Education Dept. takes no issue with top bureaucrat’s online PhD

All you have to do to complete a PhD level course at the Newburgh Theological Seminary & College of the Bible is read a book and summarize its contents, and that's good enough for Yukon's Department of Education.

All you have to do to complete a PhD level course at the Newburgh Theological Seminary & College of the Bible is read a book and summarize its contents, and that’s good enough for Yukon’s Department of Education.

Albert Trask, Yukon’s assistant deputy minister for public schools, received a PhD in biblical studies from Newburgh in 2005.

The school, located in Indiana, delivers Christian education courses online.

It is not recognized by major accrediting bodies in Canada or the U.S., including the Association of Theological Schools, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or the U.S. Department of Education.

It is recognized by the Transworld Accrediting Commission International, an unrecognized body that claims to accredit bible schools around the world. The U.S. Department of Education calls this sort of entity a “fake accreditation agency.”

Education deputy minister Valerie Royle issued a statement on the issue yesterday, saying that Trask’s religious credentials had no bearing on his hiring for the position.

Trask also holds a bachelor of arts, a bachelor of education and a master in educational administration from Memorial University of Newfoundland.

“What seems to be at issue are Dr. Trask’s credentials in his personal and spiritual ordination into pastoral ministry with the United Church of Canada, which were not verified at the time of his hire since they were not and are not requirements of his position as ADM of public schools.”

In addition to the online PhD, Trask has a master of divinity from the Atlantic School of Theology, which is affiliated with St. Mary’s University in Halifax.

Royle defended Trask’s continued use of the honorific “Dr.” in front of his name.

“Dr. Trask received his PhD from an accredited theological institution and is therefore entitled to use the prefix ‘Dr.’ He is more than happy to discuss his qualifications and his pastoral ministry with anyone who would like more information.”

Trask has not responded to multiple interview requests.

Here’s what you have to do to earn a PhD in biblical studies from the Newburgh Theological Seminary, according to the school’s website:

Pay US$2,595.

Pick six books from the course list. If you don’t like the books listed, you can ask to have other books approved by your advisor.

Order them online or find them in a bookstore.

Read them.

For each book, write a 10-20 page chapter-by-chapter summary of its contents. You may, but are not required to, reflect on what you learned.

If you do not wish to read so many books, you may replace up to three of them with what the school calls “no travel seminars.”

For an extra $175 per seminar, you can download a video of a lecture. Now, you only have to summarize the content in four to six pages. Do that three times, and your PhD course work is half done.

Now comes the real work: In order to complete the PhD, you have to submit a paper of a minimum of 60 pages. You must refer to at least 20 sources.

Quoting directly from your sources is encouraged, but not necessary.

“I encourage students to consider providing some quotes from the author in each paper,” states the college’s “best practices” section of its website. “While not essential to paper writing or your grade, it is helpful because authors often best summarize their own thoughts on a given subject, especially near the end of chapters.”

And that’s it. You now have a PhD.

The Association of Theological Schools has about 240 accredited American and Canadian schools in its membership, of which Newburgh is not one.

It sets out standards for accreditation of PhD programs that are much more rigorous than what is offered at the online school.

A PhD program should include two years of full-time coursework, plus the time necessary “to prepare for comprehensive examinations, to acquire teaching skills, and to conduct the research for and writing of a doctoral dissertation.”

Online learning normally does not qualify, as frequent interaction with faculty and other students is a critical component.

The institution must provide training in research methods and teaching methods.

Substantial library holdings and facilities are required, along with study space, tech support and reference staff.

Newburgh acknowledges on its website that its educational model is not approved by mainstream accreditation bodies.

“Our programs are not designed to meet any specific local, state, territorial, regional, or national licensing or credentialing laws.

“The main question to be asked when considering a school is ‘Is this the school that will please God?’ If it pleases God then it doesn’t matter who is displeased.

“We feel the accreditation of God is on our school because we strive to please Him in academics and ministry training.”

Trask sits on Yukon’s Teacher Qualification Board, which evaluates the validity of a teacher’s qualifications for the purpose of determining their salary level.

Trask defended his degree in a letter to the media this week.

“As I hold a doctorate degree, I am entitled to refer to myself and to be referred to by others as Dr., as is anyone else who holds a PhD.”

He signed the letter, “Dr. Albert Trask.”

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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