College Chaplain Steve Runholt indicated in his Thanksgiving sermon that Warren Wilson College was founded on “three core Calvinist values: education, industry and righteousness.”
Runholt further claimed that the triad, which is fundamental to our college’s design and philosophy, derives from this Calvinist tradition.
“Translated from the Calvinist to English,” Runholt said, “we know those same values as work, service and learning.”
Many educational institutions, both secondary and higher, still maintain affiliation with the faith groups which often founded them in the first place. However, most of these relationships are in name only. The fact that a religious community helped establish an education institution has very little to do with the actual running of the college.
It seems that Warren Wilson, unlike other colleges and universities, maintains a very close relationship with the Presbyterian community which created it.
Certainly this connection should be recognized and appreciated. It is critical to remember one’s roots. However, to continue to associate the fundamental philosophies of this college with those of the Calvinist tradition is at best antiquated and at worst scary.
With the exception of the regressive fundamentalist-aligned institutions like Bob Jones University and others, most colleges and universities determine that the values and ethics on which they are based are original to human ability.
To assert that Warren Wilson’s foundation is from a Calvinist description of appropriate ideals is to be completely contradictory to the pursuit of higher education more generally.
Colleges and universities were established to think beyond petty traditions which derived from expressions of anxiety and an ignorance of or deliberate disregard for selfless and imaginative behavior original to human beings.
There is no reason why Warren Wilson needs to forget the institution that created it. However, any intellectual, vocational or service pursuits at the college must be separated from the Presbyterian and Calvinist traditions. The college’s accomplishments must be separated from religion in general.