Why should students go to a fundamentalist university? For about a century, the argument has always been the same. A new marketing campaign by fundamentalist behemoth Bob Jones University shows that the times, they are a’changin.
To be fair, Bob Jones University has always insisted that its graduates would have the absolute best academic education. Back in its earliest days, founder Bob Jones Sr. insisted that the school would keep children both theologically safe and academically privileged. As he put it in 1928,
The fathers and mothers who place their sons and daughters in our institution can go to sleep at night with no haunting fear that some skeptical teacher will steal the faith of their precious children.
Jones’s very next line, though, showed that he understood what parents really wanted in a college. Not only should it keep kids Christian, but it should also prepare them for professions. In his words,
Your son and daughter can get in the Bob Jones College everything that they can get in any school of Liberal Arts.
In 1949, Bob Jones Sr. re-emphasized the point that his school—now a University—would always insist on the very best academics. As he put it,
We have always insisted that an educational institution with the right kind of spiritual standards will maintain the highest possible academic standards.
It’s fair to say, however, that for marketing purposes, the biggest selling point of BJU in the past was its staunch commitment to fundamentalist Protestantism. Other schools may waver, the Bob Joneses have always promised, but BJU would never budge.
If you wanted your child to have a college experience firmly dedicated to fundamentalism and only fundamentalism, the message was, BJU is for you.
In the 1950s, for example, as “fundamentalist” schools were separating from “neo-evangelical” colleges, BJU sold itself as the unapologetic fundamentalist choice. So unapologetically, in fact, that leading evangelical magazines such as Moody Monthly refused to run its advertisements for fear of alienating good evangelical readers.
Today, in contrast, BJU’s President Steven Pettit offers fundamentalist families a very different primary reason for attending his school. Why should they attend BJU? For its unbeatable record of preparing students for high-flying professional careers. BJU students, President Pettit promises, do better at passing med-school exams, accounting exams, nursing exams, and engineering exams.
As Pettit puts it,
If you’re looking for a college worth the investment of your time and money, a college that will prepare you well for future employment, and help you to grow spiritually in the process, Bob Jones University is the place for you. . . . I think you’ll find BJU provides the value you’re looking for.
Why go to Fundamentalist U? To get a better job!
More proof that schools such as Bob Jones University are not quite as different as other colleges and universities as we might think.