Educational Philosophy - Historical Resources - Archives Office
Academic, Spiritual, and Practical Philosophy
Head, Heart, Hand
John Brown Sr.'s Educational Philosophy
Education at John Brown University has never been merely academic. John Brown Sr., founder and first president of the institution, was committed to a well-rounded philosophy of studies that focused on the holistic development of students.
"Emphasis should be placed equally on the head, heart and hands," Brown said. "If we neglect any of these in our teaching, the result will be an unbalanced person."
Brown believed that America's higher education was greatly unbalanced. Instead of pure book learning, the founder sought a form of scholarship that also involved practical skill and spiritual instruction.
In the early days of the University, it consisted of three colleges: Siloam Springs School of the Bible, John E. Brown Vocational College and John E. Brown College. Students were expected to work four hours five days a week learning a practical skill in addition to their four hours of classes six days weekly. In addition, they were required to choose an academic major, such as business, art or science and attend church and Bible classes.
The John Brown University coat of arms captures Brown's vision for the threefold education of head, heart and hand with Christ over all.
Through the decades, John Brown University's commitment to the foundational head, heart and hand philosophy has not wavered. Daily, as students learn from professors, grow spiritually in chapel and Bible classes, and carry out practicum assignments, they uphold the validity of the motto that John Brown Sr. envisioned over 80 years ago.
For John Brown Sr., a solid academic core at the university he founded was vital. His dedication to scholarship survived at tremendous odds. Family circumstances had forced him to abandon school at age 11 to work.
But Brown's diligence allowed him to keep up his studies, and he soon proved himself to be a brilliant administrator and scholar. At age 22, he was appointed president of Scaritt Institute in Neosho, Mo. At that time, he was the youngest college president in the United States.
Brown was determined to give other financially disadvantaged young people the educational opportunities he had been denied. In 1919, he founded Southwestern Collegiate Institute, later to be called John Brown University, where youth could receive a quality Christian education at no monetary cost.
During his lifetime, Brown also founded several high schools, including two boys' military academies in California known to rival West Point.
Today, long after many schools Brown founded have closed, the University and the thousands of alumni around the globe whose lives have been successfully enriched by a quality education stand as a monument of John Brown's dedication to academic excellence.
From the time he was 17 and followed the slow thump, thump, thump of a drum through the rain-drenched streets of Rogers, Ark., to a Salvation Army meeting where he was converted, John Brown, Sr. was a committed follower of Jesus Christ.
Not long after he became a Christian, Brown began to spread the gospel message through his own preaching. He became nationally known as "Brother Brown" and fully devoted his time to evangelism as an eloquent and convincing preacher.
When Brown founded the University, he could not neglect in his educational philosophy the God about whom he had told so many. In addition to having academic and vocational opportunities, he wanted students to be exposed to the Bible for a complete educational experience.
"We wish our graduates always to be consecrated to Christ, whether engaged in full-time service of the church or in secular activities," Brown once said. "We desire to equip them with a knowledge of the Bible, believing that such knowledge rightly assimilated and developed permeates and directs all phases of life."
One of Brown's dreams was to build a great Cathedral to echo the beauty of the Ozark hills scenery and the praise of his Creator. Brown saw the first stones being laid for it, but died shortly before its completion in 1957.
With the rich heritage of Brown's faith, the University whose motto is "Christ Over All" continues to stand firm in the ways of the God who Brown was committed to serve.
To the founder, practical work experience was a vital element of a well-rounded education. In the early 1920s, at a time when only 15 percent of American jobs available were "white collar," Brown believed American's higher education was greatly unbalanced. Instead of pure book learning, the founder sought a form of learning that also involved practical skill and spiritual instruction.
"Emphasis should be placed equally on the head, heart and hands. If we neglect any of these in our teaching, the result will be an unbalanced person," Brown said.
Brown wanted his institution to stand apart from other schools of the early 20th century that seemed to teach that the purpose of a meaningful education was to avoid physical labor. Good, hard work was essential and healthy, Brown believed.
Brown himself was no stranger to hard work. As a young man, he was forced to quit his formal education to work in a lime kiln. As a former president of Scaritt Institute and founder of his own educational institution, Brown had demonstrated that labor-oriented work is no hindrance to success.
Five days a week, students were expected to work four hours to learn a practical skill in addition to their four hours of classes six days weekly. In exchange, they were not charged for their school expenses.
The University became a lively mixture of 24 factories and businesses that not only provided training for the students but also offered real services. Students had access to a sort of little town right on campus. They could purchase clothing at the dress shop or receive aid at the hospital, and a laundry service took care of all the dirty garments. Other services included a beauty salon and barber, a cannery, a print shop, a bank, a shoe store and even an airport. A dairy, 800-acre farm, broom factory, basket-making operation and sorghum mill provided other vocational alternatives.
When JBU students graduated, Brown felt they would be more realistically equipped to be successful in the work world, backed by solid job experience.
"Because men 'know books' is no sure evidence that they are really educated," the founder once wrote. "Education must get through the mind into the heart and hands."
Although today the "white collar" workforce has grown, and vocational schools are now available for students who wish to pursue such a career, the University continues to emphasize the "hand" in academic programs. Majors from biology to business to broadcasting place great emphases on the practical, realistically preparing students today to meet the challenges of the tomorrow's work force.