Friday, June 24, 2005

Reviewers, Take Note

Fascinating article in the New Yorker by Hanna Rosin about Patrick Henry College, a Christian school outside of DC where the students are trained for a career in politics. The article, God and Country, profiles a number of students, many of whom were homeschooled. Most of these students are already well-integrated into the Republican power structure. While I think the idea of a school to train political leaders is brilliant, there were two things in particular that disturbed me.

The first is that the school is overtly Christian, and that the students are trained to be Christian Republicans. In an increasingly pluralistic society, the idea that the leaders of one of the dominant political parties are explicitly subscribing to a religious idealogy and morality when they make their decisions is upsetting. If these students become the best trained leaders for the Republicans, the party will become more the party of Christian conservatism, not compassionate conservatism. This alienates a number of less religious Republicans. Additionally, since the Democrats have no comparable training program, we are at a disadvantage. The Republicans have, among others, ISI, the Heritage Foundation internship program, and now this school. Democrats have avid readers of the NYT and WaPo.

Secondly, the role of women at the school is ambigious. Many female students are ambitious and high powered, but also are expected by their male colleagues to give it all up to be wives and mothers, a view the girls themselves sometimes endorse. Rosin writes:

"A faction of homeschooling parents lobbied Farris not to admit girls to the college, but he told me that he considered that an “extreme” position. “All women, moms included, benefit from a great education,” he said. Men and women compete openly. When all the best papers in a constitutional-law class that Farris taught were turned in by girls—and not for the first time—Farris yelled at the boys to grow up. The new careerist code of the Joshua Generation can become a problem for the girls, however. Even the most ambitious ones, those who wake up at 3 a.m. to study, told me without reservation that as soon as they had children they would quit their jobs to raise them."

While all college-age women struggle with the question of balancing career and family, such an approach does not bode well for the future of women in the Republican party, and in American politics as a whole.


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