Quote of the Day

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Guest Post: Steve

Steven Adams, who identifies himself as an administrator at BYU-Idaho, made some extensive comments I deemed worthy of a post. I am including them below, unedited. -- TRGW

(I wrote more but could not post that much. It seems you are sincerely interested in posting both sides and I thought you might allow me to post this completely. I will submit it in two more posts and you can compile it if you wish and put it where you like.)

I have enjoyed reading the various points of view on this blog. I am a graduate of George Wythe College and thought I would add my perspective.

While I find the information on this blog to be valuable, I find the overall tone to be distasteful. Language and images are used to create a negative image of George Wythe University and those who have worked to create it. While I do not challenge much of the information put forward, I do challenge the negative attitude and narrow mindedness that drive the discussion.

Oliver and the others involved set out to create a different type of educational program. They did not intend to conform with current accreditation standards or modern ideas of degree programs. They clearly stated their intentions and have continued do so throughout their history. Some of their programs and ideas have changed as they have gained experience and new information. They have also made mistakes.

I chose to attend George Wythe while I was a student at Idaho State University. I was receiving two full tuition scholarship, one for academics and one for leadership, but I was not satisfied with the foundations of the school. I had some great instructors and some I did not appreciate. Some things I learned at ISU were valuable, and I am glad for the experience, but it was not meeting my needs.

I was married, and we had just started our family so attending the campus in Cedar City was not our best option. I decided to take correspondence courses and worked with Oliver as my mentor. I fully understood my degree would be seen as only religiously accredited and most people and institutions would not recognize it at all. Olive talked to me about this personally and encouraged me to seriously consider my options.

The education I obtained from George Wythe College was everything Oliver claimed it would be and more. Oliver provided great feedback on my writing and encouraged me to consider ideas outside of my personal preference. He challenged me and accepted my challenge of his ideas. It was not what most people would consider a “normal” education, but it was a great blessing to me. I found Oliver to be an exceptional mentor and an outstanding human being. I admire his courage and initiative, even if I don’t always agree with his specific decisions. He has my full support, and I wish him only the best for the future.

I was not able to use my degree to move directly into the mainstream workforce, but that is not what I wanted nor do I believe it was what the Lord intended for my life. I was able to earn what money I needed for my family and gained valuable experience for the rest of my professional career. After working with several private and public charter schools I was hired as the Director of Charter, Virtual, and Home Education for the Florida Department of Education – I later worked as a consultant for several charter and virtual school organizations and now work in administration at BYU-Idaho.

With the move to Florida, I took the opportunity to look into graduate studies. I had considered pursuing graduate studies with George Wythe College, but it did not seem to be the right way for me to go. Once settled in Tallahassee I approached Florida State University and found interest in their education foundations and policy programs.

Florida is an interesting place. There is a strong history of liberal arts and independent education programs. It allows for a great deal of diversity, and I enjoyed the environment. Any time freedom is allowed to exist it generates great opportunity, which manifests great success and also failure. There are a variety of quality private institutions in the state and a few bad actors as well. It was fun to work for the department and be able to look into Coral Ridge Baptist University while there. Among some, it had a reputation for being a “diploma mill” but even knowing that did not bother most of my colleagues at the department. They gave me the chance to let my actions and work speak for my merits.

This was also the case with Florida State University. I explained my diploma from George Wythe College, which also came from Coral Ridge Baptist University, and asked if there was a way for someone with an unaccredited degree to gain acceptance to their university for graduate work. I took the necessary exam and they gave me the opportunity to prove myself by taking a few classes then evaluated me for formal admission into their program. Their policy made sense, and I was happy to comply. I met their requirements and studied foundations of education and education policy.
That world was very different from George Wythe College. There were different rules and expectations. I don’t think they were any better or worse than George Wythe College, only different. The work was not easy at either institution, and I am indebted to both for who I am and what I may yet become. To put it rather briefly – George Wythe College taught me to think for myself and find solutions that may not have been considered; FSU taught me how to be understood and have influence in “normal” education circles. Both exposed me to great ideas and challenged my thinking.

For those who care about such things, I did earn my Masters of Science in Foundations of Education and a graduate certificate in education policy. I continued in the doctoral program and am studying issues of culture and religion in the educational practices of a diverse society. The opportunity to work at BYU-Idaho brought me back to Idaho but Florida State has agreed to let me take my last two classes at Idaho State. ISU has accepted my application, and I will start those classes in January. I then hope to begin my dissertation with the faculty at Florida State.

As I have pursued my graduate studies, I have met several people who challenge mainstream educational practices in much the same way as Oliver DeMille. I have enjoyed working with and debating them, just as I did with Oliver, but he has one quality each of them was lacking. He desired not only to criticize educational practices, but also to develop new practices, or redevelop proven practices, and implement them. This is a far greater challenge than most people realize. It is far easier to go along with the current system; moving forward with pats on the back and the respect of your colleagues. New endeavors are challenged on every side. You do not have the security and comfort of wide spread support. Agree or disagree, Oliver has earned the respect of anyone who understands the effort required to accomplish what he accomplished.

I would also like to address this rather absurd notion that charging tuition for educational experiences is somehow dishonorable. I ask you to consider that private institutions like George Wythe University get their funds through free will offerings. These usually take the form of tuition and donations. The individuals making the donation or payment freely give each dollar. Government institutions of learning raise their funds through compulsion. Property is taken from citizens with threat of force to be used by these institutions no matter their quality or educational practices. When you choose to attend such an institution, you should be aware that many of your fellow citizens are paying for you to have an experience they did not agree to give you. In essence, you are forcing your neighbors to pay for a significant portion of your education. That is seen as acceptable in our society, so it is not frequently questioned, but when a private group sets out to exercise their freedom of dissent and asks only for those with similar views to provide their funding, this is somehow seen as inappropriate. I find that interesting in a rather absurd way.

I agree with some of the points made regarding embellished advertising. To claim that they are the “best” institution for training statesmen is kind of like claiming they are the best George Wythe University in the world. While I may disagree with that approach, for me, at that time and in that place they were just that. Whatever level of overzealous advertising may have been applied, it is the individual’s responsibility to understand each institution will try to give the best possible impression. Blogs like this help to inform those decisions.

The views put forward on this blog are for the most part useful information. What there is of vitriol can be overlooked by an open minded individual, and I hope the university chooses to benefit form the information gathered and views expressed. One criticism is that anonymous blog postings can be a cowardly approach to public discourse. If you are unwilling to be associated with your own comments, you may want to rethink your comments or ask yourself why you lack the courage to stand behind your own beliefs.

To close I wish to express my love and admiration for Oliver DeMille. I honor him as one of my mentors, a dedicated scholar, a good man, and one of my great privileges in life is call him my friend. I do not know everyone at George Wythe University, nor do I have enough information to comment on some of the university’s decisions, but I have known many of the individuals working there for some time. I hold Andy Groft and Shannon Brooks as friends, and I wish them only the best in their pursuits. To everyone else who has worked to build George Wythe University, I offer my deepest appreciation and respect. To the extent any of them have made mistakes, I hope they learn and grow as we all have. To the extent they have succeeded, I hope they are given the respect and honor they deserve.

Steven Adams
Graduate; George Wythe College; September 11, 1999
Email: adams@gwa.cc


Emily said...

Thank you Steve. I commend you! I am a George Wythe student right now, and love it. I am struggling, but I suppose every college student struggles as much as I do. Your comments have inspired me to be a better student here, and a better person overall. Thank you so much!

R.C. said...

If you have been reading long enough you will know I have disavowed myself of some of my previous comments. However, I will not come out of 'virtual hiding' because I don't want to be bothered with this any more. The reason that I post under a pseudonym is that I don't want to be defined as the guy who criticizes a small, Utah liberal arts school.

I have to admit that I am a product of traditional education, I am a pragmatist, contextualist, and an open-minded behaviorist.

Thanks for your post Steven. I think your sincerity is a breath of fresh air here. I think the goal of this blog has been to advance alternative viewpoints, but it is nice to see a balanced view of GWU.

Anonymous said...

Steve can you clarify something for me, I have seen this term 'religiously accredited' thrown around quite a bit - please explain what that means?

"I fully understood my degree would be seen as only religiously accredited and most people and institutions would not recognize it at all."

Anonymous said...

Steve, Thank you for sharing balanced and solid infomation. Researching GWU over a long period of time, the leaders of GWU, it's association with Coral Ridge, the involvement with Dr. Don Sills and many other issues, I am convinced that every part of this "puzzle" is honorable, with actions conducted by those of good intent. While I finished a traditional degree, I do see the merit now of GWU. It is not for everyone, but being a progressive educator, I do realize that all people don't learn the same way, nor do we see the same value in a certain type of education. GWU, Coral Ridge, Don Sills, Oliver de Mille and staff are all unique. While I have no personal desire in this type of education, my daughter does, and I am happy with that. It's taken me a great deal of study, research and thinking to arrive at my conclusion of tolerance, but I have grown (and hopefully learned) in this process of human development. GWU will never be Notre Dame, but that has never been their goal. Coral Ridge never aspired to be like Princeton or Yale Seminary, but that was not their goal. What each school did, was educate people in a unique and special way. In doing so they each filled a niche, contributing something good to humanity. As I look at US education deteriorating nationally, I do see serious merit in what these schools have done. I admit that. Steve thank you so much. Like you, I have grown in acceptance, and hopefully as a person. RC let me thank you too. Once I was very harsh and extremely judgemental, but I see value, even with those I may disagree with. Perhaps by God's grace, we've all grown. If my daugter chooses GWU, Coral Ridge, Yale or BYU, it's all okk. Thank you for your insights.

James F. said...

Thank you for your comments Steve and thank you RGW for promoting a balanced view. I commend you both.

Anonymous said...

You know, just because mainstream schooling is messed up doesn't mean GWU has any merit just because it is "different." Mainstream bad, therefore alternative good. Obviously everyone will agree with this idea, but it sure seems that people try to promote GWU on the basis that it is different. So what? So it's "not normal" and it "challenges the mainstream." As if that was the goal. What are the results?

And that's great that Steve grew and made decisions he wouldn't have otherwise made. That's not the point of GWU. Look, you can't on the one hand have the top guy preach that the leaders of the future will come from GWU and that they build statesmen, that they have a mission in life, and then have students says "well, it was good for me, I learned a lot." And then they pretend to be a victim of criticism just because they are trying to be "different."

Steve, nobody is criticizing GWU because it is small, or different than mainstream, or unaccredited. Everyone engages alternative education systems. Everyone would like to see a better alternative. Everyone likes people to broaden their minds. It's that GWU claims to teach what the founders learnedm how they learned, in a superior way to mainstream, that will produce the statesmen of the future like no other organization can, and which will be the political salvation of this country. Do you deny that is what they say?

That's why people are drawn to GWU. They want to political saviors. But then somehow the students become satisfied with "growing" as an individual, and play the victim to criticism for just bucking the trend. Then they try to make the criticism about how GWU is just trying to be different than the mainstream which is just full of problems.

No statesmen from GWU. It would be like a medical school that never produces any doctors. "Well, I learned a lot" isn't going to cut it.

Anonymous said...

"When you choose to attend such an institution, you should be aware that many of your fellow citizens are paying for you to have an experience they did not agree to give you. In essence, you are forcing your neighbors to pay for a significant portion of your education. "

Same with private religious schools. Tithing goes to BYU - if I don't pay my tithing, then I don't get a the feedom to go to the temple. Just like when I don't pay taxes, I don't get freedom... Am I wrong? Does BYU not receive funding from the tithing funds of the LDS church?

James F. said...

@ Anonymous
That's a stretch. Yes, BYU is partially funded by tithing funds. Paying such funds is still much more voluntary than taxes. There are many qualifications that members must meet to have the privilege of going to temples, tithing is just one of them. And it is just that, a privilege, not a right. No fundamental rights are infringed by restricting a members privilege of attending the temple because they chose not to pay tithing.

Failing to pay the taxes that fund public education will eventually end you up in jail. Being in jail does result in a lose of freedom.

Your comparison of taxes and tithing simply isn't true, but certainly the irony is not lost on me. GWU students that are Utah residents and LDS must not only pay for their own tuition, but pay their share of the tuition of publicly funded university students AND BYU students through tithing. Once again though, the tithing is a choice, taxes really aren't a choice with the risk of imprisonment and other penalties.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous makes a good point. It is a rich irony that Steve would make this complaint when he is an employee of an institution that is heavily dependent on LDS tithing funds. I recall that a BYU education is on average roughly 2/3rds subsidized by the church; even the law school receives north of 50% of its funding from tithing.

Anonymous said...

James -
You are probably right. However, when you start to go down the road that says "my taxes are being taken from me for this or that" and "my money is going to this or that with out my permission" it becomes problematic. The reason that I think it is problematic to say that is because there are extreme leftists who don't want to pay for the military or border protection through their taxes. They could start going down that road too. My point is that we need to vote for people will support causes (such as ending war for lefties or defunding public ed for righties). Rather than complaining about it. We should also protest, but I think voting will work in the end.

You are partially right about the tithing thing, but only in an worldly sense. If we don't pay our tithing on earth, an eternal reward will not be available for us. Am I still wrong? We have the choice, but one would have to be crazy to pick the alternative... Therefore, we may have very little freedom to choose to pay our tithing, given the opportunity cost. BTW, I really don't care if my tithing goes to BYU, I was a Ute in my past life.

Celeste B. said...

I'm disappointed to see all these "anonymous" posts. If you want to make a comment, it is honorable to own up to what you feel, write, say, etc.

I am a TJED homeschool mom. I have been to one event that asked for donations to GWU. I did feel it was a bit over dramatized. I also receive donation requests from Hillsdale College, another private institution. I do not think it is unfair or an impure practice to solicit donations. Even public elementary schools do that with all their silly fund raisers and tax deduction forms.

I have never heard anyone say that statesmenship graduates of GWU will only be in politics...only that they will lead somewhere. That could be in a business, non-profit organization, church, family, neighborhood, etc. Steve Adams is obviously a leader in his profession. It seems to me that people are expecting all GWU students to suddenly show up on TV running for office somewhere. That is not what educating ourselves in a Leadership Education way is about.

I have learned more about history, government, honor, integrity and service by reading the GWU 100 required books list than from my own college education. There is a point to individualized study with a mentor. It is to streamline the educational process to each individual, meeting their specific needs for their future pursuits. Along the way, each individual also happens to get the basic education that are received at public institutions.

The Real George Wythe said...

Hi Celeste,

Thanks for your thoughtful comments!

No one is saying GWU is in the wrong for soliciting donations. Since the George Wythe Foundation is a non-profit, these donations are even tax-deductible.

As far as "building statesmen," the entire emphasis is on politics. Quoting from the most recent GW homepage, "Within this scope is a focus on protecting liberty, healing society, inspiring moral ethics, strengthening free-enterprise, and creating strong families and communities in order to make the world a better place." Most of these are public-policy goals. How are they to be achieved if individuals are not involved in public policy decision-making, aka politics?

As an aside, it's important to note that the very premise of "George Wythe University" is based on a fallacy. The idea that "this was the education that Thomas Jefferson and others received under the tutelage of George Wythe" is a flat-out lie.

Jefferson received a classical education, completing years of schooling before he began studying the law under Wythe. Yes, he continued his education, besides law, under Wythe. But that would have been much less effective without the proper foundation he got in his many previous years of schooling.

Any way you slice it, his studies with George Wythe were a type of graduate education; Wythe did not guide Jefferson through different "stages of learning," nor did he structure "time not content" etc.

In short, TJEd is not the education the real Thomas Jefferson received.

I urge you to look at this objectively and spare your kids!

Alison Moore Smith said...

I know this is an old thread, but I want to add something. Every time the statesmanship idea is utterly debunked (simply by asking for a list of the supposed statesmen produced by GWC) an answer like the one here is given:

"That could be in a business, non-profit organization, church, family, neighborhood, etc."

When there are no statesmen to show for the claims, suddenly a "statesmen" becomes anyone who leads ANYWHERE. Which comes down to pretty much every person on earth.

Which brings us back to point A. What is unique about GWC grads that make the education worth something?