Harvard’s statues on campus and Kazakhstan’s educational vision

Today is Good Friday celebrated in other parts of the Christian world but not in Kazakhstan. They just finished celebrating their annual, spring festival of Nauryz. Seems that some Kazakh students aspire to go to Harvard without actually knowing Harvard’s true Christian beginnings. Walking around with Dasha on the Harvard campus last Sunday (Palm Sunday) gave me a sense of its religious history in Cambridge just next to Boston. The Christian pastors’ zeal, from those who believed in the Great Commission, started Harvard’s seminary but also set the tone for education for centuries to come for American young people. The existing educational choices back in the 17th century meant a boat ride over the Atlantic to the Old Country in order to attend Oxford or Cambridge, so staying in Boston was an option for one’s education made sense.

James Walker, one of the first pastors and presidents on the Harvard campus, is honored with a bust of his head. (see photo) Walker’s quote chiseled in stone below this life-size head perhaps was inspired from Proverbs 8:

“Where is wisdom, where is strength, where is understanding?

Thou mayest know also where is length of days

And where is the light of the eyes and peace.”

Dasha and I also stopped by John Harvard’s statue that some tour guides at Harvard call “The Statue of Three Lies.” Mainly because John Harvard is depicted as the founder of Harvard yet he was only a contributor of money and his books.  Lie #2 is that Harvard was founded in 1636 and not 1638 and Lie #3 is that the statue is not actually John Harvard but some student who posed as a model for the artist.  The tour guide encourages their listeners to rub Harvard’s left foot for good luck.  I would submit that that is Lie #4, there is no such thing as luck at Harvard.  Most everyone who gains admittance in these hallowed halls of Harvard work very hard or are very smart or both.

That is why I think it odd that some Kazakh students want to go to Harvard as if that is the panacea of all educational ills for them.  I would say that most Americans don’t hold out much hope in getting accepted at Harvard even though they have been under the western educational system for a long time.  I believe getting a western education in any of the other American state or private universities is just as good. It is what YOU put into your studies that is the real test to succeed in life, not getting a piece of paper from some prestigious university that makes all the difference.  We have Bill Gates as an example of quitting Harvard and succeeding in life because he followed his passion.

I think the very bright people know the answers of what the founders of Harvard knew when they asked where wisdom, strength and understanding comes from. I believe there is darkness of the eyes and no peace whatsoever when people pursue education and leave God out.  Have a Good Friday as you ponder my last sentence.

The photo below by artist Phillip R. Goodwin has nothing to do with Harvard, it was painted at the turn of the 20th century.  I just like seeing these two guys paddling as hard as they can in the river’s rapids. Something raw and gutsy about Goodwin’s prints shows early American pioneers and risktakers.  That is what I like about the people I work alongside in Astana, they are all that and more!

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