Enlightenment ideas would never have produced the United States or Harvard. Nor will they sustain either into the future.

What symbol will become the next victim to this deconstruction? Will the Bible be chiseled from the statue of John Harvard? Will the statue itself be removed as a symbol of the Puritans’ love for truth and learning?

It is up to a new generation to study and appreciate the foundations the Reformers laid in Europe and the Puritans laid in the United States. In this 500th anniversary of the Reformation, may God raise up a new generation of Christians who have an interest in history and the power of God’s Word to build free, just, compassionate and flourishing societies.

  • Darrow Miller

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