Slogans in context

My undergraduate institution, Harding University, toward which I still feel some fondness and loyalty, once used this slogan on its advertising materials:

Educating for Eternity

I think this slogan was coined before the days of so-called “public relations.”  Perhaps those more skilled in advertising would have nixed this idea because of its double meaning.  Sure enough, some rogue-comedian student wrote something in the student newspaper about the 5th- and 6th-year seniors who were engaged in an apparently eternal education process.  The parents who were footing the bill probably weren’t amused at the double entendre.  🙂

In the context of the Church of Christ of the 60s, 70s, and 80s, though, that slogan was an apt one.  Most of Harding’s constituencies, I’m convinced, would have latched onto the idea of “educating for eternity” fairly easily.  The slogan wouldn’t have drawn many outsiders, but it wasn’t supposed to.  Subsequently, though, Harding “progressed” and began to revision itself, for better or worse, as the “Harvard of the South.”  The constituencies were broader and more numerous; the context for the slogan therefore changed, and eventually, so did the slogan.

Here’s another Harding slogan.  I’m pretty sure this one had its origin in the servant heart of one very likeable, charismatic (in the non-miraculous sense), little, white-haired, charming man.  It’s so simple that it’s almost timeless, context-less.  But the logo aspect appears passe, doesn’t it?

[Aside:  I don’t recall if any of the graduate institutions I attended for one or more courses had slogans per se.  No matter what the marketers think, for all their well-intentioned work, those costly wordings and images don’t stick with some of us.]

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The institution at which I now teach, Houghton College, had this slogan emblazoned on its fleet vehicles and letterhead when I arrived five years ago.

A Higher Purpose in Mind

I kind of liked that one.  But when it went the way of the mammoth and mastodon, I realized that it, too, was a slogan that had outlived its contemporary context.  Actually, it was probably ill-advised at the outset, not unlike “Educating for Eternity.”  Yes, I get “higher purpose,” and the inclusion of the mind is clever for a higher-ed institution, and especially one that has way-above-average aggregate SAT scores.  But … imagine the constituent of another “Christian institution”¹ as the Houghton van passes by.  “Hmm.  We are trying to be Christian, too.  Do they think they’re better than we are?”  Or, worse, imagine the basic, secular person who might have heard of Houghton but who knows nothing about it.  The phrasing “Higher Purpose” might have sounded differently cocky and/or out of touch.

~ ~ ~

Postcript   These educational institutions’ slogans bring to mind that education occurs regardless of marketing.  Personally, I’m learning some tough lessons recently, and I’m not learning them very easily or willingly.  I’m also learning biblical Greek in a much more intentional way than ever before.  What are you learning these days?

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¹ Strong, well-founded feelings of lots of Christian college teachers and administrators to the contrary, I’ve been unconvinced for more than 20 years that the “Christian institution” notion is one grounded in reality.  The people are generally much more than nominally Christian:  most at Harding and Houghton, for instance, are more serious than the average bear about their Christianity.  It’s that the organizational workings of an institution are so often at odds with the needs of individual Christian disciples, and a world apart from the priorities of the Kingdom of God.

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3 thoughts on “Slogans in context

  1. godschildrenorg 11/18/2012 / 11:08 pm

    Interesting, humorous, thought provoking. What am I learning? hmmm…what an insignificant grain of sand I am, easily washed out into the ocean depths. Yet God patiently places me back on shore…even on solid ground.

    Like

    • Brian Casey 11/19/2012 / 12:40 am

      Yes, that kind of lesson is very difficult to learn. Sounds like you’re more spiritually minded about it than I am right now!

      Sent from smart phone. Not responsible for voice dictation errors.

      Like

    • godschildrenorg 11/19/2012 / 1:44 am

      Well, I’ve got about 30 more years experiencing God’s grace than you do. In time, you’re going to get to where God wants you in more ways that one. You are a Seeker. I think God likes that. Seek and you shall find – a very wise man said that once. :- ) I trust His promises.

      Like

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