Patrick Henry College is a Juggernaut

Most of you have probably never heard of Patrick Henry College, but Patrick Henry College is a juggernaut. In the narrow world of collegiate moot court. In that world, Patrick Henry College is like the UConn Huskies of Women’s basketball. They are the team to beat. No one else is even close.

20110117_mootwin1

I know this because for the last four years I have been a judge for the Eastern Regional Undergraduate Moot Court Qualifying Tournament of the American Collegiate Moot Court Association. The qualifying tournament is held every year at Fitchburg State University. And for the 13 years that the tournament has been held at Fitchburg State, Patrick Henry College has been the regional champion 10 times. And in that same time, teams from Patrick Henry College have been either the National Champion or the Runner Up an astounding 13 times.[1]

Last weekend, it was once again two teams from Patrick Henry College that were winner and runner up in the Regional Championship at Fitchburg State.

But what is Patrick Henry College?

It turns out that Patrick Henry College is a private, independent college in Purcellville, Virginia, known for its conservative evangelical Christian focus.[2] The school was founded with the help of the Home School Legal Defense Association, and now serves as the headquarters for the organization, with which it is still closely connected. The school is also known for its efforts to train students to become part of governmental service. The school has two primary areas of focus for its academic curriculum, and these are government and liberal arts. And there is a huge emphasis on teaching debating skills, which it does through the participation of its students in the National Educational Debate Association, the National Parliamentary Debate Association, the National Forensic Association, and of course, the American Collegiate Moot Court Association. During the George W. Bush administration, the school was very successful in placing some of its graduates at the highest levels of the executive administration.

And I can tell you this from personal experience: although all the competitors at the moot court tournament are remarkably good, those from Patrick Henry College are truly exceptional.

It’s interesting, because one of the skills that you have to develop in the moot court tournament is to argue both sides of a case equally well. In every tournament you have to argue both the petitioner and respondent’s case, and you never know which side of the argument you will be required to argue.

That requires a great deal of intellectual flexibility. Which seems very much at odds with the intellectual inflexibility of the school, given its emphasis on Biblical literalism and Biblical inerrancy.

I find the whole thing fascinating.

But you have to give them credit. They have a strategy, and they are pursuing that strategy very well.


 

[1] Colleges may enter more than one team into the competition.

[2] Sometimes known as “God’s Harvard,” students at the school are (or at least were) required to sign a statement of faith before they arrive, confirming (among other things) that they have a literal belief in the teachings of the Bible.

About a1skeptic

A disturbed citizen and skeptic. I should stop reading the newspaper. Or watching TV. I should turn off NPR and disconnect from the Internet. We’d all be better off.
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