Married David Plotz (an editor); children: two.
Writer and journalist. Washington Post, former religion and politics columnist.
God's Harvard: A Christian College on a Mission to Save America, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2007.
Contributor to periodicals, including the New Yorker, New Republic, GQ, New York Times, and Washington Post.
Hanna Rosin is a journalist and author who has written on religion and politics for the Washington Post and freelances for numerous other publications, including the New Yorker. Her 2007 nonfiction work, God's Harvard: A Christian College on a Mission to Save America, was inspired by and expanded from a story she wrote for the New Yorker. A resident of Washington, DC, Rosin became interested in the nearby Patrick Henry College of Purcellville, Virginia, founded in 2000. The institution's mission is to "train the next generation of Christian leaders to ‘shape the culture and take back the nation,’" Rosin explained in an interview with Paul Comstock for the California Literary Review. The school's founder, Michael Farris, was also a leader of the homeschooling movement. Farris, a constitutional lawyer, initiated the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) in 1983 in an attempt to produce changes in court rulings regarding home education. He was also ordained as a Baptist minister that same year. Farris maintained his position as president of HSLDA until 2000, when he founded the Patrick Henry College, an institution of higher education serving primarily homeschooled, evangelical youth. All students attending Patrick Henry College must sign a statement of faith, which essentially, as Rosin told Comstock, would place these young people "at the conservative side of the Christian evangelical spectrum." From 2000 to 2006, Farris was president of the college and a professor of government, then stepped down to become chancellor. Active in politics, Farris saw the college as a conduit for Christian students to enter important spheres of government, business, the media, and entertainment. Students at Patrick Henry College spend their first two years studying a liberal arts curriculum with a distinctly Christian bias. In their last two years, the students generally find internships in the corridors of Washington, DC, with national magazines, or in the entertainment industry.
Rosin initially profiled Patrick Henry College in her 2005 article for the New Yorker. Finding the article to be an objective analysis of Patrick Henry College, Farris did not object to Rosin "embedding" herself in the college for an extended time period in 2006. She did not live on campus at Patrick Henry College, but "came several days a week, and sometimes spent the night," Rosin told Comstock. She also visited students at their homes and accompanied them on debate trips. Rosin stated, "I tried to choose students and professors with a wide range of views so a reader wouldn't leave with a Stepford feeling about the school, which doesn't seem so interesting to me, nor true." In her resulting book, God's Harvard, Rosin profiles a number of students, "from the eager freshman to more jaded seniors," and members of the faculty, stated Eva Kay, a reviewer for Curled Up with a Good Book. During Rosin's stay at the college, a major academic upheaval occurred; several professors quit as a result of college administration complaints that their teaching content and methods were too liberal and inconsistent with an evangelical worldview. Rosin also explains that Patrick Henry College students, while coming from a conservative Christian background, often begin to question aspects of their faith when faced with the realities of the world at large. "Part of the reason I wrote this book," Rosin told Comstock, is "to make people aware that the Christian right is not what it used to be." That is, it is not a monolithic block, but is full of nuances. For example, one of the students she interviewed, Derek Archer, is a missionary from Ohio who worked on President George W. Bush's 2004 reelection campaign and hopes to go into politics himself; another student, Farahn Morgan, is a ballet dancer with unexpected and unconventional views on religion and life. Rosin tracks student life from freshman orientation to graduation and job placement, and also examines apparent ironies in the school's academic rigor. For example, the curriculum is supposed to be not only intellectually rigorous and challenging, but also conform to evangelical ideals. Thus, a Ph.D. in biology must teach creationism rather than evolution.
Rosin's book received a positive critical reception from many reviewers. Kay stated that "Rosin takes readers into the school with her and really puts a face on the modern Evangelical movement." Kay further observed: "[Rosin's] clear and straightforward prose brings the various people to life, and leaves the reader with an enriched view of this important aspect of American society." Lisa Miller, in a review for Newsweek, commented that any writer approaching such a controversial subject as religious education should do so with both "compassion" and "skepticism." Miller stated that "Rosin aces this balancing act." Similar praise came from Booklist contributor Vanessa Bush, who termed God's Harvard "a captivating look at struggles within the conservative movement." Likewise, School Library Journal reviewer Sondra Vander-Ploeg found the book "an excellent piece of reporting from the frontlines of evangelical Christianity in America," while a Kirkus Reviews critic called the work an "accomplished survey of today's most gifted evangelical Christians coming of age." Writing in the Christian Century, Todd Shy noted, "In contrast to other recent books scolding the religious right, Rosin's work offers journalistic portraiture rather than theological critique." Shy further commented, "Rosin's method does more than soften rough caricatures; it also clarifies the dynamic of evangelicalism itself." Further praise came from Library Journal reviewer C. Brian Smith, who called God's Harvard "an entertaining and enlightening read," as well as an "eyewitness account of the evangelical movement and subculture."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, September 1, 2007, Vanessa Bush, review of God's Harvard: A Christian College on a Mission to Save America, p. 26.
Christian Century, October 30, 2007, Todd Shy, review of God's Harvard, p. 35.
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2007, review of God's Harvard.
Library Journal, September 1, 2007, C. Brian Smith, review of God's Harvard, p. 142.
Newsweek, September 3, 2007, Lisa Miller, "Campus Crusaders; the Complicated Story of Tiny Patrick Henry College, Where Christian Students Prepare for the World's Fight," review of God's Harvard, p. 65.
New York Times Book Review, September 9, 2007, Nina Easton, "Political Fundamentals," review of God's Harvard, p. 12.
School Library Journal, January 1, 2008, Sondra VanderPloeg, review of God's Harvard, p. 159.
Tribune Books (Chicago, IL), October 6, 2007, David W. Myers, "Faith-based Initiative: A Small College Grooms Young Evangelicals to Take the Reins of Power in America," review of God's Harvard, p. 6.
Beliefnet,http://blog.beliefnet.com/ (June 30, 2008), author information.
California Literary Review,http://calitreview.com/ (October 9, 2007), Paul Comstock, "Hanna Rosin Discusses God's Harvard."
Curled Up with a Good Book,http://www.curledup.com/ (June 30, 2008), Eva Kay, review of God's Harvard.
Harcourt Web site,http://www.harcourtbooks.com/ (June 30. 2008), author information.
Sharper Iron,http://www.sharperiron.org/ (January 31, 2008), Eric Lovik, review of God's Harvard.