I Love You but You Didn’t Do the Reading

Everyone’s talking about Jerry Falwell and his scam factory, but there was some other stuff going on this week, too. Joe Biden’s record player, Germany’s Nazi memorials, where those online essays come from, and more:

What’s been going on at Liberty U? At Politico.

“We’re not a school; we’re a real estate hedge fund,” said a senior university official with inside knowledge of Liberty’s finances. “We’re not educating; we’re buying real estate every year and taking students’ money to do it.”

KB twitter falwellOkay, the “record player” bit proved that Biden was the right candidate for 1988. But it’s not just a matter of out-of-date technology. At WaPo.

Biden was voicing a deeply flawed theory that arose during the 1960s and that blamed parents, especially mothers, for the struggles of poor children and children of color. These parents, the theory argued, doomed their children to fail in classrooms by not offering them enough mental stimulation, such as books, colors on the wall or educational experiences. . . . To actually address America’s troubled racial legacy politicians must reject theories that blame African Americans rather than a system that has and continues to systemically disenfranchise and disadvantage minorities. By continuing to focus on a purportedly broken culture, politicians like Biden are destined to perpetuate the racism and racial inequality they aim to solve.

Think about this: Germany has a total of zero Nazi memorials, but not because lots of Germans didn’t want them. At the Atlantic.

We have learned that unexamined pasts fester, and become open wounds. Like most white Americans, I was taught a history that was both comforting and triumphant. I wasn’t, of course, entirely ignorant of the ways in which the country failed to live up to the ideals on which it was founded, but those failures remained peripheral, and part of a narrative that sloped upward toward progress. Slavery was a crime, but we’d fought a war to outlaw it; segregation was unjust, but the civil-rights movement had overcome it. . . . In Germany, too, the right has always attacked its country’s exercises in self-examination as exercises in self-hatred—in dirtying one’s own nest. In fact, Germany’s willingness to own its criminal past has been an act of cleaning out the nest after years of sweeping all the dirt under the carpet.

Where do those online essays come from? A look inside a Kenyan cheating factory at DM.

After a few years, for technical writing at PhD level, an experienced writer could earn $2,000 per job – still a small amount of the total but very good money for Kenya.

‘At that level, writers subcontract the work, paying peanuts and keeping the lion’s share. But on average, most writers just earn about a dollar an hour.’

What did historians tweet about the Democratic primary debates? A collection at HNN.

From PS: Seven questions any evangelical college should ask a possible president.

Any Christian institution needs to serve something larger than institutional survival. So any Christian college president needs to have a clear sense of the point at which remaining open would require them to compromise the core mission and values of the institution. There are dozens of CCCU schools, and it’s very likely that a significant number of them will close in the next 10-30 years. So those presidents need to accept that, at some point in their tenure, the most faithful act would be to accept the death of a college — with its assets distributed for the good of other ministries that will do as much to extend the kingdom of God.

College students seem to like fun lectures, but that’s not how they learn the most. At IHE.

active or passive ihe

Talk with a Teacher at Chalkbeat.

The best advice I ever received about teaching is that I will never know everything. Students change from year to year, curriculum advances, new techniques are learned and I will keep evolving. This idea made me realize that I don’t need to be the “perfect” teacher, I simply need to grow each year and develop my skills, which is how I have been working throughout my career.

 

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We All Love College

Remember those freaked-out nerds? The ones who told us that conservatives had turned against higher education? It didn’t feel true at the time and new survey results seem to prove it really isn’t. So the next time someone tells you that conservatives don’t like college, you tell em to read these poll results.

pew college gone to the dogs

Have conservatives turned against higher ed?

A couple years ago, SAGLRROILYBYGTH probably remember, the folks at Pew came out with a survey that made people nervous. Since 2015, the Pewsters found, more and more Republicans thought that colleges and universities had a “negative effect on the way things are going in this country.”

At the time, I was skeptical. After all, in my research about conservatism and conservative evangelicals in the twentieth century, I didn’t hear many voices raised against higher ed as a whole. Sure, conservatives have long been anxious about the types of people who control higher ed, especially at the elite schools. But that’s not the same thing. Back then, I proposed a simple follow-up question:

Here’s what I wish I could do: Have the Pewsters add some follow-up questions. When people say they don’t trust colleges, ask them if they want their kids to go to college anyway. And then ask them what would restore their trust in higher education.

Here’s what I think people would say: Even if they don’t trust college, they want their children to attend.

Lucky for us, the pollsters at New America had the same idea. In their new survey of just over 2000 American adults, they asked people if they would recommend college for their “child or close family member.” Guess what? Not much of a surprise to find that most Americans would. Overall, 93% of respondents said they agreed or strongly agreed. And Republicans were in full agreement: 92% of them said the same thing.

new america higher ed survey

We ALL love college.

So next time you hear that old chestnut that conservatives don’t like higher ed, show em this graph. Nobody doesn’t like higher ed. Conservatives just don’t trust the “effete corps of impudent snobs” that they think are running elite schools these days.

I Love You but You Didn’t Do the Reading

Another humdinger of a week. We saw Harry Potter kicked out of school (again), teachers ready to  strike (again), Trump poking the wrong bear (again)…and much more. Here are a few of the headlines that caught our ILYBYGTH attention:

Ahem. Harry Potter books expelliarmused from a TN Catholic school. At WaPo. [Read all the way to the end for the Lady Gaga connection.]

“These books present magic as both good and evil, which is not true, but in fact a clever deception,” [the Rev. Dan Reehil] explained. “The curses and spells used in the books are actual curses and spells; which when read by a human being risk conjuring evil spirits into the presence of the person reading the text.”

reehil emailI don’t buy it. Do you? Have conservatives already won the culture wars? At WaPo.

The biggest danger for cultural conservatives, then, might not be demographic change, religious disaffiliation or increasingly progressive opponents. It might be misunderstanding their own hand. Conservatives could make real gains on their priorities by focusing on pro-family economic policies, finding candidates who appeal to nonwhite Christians and casting themselves as allies of — but not knee-jerk partisans for — the armed forces and law enforcement. They could win cultural victories while remaining fundamentally conservative.

But conservatives misunderstand their situation. . . . they overreach. They’re courting backlash by passing extremely restrictive abortion bans in states such as Alabama. They’ve defended the rights of Christians not to participate in gay couples’ weddings, and while doing so, they’ve allowed Democrats to become the trusted party on the increasingly popular issue of LGBTQ rights. They’re backing Trump — a man who is guaranteed to alienate some potentially sympathetic nonwhite voters with his often racist rhetoric. And rather than try to create a more family-centric economic platform, they passed a tax bill slanted toward the wealthiest Americans.

What would honest academic job postings look like? At McSweeney’s.

The Philosophy department is now hiring an assistant professor who can tolerate the toxic environment of our department. Special consideration given to candidates who will take Dr. Warren’s side in her 30-year-old dispute with Dr. Wyatt, that Foucauldian asshole. . . .

The Department of History invites applications for an assistant professor who will make enough leftist remarks to annoy conservative talk radio hosts but whose politics will ultimately support the neoliberal mission of the university.

Trump’s wall has finally reached school funding. Fort Campbell cancels a new middle school and sends the money to the border, at NYT.

The Pentagon’s decision to divert $62.6 million from the construction of Fort Campbell’s middle school means that 552 students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades will continue to cram themselves in, 30 to a classroom in some cases, at the base’s aging Mahaffey Middle School. Teachers at Mahaffey will continue to use mobile carts to store their books, lesson plans and homework assignments because there is not enough classroom space. Students stuffed into makeshift classrooms-within-classrooms will continue to strain to figure out which lesson to listen to and which one to filter out.

And since the cafeteria at Mahaffey is not big enough to seat everyone at lunchtime, some students will continue to eat in the school library.

A new portrait of Success Academy. The author brags that everyone will hate it. At T74.

If you are fan of Success Academy and its lightning-rod leader, Eva Moskowitz, you will likely appreciate the mostly warm portrait of teachers and administrators who are fiercely dedicated to their students. The facile caricature of joyless and militaristic classrooms, “rip and redo” teaching tactics and high-pressure test prep was simply not in evidence. . . . If you are among Moskowitz’s many critics, you will likely feel vindicated to see your suspicions about some of the network’s policies validated and laid bare, particularly its admissions practices. To be blunt, Success Academy functions as a self-selection engine.

What do teachers think about race and discipline? At RCE.

Fordham finds that 81% of teachers view restorative justice practices as somewhat effective alternatives, and PDK finds that two-thirds of all adults see mediation as more effective than detention or suspension. One of the drivers of this appeal for alternatives is pronounced distrust of disciplinary practices. PDK finds that only 59% of all parents trust their child’s school to administer discipline fairly—a number that falls to a mere 40% among black parents.

No, young white evangelicals will not ditch Trump. At WaPo.

white evangelicals who hold warmer feelings toward racial and ethnic minorities do not oppose Trump any more than white evangelicals with comparatively colder feelings. Support for Trump appears to have a life of its own. . . . it’s unlikely that young white evangelicals are about to turn blue. As long as Trump continues to advocate conservative positions on cultural issues, most evangelicals are likely to prefer him to the Democratic alternatives.

Conservative higher-ed website gives up on professor watchlist. Why? They couldn’t find enough professors pushing leftist ideas. At The Week.

CampusReform.org shuttered the rating system in 2012 after it failed to hit any critical mass of reviews. And the reason, I think, is pretty simple: Most professors are not trying to indoctrinate their students in a sort of vast left-wing conspiracy. . . . the egregious cases of professorial misconduct that make the news are unusual.

Yes: St. Paul (MN) high schools start later in the day. At MST.

What happens when a FL district goes all-charter? At WLRN.

This “experiment” in rural Jefferson County has been transformational for many students but disastrous for a few.

Prospects for teacher strikes this year: NV, Chicago, WV, KY. At the Guardian.

“Our governor constantly insults us, calls us names, says we’re selfish and short-sighted, ignorant, compared us to drowning victims who need to be knocked out to be saved, says we’re responsible for children being molested and using drugs and says he regrets none of what he has said about teachers. He’s a real gem,” said Jeni Bolander, a teacher in Fayette County, Kentucky and a member of the grassroots educator group Kentucky 120 United.

NV teacher protestOut of the frying pan: Detroit students who switch schools end up in bad schools, at Chalkbeat.

Researchers at Wayne State University who have been studying student mobility in Detroit say the suburban schools the students leave for are more likely to have higher discipline rates, more new teachers, and higher teacher turnover.

Teachers? Or “Learning Engineers?” At Curmudgucation.

“engineer” comes with its own freight, like the idea that it’s all about focusing on systems and processes, often involving inanimate materials and rarely focused on the needs of live humans. When it does focus on humans, it tends to treat them like meat widgets to be managed and shaped according to the desires of the system managers (see “social engineering”). Engineering is an action that you do to something, not with it.

Larry Cuban on why changing schools is so difficult.

conservatism is built into the purpose of schools and both teachers and students share that innate conservatism–at first.

school rules

Follow the rules, learn to obey…

Why are secular college students so nervous about faith? At the Atlantic.

If I ask them a factual theological question about the Protestant Reformation, they are ready with answers: predestination; “faith, not works”; and so on. But if I go on to ask students how one knows in one’s heart that one is saved, they turn back to their laptops. They look anywhere but at me—for fear that I might ask them about feeling the love of God or about having a heart filled with faith.

How one group of conservative evangelical schools teaches non-Christian classics, at CT.

If the country is preparing to enter a type of second Dark Ages devoid of classical thought, another unlikely group of people is arising to preserve the Great Books of the Western intellectual tradition: conservative evangelical Christians.

Why Are Evangelical Colleges Struggling? Don’t Forget These Two Things

Kudos to Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra at The Gospel Coalition for peeling apart the complicated causes for declining enrollments at evangelical colleges and universities. She goes beyond the obvious, yet her article still leaves out two important factors, two unique trends in evangelical higher ed that were already becoming evident during the twentieth century.

fundamentalist U cover

How did we end up here…?

As Zylstra writes, all colleges these days are charging higher tuition than they had in the past. Moreover, there are more students than ever attending higher education. Seems as if these should be boom times for all universities, but they are not. Revenues are down, enrollments are threatened, and administrators are facing difficult cost-cutting choices. Just ask Alaska.

What gives? As Zylstra notes, we shouldn’t be fooled by high tuition rates. In practice, colleges have to discount that rate for most of their students, and evangelical colleges might be getting only about 50% of their sticker price. Plus, competition with public universities has become even more intense, with many publics adopting the aggressive recruitment models of private schools. Finally, to keep up, evangelical colleges have had to pony up for new kinds of campus accoutrements that families have come to expect, such as high-end dining, climbing walls, and more.

As Zylstra relates,

“It’s an arms race,” [one administrator] said. “We all had to do what we needed to compete.” Colleges upgraded their technology and built new dorms, classrooms, and gyms. . . . “Now we hit a price point, and a lot of parents won’t pay.”. . .  schools are bringing in less money due to discounted tuition while at the same time spending more on upgrades.

In addition to these important reminders, evangelical colleges in particular have their own unique strengths and challenges. First, the good news for evangelical higher ed: These days, small colleges and universities are all struggling to come up with something that evangelical institutions have gobs of. Namely, a niche. In Wisconsin, for example, the hapless Stevens Point campus tried to recreate itself as a “professions” campus, focusing on teaching and health care. It didn’t work.

For a century already, evangelical colleges and universities have had their niche. In this case, conservative evangelical colleges can claim to do something that state schools and secular private schools don’t—they guarantee the faithfulness of their faculty and they promise to shape students’ faith in their own tradition. For a lot of college-shoppers, that’s huge.

But it comes at a big cost. Ever since the 1950s, as I uncovered in the research for Fundamentalist U, evangelical institutions faced a unique sort of intra-evangelical competition. Biola looked anxiously at the success of Azusa Pacific. Wheaton fretted about the successes of Bob Jones. And Bob Jones got nervous about the growth of Liberty.

For evangelical parents and families, the marketplace of evangelical institutions gives them a choice, and that choice tends to push schools to become more and more conservative. From Bryan College to Cedarville, all across the country, evangelical colleges are tightening down on their political and religious distinctives. Why? Because if they want to enjoy the enrollment boosts that come with their religious niche, they need to offer something truly different than mainstream schools. They need to sell themselves to students and families as something other than a public university with mandatory chapel attendance. So they tend to squeeze students and faculty members with more and more conservative requirements.

Does it spell doom for evangelical higher ed? Not at all. But as a perspicacious alumna of Westmont College recently noted in these pages,

The crisis of higher education is felt across the board, and evangelical colleges are no different. At Westmont, enrollment has been down significantly in recent years, making the role of donors even more prominent. By now I recognize that all colleges and universities are beholden to donors to some extent, but Christian colleges especially are due to their generally smaller size and “niche market.” . . . How will these trends impact Christian higher education? I believe there’s already a significant rift between progressive members of Christian colleges (including mostly faculty and some students) and conservative members (donors, administrations, and some other students). If the conservative element continues to control the purse strings, the progressive element will feel increasingly alienated, perhaps contributing to an even greater decline in enrollment.

I Love You but You Didn’t Do the Reading

Summer’s here and the culture wars are bloomin. Here are some of the top stories from the interwebs this week. Thanks to everyone who sent in tips.

White supremacists keep leafleting college campuses, at IHE.

What’s going on in Indianapolis’s Catholic schools?

Was Anita Bryant really the first Christian martyr to LGBTQ rights in the 1970s? Not really, at WaPo.anita bryant protest

The latest from Taylor University: President suddenly retires, at CT.

Working at Liberty University…not so great, from WT.

Liberty University as a whole was as shifty, dishonorable, unprincipled, and hypocritical a work environment as could be offered.

I Love You but You Didn’t Do the Reading

Just because I’ve been stuck in the 1810s all week doesn’t mean you have to be. Here are some of the top ILYBYGTH-themed news stories from 2019 for ya:

NPR podcast on the history of evangelicals and politics.

Yes: Schools can’t FIX America, schools ARE America. At The Atlantic.

Where are all these school-Bible bills coming from? Mark Chancey digs into the “Project Blitz” playbook. At TBaI.

How do parents feel about the creepy no-excuses style of discipline? At EdWeek.

The Black and Latino parents we interviewed in a no-excuses middle school valued discipline, but viewed it as more than rule following. They wanted demanding academic expectations alongside a caring and structured environment that would help their children develop the self-discipline to make good choices.

Student protests get expensive: Oberlin ordered to pay $11 million for libeling local bakery as “racist,” at IHE.

  • Will the punishment make cautious university presidents re-think their support for student activism? Here at ILYBYGTH.oberlin protest real

I’ve been deep in the 1800s all week. What have you missed from the archives?

InkedAnti Vaxxers had no rights_LIOuch. So this principal totally copied his graduation speech from—you guessed it—Ashton Kutcher.

Teaching evolution without alienating creationists, at TC. HT: AP.

It is not the role of educators to forcefully convert doubters into accepting evolution, but to build an inclusive classroom that encourages those less comfortable with the concept to willingly engage with it. What is important is that all students can explore and understand the theory in a context that doesn’t force them to choose between science and their religious beliefs.

No big surprise: Cutting funding hurts students, at The Economist.economist test scores smaller

Why CTE Makes Historians Nervous

It sounds like a good idea, especially when it is presented in a convincing manner. As Oren Cass recently argued in the conservative City Journal, Career & Technical Education deserves a better rap (and better funding) than it usually gets. Yet this morning I’m going to explain why historians like me get nervous whenever people bring it up.

Cass lays out the glaring disparities. At both the K-12 and university levels, American education is geared toward supporting college students. Educational opportunity for students who might want to pursue job-related training is criminally paltry. As Cass explains,

States spend $70 billion annually on their university systems and offer another $10 billion in grants to cover remaining tuition obligations that otherwise fall to students. The federal government chips in $28 billion in Pell grants, plus $26 billion in tax breaks and $19 billion in loan subsidies. None of those funds or programs is available to students if they choose a vocational track. Congress’s 2017 appropriation for CTE was $1.2 billion.

I’m on board with Cass up to this point. Non-college-track programs deserve just as much attention and financing as do college-track ones. Students and families who want to learn hands-on trades should be supported institutionally and financially. Definitely.

But here’s the rub. As even Cass acknowledges, non-academic school programs have historically turned into low-rigor dumping grounds for less-affluent, less-white students. And that’s why educational historians get our dander up when we hear wonks celebrating the glories of vocational training.

anderson 1

…not all that “technical” after all.

For example, all of us have read James Anderson’s Education of Blacks in the South. As Anderson makes clear, white philanthropists ruthlessly pushed vocational training on African-American students and their educational institutions. Time and time again, these were go-nowhere programs meant to teach students to be docile, low-level workers in low-paying, low-prestige manual jobs.

We’ve also all read Herbert Kliebard’s Schooled to Work. As Kliebard found in his study of (mostly) Milwaukee vocational programs, in spite of the best intentions, students were treated mainly as “raw materials” for industrial needs, not as people and citizens deserving maximum educational opportunity. It has always been a mixed bag, of course, but as Kliebard found, non-college-track programs too often veered from their goal of helping students achieve their maximum potentials.

Kliebard schooled to workAnd, as I’m finding in my current research, as long as there have been public schools there have been attempts to squeeze low-income students into “apprenticeships” that only serve the needs of the school administrators. As I argued yesterday in a piece at History News Network, the first administrators of New York’s fledgling public-school system considered a plan to force their young students to serve without pay as “apprentice” teachers.

As the voluminous records of the Free School Society make clear, in the late 1810s administrators pondered a plan to turn their youngest student/teachers into free labor. Yes, they called it an “apprenticeship” program, but they only wanted the students to work for free. They never thought of their program as a way to maximize the career chances of their students.

So for those families who are looking for high-quality career and technical education, I’m with you. I support your fight to secure better funding and better resources for programs that you freely choose after being offered all the choices the rich kids get. 100%.

But we can’t ignore the warning from the archives: Whenever schools have turned to vocational training, it has devolved (or begun) as a program to keep low-income students stuck in the lowest-income rungs of the economic ladder.

The Wrong Way to Attack Creationism

Okay, okay, I know it’s a joke. I know we’re not supposed to take it seriously. But if we want less creationism in our public schools—and we all should, even if we are creationists—this kind of snark only makes things worse.

Here’s what we’re talking about: On Bored Teachers, one episode depicts a parent-teacher meeting from creationist hell.

In this cartoonish portrayal of radical creationism, the dad leaps to the attack, warning the teacher about spreading “blasphemy in the classroom” such as the Big Bang theory. When the teacher asks if the parents know it’s not a religious school, the creationist dad smugly replies, “not yet.”

When the teacher notes what “scientists say” about mice, the dad gives her the Baptist stink-eye. The only reason the creationist dad can give for the teacher’s disagreement is that she is “obviously possessed.” And when she growls at him, he’s scared. Not only that, but the creationist wife secretly doesn’t like the creationist husband either. She’s trying to get a divorce.

So what? Why does this joke hurt our chances in real life of reducing creationism in public schools?

Here’s my two cents: I’m a secular teacher fighting for wholly inclusive public schools. There shouldn’t be a religiously inspired science curriculum. Moreover, religious activists should never be able to push their ideas of right and wrong into classrooms.

In spite of all that, I’m opposed to this sort of goof on creationism. Caricatures like this of ignorant, bitter, anti-science creationists are totally misleading. If this is what we tell ourselves about our creationist friends and colleagues, no wonder we can’t make much progress in our creation/evolution debates.

What should we do instead? Talk with real creationists instead of only mocking them. Talk about our shared interest in science instead of using “science” as a weapon with which to deride them. Read the work of the creationists—the vast majority of creationists—who don’t have any problem with evolutionary science or the idea of deep time.

I know that this skit is not supposed to be taken as a serious policy proposal. I get that. But the attitudes about American creationism embedded in this sort of skit are not just silly, they can have serious negative consequences.

How to Lose: Conservatives’ Campus Persecution Complex

What do people usually do when they win? They celebrate. Just ask Virginia. So why is this conservative campus group turning its victory into a loss? And why is this conservative strategy a long-term losing bet?

Here’s what we know: You might think Turning Point USA would be cutting down nets and passing out collectible hats to celebrate its victory. After all, when the student government at Texas State voted to ban TPUSA, the university instead declared its support for the organization. As the Dean of Students wrote in a press release,

While Student Government exercised its right to act on a resolution put forth on April 1 to bar a recognized student organization from Texas State campuses, established University policy states that student organizations can only be barred if they are under disciplinary sanctions. . . .  the organization will not be barred from Texas State campuses. Texas State supports the constitutional rights of all of our students, faculty, staff and visitors.

From the noise coming out of TPUSA, though, you wouldn’t think they had been vindicated. As TPUSA front man Charlie Kirk lamented,

Last night @txst officially voted to BAN our @TPUSA chapter which advocates for free markets and free speech. The intolerant left can‘t tolerate the idea there are other ideas.  This is exactly why @realDonaldTrump signed free speech executive order. Pull their funding!

What gives? Why would a conservative student group call a victory a loss?

To this reporter, it looks like another example of a self-defeating conservative campus strategy. By turning themselves into “punchbait,” campus conservatives can generate more attention than they could ever hope to get merely by discussing issues.

charlie kirk texas state

Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory…

In the long run, though, these strategies will be counterproductive. If conservative activists hope to turn campuses into more welcoming environments for an ideologically diverse array of ideas—including conservative ideas—they will be wiser to follow a different path.

Instead of proclaiming themselves hapless victims, conservative intellectuals should double down on their intellectual and academic superiority. The Charlie Kirks of the world will come and go, but academic heavyweights such as Robert P. George of Princeton and Patrick Deneen of Notre Dame will prove to be far more influential in the long run.

So what should TPUSA do? Instead of lamenting its victimhood, it should celebrate its status as a legitimate academic enterprise. It should tell young conservatives that they should never feel victimized on campuses, but rather that they own it. They should make sure every conversation includes Milton Friedman and F.A. Hayek, instead of Donald Trump and Charlie Kirk.

When Jesus Is your Fairy Godmother

We’ll know more later today, but so far Liberty’s men’s basketball team has already paid off one of the most remarkable gambles in American higher education.liberty ncaa 2019

SAGLRROILYBYGTH know the story: Back in the 1970s, as I detail in Fundamentalist U, Moral Majoritarian Jerry Falwell dreamed of elbowing his way into elite higher-ed circles. Back then, it didn’t seem at all likely.  In the 1970s, the school that became Liberty University had a squalid little campus, overcrowded classrooms, and no money to pay its faculty.

About twenty years ago, though, second-generation leader Jerry Falwell Jr. won the higher-ed lottery by continuing the long evangelical tradition of non-traditional distance education. Turns out online education was an incredibly lucrative business at the time, and Falwell Jr. plowed his billions into fulfilling his father’s dream.

Falwell invested in traditional markers of prestige in higher-education, including high-performing sports teams. As we’ve seen, they’ve scored big successes in football and now they are poised to be this year’s Cinderella story in the NCAA men’s basketball tourney. Later today, they’ll take on Virginia Tech, having clambered over #5 Mississippi State.

Whatever happens in today’s game, having Liberty teams considered part of the usual landscape of elite college sports already signals a huge win in the Falwells’ long-term strategy. As have other groups before them such as Catholics at Notre Dame and LDS at Brigham Young, Falwell Jr. hopes that Liberty can sport its way into the roster of high-end American universities.