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.
Graduate; George Wythe College; September 11, 1999