A sketch of the history of American fundamentalism

Last June, Justin Taylor posted a 1994 article by John Fea that gives an historical overview of American fundamentalism. I finally read it and it was quite good.

Taylor’s introduction:

The primary and secondary reading on this movement is quite extensive, but Fea’s piece may be the most helpful and concise orientation to the different phases of fundamentalism in the 20th century. He’s aware of the dangers in setting strict dates for each phase (“Restricting open-ended social and intellectual movements to neatly prepared historical packages confined by set dates is the historian’s greatest sin”) but he helpfully identifies four phases of development:

  1. an irenic phase (1893–1919), a harbinger to fundamentalism “proper”;
  2. a militant phase (1920–1936), encompassing the “fundamentalist-modernist controversies”;
  3. a divisive phase (1941–1960), when fundamentalism split into “evangelical” and “separatist” factions;
  4. a separatist phase (1960 to the present), where the self-designation of fundamentalism is restricted to Protestants who remove themselves from mainstream American culture and religion.

The original article is Understanding the Changing Facade of Twentieth-Century American Protestant Fundamentalism: Toward a Historical Definition,” Trinity Journal 5NS (Fall 1994): 181–99.

What is education for?

As higher education costs and student loan debt continue to rise, the value of a college education has been a hot topic. John Fea of Messiah College recently linked to Leon Wieseltier’s defense of the liberal arts, in which Wieseltier attacked UnCollege (led by Dale Stephens) and, as an aside, homeschooling. I support homeschooling, and from Wieseltier’s description UnCollege is not really that bad. But Wieseltier is right that education is often to narrowly defined as being about “competitiveness.”

But can a fractured culture like ours really expect public education to aspire to the heights that Wieseltier and Fea want?

On another note, I found this article by Diana Senechal in The American Educator (the journal of the American Federation of Teachers) surprisingly good. She also defends a liberal arts education.