AOL News has a new home! The Huffington Post.Click here to visit the new home of Politics Daily!
But before you go chomping at the bit to receive a college-level education for less than $80, Beck University courses are not for credit. Instead, in the spirit of sharing the wealth of knowledge he has accumulated through his self-education, you will be witness to Beck's rectifications of what he sees as misconceptions in American history.
Beck famously took one course at Yale University before dropping out, but he seems to have picked up a few tenets of higher education. For example, Beck U's shield employs the grandeur and symbolism of his could-have-been alma mater and other Ivy League schools. Featuring George Washington, a quill, and a buffalo, it also displays the university's motto -- "Tyrannis Seditio, Obsequium Deo," which is Latin for "Revolution against tyrants, submission to God."
Since I've been lacking formal education in my life this summer, I took the plunge and signed up for Beck University's first class, which debuted Wednesday night. Donning my classroom-appropriate gym shorts and t-shirt, I logged in early and eagerly waited for the session to begin. In the minutes leading up to our professor's arrival, the live feed played new-age Celtic, soft rock, and techno music, which set an odd mood for serious learning. At 8:01 p.m., class began with a short intro from Chancellor Beck, who stated: "You will learn more in this next hour than you ever have in American history."
Presenting the first course, Faith 101, was David Barton, an author, minister, and conservative activist who is most widely known for his outspoken belief that the modern concept of separation of church and state was not shared by the founding fathers. He founded WallBuilders, a Website dedicated to "presenting America's forgotten history and heroes, with an emphasis on our moral, religious, and constitutional heritage."
Barton's lecture surrounded the "black-robed regiment," a group of preachers who inspired revolution and fought in its name during the War of Independence. Barton argued that the roles of these forgotten men were pivotal for the cause of liberty and helped set up a framework that had government harnessing religious influence.
Yes, we list John Adams, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison as key players in our nation's founding. But it should be recognized, Barton said, that the Rev. Jonathan Mayhew and the Rev. Samuel Cooper were the inspiration behind the revolution. He said that because of beautifully constructed and delivered sermons on liberty, government, and taxes, "they are responsible for the feelings of 1775."
Barton cited Clinton Rossiter, a professor at Cornell University who claims that four of the six men responsible for America's revolution were preachers. He referred to Duke University's Alice Baldwin, who said that the Declaration of Independence was merely a listing of every sermon before the American Revolution. Barton also noted that it was common for preachers to fight alongside their congregation in the Continental Army or seek elected office.
"If you take the preachers out, we don't have the same effect," Barton said. "We don't hear this part of history any more."
His point is that the founding founders felt that religion was intrinsic in government, and they never intended for it to be completely separated. "We don't want the church running the government, the government running the church," he said. "We do want the influence in there."
Throughout the 36-minute lecture, there were obvious parallels drawn between the history discussed and current events. Barton referred to biblical teachings of when the government should and should not tax its people, while also alluding to the British government unlawfully entering the colonialists' homes and taking their weapons.
About halfway through the presentation, Beck appeared to give the audience a pop quiz consisting of three questions from material already covered in the lecture. The questions popped up on-screen, complete with animations and pictures of what was being described: sound effects of musket fire, people bickering, and music evocative of Revolutionary times. All in all, a few minutes of fun.
After the class concluded, the website started accepting and responding to comments from viewers. This 20-minute session also included two polls -- one concluding that 100 percent of viewers would recommend Beck U to a friend. Viewer comments were enthusiastic of the first course, ranging from "I learned so much," to "Fascinating," to "I'm blown away."
College students, however, have not quite taken to the idea of classes offered by partisan figures like Beck and Barton, no matter their politics.
Tyler Sinclair, a sophomore at Miami University of Ohio and a fan of Beck's Fox News program, said that he trusts Beck to put the material together but doubts its true academic worth.
"I don't doubt his sincerity about all this," Sinclair said. "But I can't imagine this being truly academic in the way I view academia. . . It is definitely going to have the trappings of academia, but you'll have to wait to see if it is actually university-level material."
Another conservative college student, Northern Arizona University senior Brittany Corfman, said that although she respects Beck, the online program does not appeal to her.
"A large part of why I am a conservative is because I hold traditional family values and my religion dear to me," she said. "Not only do I believe that these two parts of life can sufficiently guide my political leanings, but it seems contradictory to try and substitute them with a class offered by a media tycoon, regardless of the content."
For liberals and moderates who are already turned off by Beck's message, they see this new project as an attempt to bend the truth through another medium. Drake University senior Robb Krehbiel said that he would never take a course offered by Beck because of his tendency to "entrench paranoia, hatred, and polarization" in his audience. Krehbiel felt that the "courses just sound like academic fronts that Beck has set up to put some legitimacy to his moral superiority."
The next course is Hope 101, which airs at 8 p.m. on July 14, with David Buckner, a professor at Columbia University. Beck stated that Buckner will look at the truth of American economics and tell us "what is really happening in America, what it all means, and how we can possibly solve it."
News From Our Partners
More on Aol
Sites and Services