It is also expected that all students attend public worship on Sundays. Johnson’s commencement speech to the Columbia graduates further affirmed the religious emphasis of American public education: You this day, gentlemen. Have received a public education, the purpose whereof hath been to qualify you the better to serve your Creator and your country. Your first great duties, you are sensible, are those you owe to Heaven, to your Creator and Redeemer.
Let these be ever present to your minds and exemplified in your lives and conduct. Imprint deep upon your minds the principles of piety towards God and a reverence and fear of His holy name. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. Remember, too, that you are the redeemed of the Lord, that you are bought with a price, even the inestimable price of the precious blood of the Son of God. Love, fear, and serve Him as your Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier.
Acquaint yourselves with Him in His Word and holy ordinances. Make Him your friend and protector and your felicity is secured both here and hereafter. This philosophy of education remained constant at Columbia. In fact, in 1810, Rufus King signer of the Constitution and President of the Board of Trustees at Columbia issued a report from the Trustees reiterating: It shall be the duty of the president to instruct the students of the junior and senior classes in the necessity, truth, and Excellency of Divine revelation as contained in the Holy Scriptures.
In 1766, Rutgers University was founded through the efforts of the Rev. Theodore Frelinghuysen. Its official motto, “Sun of Righteousness, Shine upon the West Also,” was an extension of the Netherlands’ University of Utrecht motto: “Sun of Righteousness, Shine upon Us.” Examination of other colleges and universities of the day reveals that the examples mentioned above were neither aberrations nor isolated selections they represented the norm: Higher education in the United States before 1870 was provided very largely in the tuition colleges of the different religious denominations, rather than by the State. Of the two hundred and forty-six colleges founded by the close of the year 1860 seventeen were State institutions and but two or three others had any State connections.Perhaps George Washington, “The Father of the Country,” provided the most succinct description of America’s educational philosophy when Chiefs from the Delaware Indian tribe brought him three Indian youths to be trained in American schools. Washington first assured the Chiefs that “Congress will look upon them as their own children,” and then commended the Chiefs for their decision, telling them that: You do well to wish to learn our arts and ways of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are. Congress will do everything they can to assist you in this wise intention.