The deal to turn a portion of the Northfield Mount Hermon School campus into a Christian college is a win-win situation: good for the financially ailing prep school, good for the surrounding town of Northfield, and good for the property’s new steward, the California-based C.S. Lewis Foundation. Yet some alumni of the progressive-minded prep school are voicing dismay that a portion of the Pioneer Valley campus was sold at bargain-basement rates - and that their school’s new neighbor might not share some of their own cultural values.
That’s the marketplace, though, and it’s hard to blame David Green, the billionaire owner of the Oklahoma-based Hobby Lobby craft store chain, for seeking a good deal in his nationwide efforts to donate property to Christian educators. Green purchased 10 percent of Northfield Mount Hermon’s Northfield campus for $100,000 and handed it to the C.S. Lewis Foundation, which intends to enroll 400 students in the new C.S. Lewis College in 2012. The new college, named for the author of the “Chronicles of Narnia,’’ will follow in a grand tradition of New England schools with roots in religious education - including Northfield Mount Hermon itself, which was founded in the 19th century by a Christian evangelist.
It’s easy to wax romantic about an institution as seemingly timeless as a New England prep school. But the Pioneer Valley should be a welcoming place to people of all political, religious, and intellectual traditions. Besides, the mark of a good education is the ability to evaluate a situation, think critically about it, and move on.