Five Questions – Prin Edition (A-‘s Answers)


The following answers are from A-, a member of the Ex-Christian Science Facebook community.


1) Why did you attend Principia? 
My cousins went to the Middle and Upper schools so I was familiar with it. I loved the A/U camp at Buena Vista and some of the counselors were students at the college. I thought it would be like camp. My grandfather went to the Upper school, so he approved and helped pay the tuition. Plus I felt safer. This was just after the 60’s and all the campus riots.
2) Did your experiences at Principia impact/influence your views of Christian Science? 
Yes, I became more devout. My parents were rather lackadaisical in their observance of CS. I became very active in the church and went through class instruction after graduation.
3) If you had a do-over would you attend Principia again? Why/why not? …
How can I answer that? I loved it at the time and I met my husband there. So I would. But did it prepare me for real life? Not at all. So from that perspective, no.
4) Would you recommend Principia to a young Christian Scientist? 
No.
5) Please share one positive experience and one negative experience about your time at the school/college. 
As I said, I met my husband there. As for negative, I didn’t think there was anything really negative at the time. It was after college that the fallout began,  the unexplained deaths of friends from college, the eventual breakup of my marriage due to the fact that my husband had been led to believe he could heal being gay through CS. Even after I left the church, my early indoctrination led to my ignoring serious health problems until it was almost too late.

Five Questions – Prin Edition (T’s Answers)

Why did you attend Principia?

My parents decided and I said fine. There was a private school up the road that I liked better, but it was too far to commute and too close to board. I’m sure that my parents liked the idea of the Christian Science community too. One parent had attended Prin as well, which surely impacted their thought process, and may have helped with financial aid. I visited as an 8th grader and had a pretty fun time. Living in a dorm seemed fun, but the thing that stuck with me was the school store. That tells you all you need to know about whether 14-year-olds can make good long-term decisions for themselves!

Did your experiences at Principia impact/influence your views of Christian Science?

I’m sure it changed it some due to a wider range of exposure. I don’t think I grew closer to it or further from it because I attended. I could not have identified this at the time, but there were always people trying to pass judgement on me under the guise of Christian Science. This happened at home, at church, at Prin. So while Prin perhaps had an opportunity to help me like it more, they didn’t take it. As I became more broad-minded in college I realized that many Christian Scientists maintain their naivety, judgmentalism, and prejudice through the religion. At the same time, there were good people practicing it too, so it just felt like a normal cross-section of the world at the time.

If you had a ‘do-over’, would you attend Principia again? Why or why not?

No, because it kept me from critical family events of the time that I did not know were coming. Of course, that may have been part of the reason that I was shipped off. Not accounting for that facet, and IF I knew then what I know now, then maybe the Upper School only. Living in a dorm was indeed fun, and I had a vast number of experiences that I never could have had at home–participating in productions in an auditorium of a quality that few high schoolers enjoy, sneaking out of the dorms at all hours, eating meals with friends three meals a day. I’m sure a therapist could help me make a long list of traumas and disorders stemming from living in a Christian Science bubble 24/7, but I’d say that the damage that caused is probably no more or less than the damage I would have sustained going to high school as the lone Christian Scientist. In most ways it was a relief at the time. College, though, is too important a time to waste hiding in a bubble. It’s when young adults should be turning outward to the real world.

Would you recommend Principia to a young Christian Scientist?

I’ve gone back and forth on this many many times since graduating, for a different reason each time. But in the end, the most major consideration is the lack of security in health and safety available in a Christian Science community. One student died in the dorm when I was a student there. He had a heart problem of some kind or another … We got no more information, and I’m not sure there was much more to be had. Would he have survived at another school? His chances would have been a lot better, anyway! Many Christian Science parents go out of their way to ensure that if anything happens, an ambulance is NOT called for their children. This just isn’t where you want to send your kids, or where you want to be, when it hits the fan. If you’re an 8th grader contemplating Prin, just remember that at your public school you can probably get to the hospital before your folks find out. It may save your life.

One positive experience & one negative experience.

Having a huge campus as a 24-hour playground was a positive. I never injured myself, but I did face major disciplinary action a few times. A negative was the ignoring of the students’ emotional health by houseparents, teachers, administrators, everybody. High school is a period of huge growth in a child’s life, and I had family and other situations that made my progress difficult in many ways. During my time at the US I had a couple people who were helping me by playing the long game, but no one who I really thought cared about my day-to-day struggles. I turned in a couple pieces of work that would probably have gotten me sent to the school psychologist in a public school, but which were completely ignored at Prin–not as much as a line from Science and Health offered.

Five Questions – Principia Edition – M’s Answers

Former Principia Students, who are former Christian Scientists, answer some of the most common questions they’re asked about their Principia experiences. 


1) Why did you attend Principia?

[Principia College] gave me a good scholarship and the place felt very comfortable. It had a homey atmosphere. Visiting weekend was fun, and I felt better attending a school I had actually seen. I had plenty of qualms about the school, but it was affordable and nice.

2) Did your experiences at Principia impact/influence your views of Christian Science?

Yes. I was a devout Christian Scientist throughout and in the years following Prin. I attributed my disagreements with the numerous people there and the institution itself to a misinterpretation of Christian Science, which I considered a personal religion. I didn’t think it could be regulated in the way the school tried to do. I felt as though it was an intolerant, harmful, and in some cases illegal means of practicing the religion, and I had a hard time reconciling how so many Christian Scientists, who were supposedly praying to God for guidance, could get the wrong answer from God so many times. I also struggled with what I felt to be true and what I thought should be true according to Christian Science.

3) If you had a do-over would you attend Principia again? Why/why not? 

I don’t think I’d redo my time there because I learned so much about the way the world works. It was a microcosm of bureaucracy and mundane evil. Counterintuitively, I might be more naive if I had gone to a more “worldly” college. I met a few great people who are still good friends. We went through a lot together. Maybe I would have had a more ordinary and “better” experience elsewhere, but I’m trying to accept that my weird background is part of who I am. And I do think I got a good education there. I really liked my professors and the place was beautiful with nice facilities.

4) Would you recommend Principia to a young Christian Scientist?

This is a hard question. I don’t know if I could recommend it to anyone. It is not a healthy place. A few years ago I might have said yes. There are some amazing opportunities, and many people treasured their time there. But I’m no longer a Christian Scientist and I’ve seen its dark side and seclusion from the world.

5) Please share one positive experience and one negative experience about your time at the school/college

There are so many of both. One of my best experiences [at the College] was an abroad program to England. It, as well as a field study program to the Southern United States, was magical.

Perhaps my most memorable bad experience was when I tried to report a student for harassment and the school proceeded to make everyone involved, except the perpetrator, feel guilty. Many institutions deal abominably with this sort of thing, and in this case there was a special Christian Science brand of victim blaming.

Five Questions – Principia Edition – H’s answers


Former Principia Students, who are former Christian Scientists, answer some of the most common questions they’re asked about their Principia experiences.


1) Why did you attend Principia?

“Good” grants and scholarship combinations made it appear affordable (which it was not, in either case). The small, quiet campus was a promising break from an overcrowded high school experience and I didn’t want to face thousands of new faces who were likely to be drinking or otherwise more rowdy than I wanted to handle.

2) Did your experiences at Principia impact/influence your views of CS?

Yes – knowing that a lot of students who attended Prin left CS after, I thought it was a shame that Prin turned so many people off of the religion. In hindsight, their draconian policies were probably helpful in highlighting the absurdity of the religion as a whole. One regret was that while I felt like a “bad” CS at Prin, I got more into CS after leaving. I did gradually ease away from the religion a few years after leaving Prin, though.

3) If you had a do-over would you attend Principia again? Why/why not? 

Yes – I would take it less seriously, but the friends and the campus made it worthwhile: I would have gone under at a larger school and Prin was a comfortable size.

4) Would you recommend Principia to a young CS?

No – a similar experience can probably be found elsewhere with less baggage.

5) Please share one positive experience and one negative experience about your time at the school/college

Positive…………………..

Negative – total lack of confidentiality when dealing with RCs; nosy RCs who would shame single students for not having a boyfriend but would hound students who were dating, assuring them that if anything was amiss/a violation of the code, they’d be caught.

Positive – maybe it was Stockholm Syndrome, but some of the friendships forged there have been remarkable.

Five Questions – Principia Edition – C’s answers

Former Principia Students, who are former Christian Scientists, answer some of the most common questions they’re asked about their Principia experiences.


1) Why did you attend Principia?

I had several reasons for attending Principia College. My grandmother took me to Summer Session twice during my high school years and I fell in love with the campus. I was still fighting hard to understand and believe Christian Science at that point in my life because my family expected it of me. I thought being surrounded by a community of practicing Christian Scientists would help me understand. The largest reason was that I wanted to get away from my emotionally abusive father.

2) Did your experiences at Principia impact/influence your views of CS?

They did, to some extent. I was initially surprised at the strong pressure from the young men there to be sexually involved. I guess I had somehow thought CS guys would be above that. I was blissfully unaware of some of the hypocritical things that went on around campus, but just knowing that so many of my peers were not living up to the “moral standards” changed my views a bit.

3) If you had a do-over would you attend Principia again? Why/why not? 

This is so hard to answer. I regret sinking myself so far into debt for undergrad school. I regret being in a department (art history) that had so little concentration on helping students be ready for employment or grad school. I do not regret getting away from home. I love so many of the friends I made at Prin. I was fortunate to miss any serious medical events like a measles epidemic (although I was there for the flood of ’93). I can’t go back and change my decision, and it’s really hard to imagine choosing anything different. Going to Summer Session made me want to be there. I didn’t even apply to any other colleges. I would like to change that part, but I loved being at Prin most of the time, so overall, I don’t regret it.

4) Would you recommend Principia to a young CS?

Only if they can do it without going deep into debt. I generally would recommend a less expensive school for undergrad. I would also warn them not to expect a bunch of perfect Christian Scientists.

5) Please share one positive experience and one negative experience about your time at the school/college

Positive experience: I made some wonderful friends during my time at Principia, some of whom are still close. I learned a lot about dealing with different personality types, too.

Negative experience: I got pregnant the first time I ever had sex, but I had no idea. My first time happened on the last day of my freshman year at Principia College. My boyfriend and I had been skirting the edges of intercourse for some time, and we both wanted to have sex before we parted for the summer. We didn’t use any form of birth control. Unlike some CS parents, mine had allowed me to attend health and science classes all through my years in public schools, so I wasn’t entirely ignorant on these matters, but I had a vague belief that my case of chicken pox at the age of 16 had rendered me infertile. I have no idea what his reasoning was; we didn’t discuss it. I was embarrassed enough without trying to ask him if he had a condom.

The reason I didn’t know I was pregnant was that I had periods pretty much as normal during that summer. The pregnancy was probably abnormal—tubal, perhaps. My boyfriend and I both arrived back on campus early that fall. He was on his House Board and I was on a sports team. At our earliest opportunity, we had sex again. I went back to my dorm to clean up and noticed that I had started to bleed. I called him with my concern, but he simply said something reassuring—I don’t remember exactly what it was. That evening, he went to St. Louis for an event. I stayed alone in my dorm room.

I bled heavily and began to notice bits of solid material included in the blood. It didn’t occur to me at first that it was a miscarriage because I had been having my period. I think I briefly realized it later on as I continued to bleed into the night, but it didn’t sink in until a couple years later. Eventually, I passed out on my bed. I woke up to blood soaked through my clothes and into the mattress. I realized my roommates would ask questions if they saw it and flipped my mattress.

It never seemed like a real option to go to Cox Cottage. I was alone and scared, but didn’t dare ask for help because I knew I would face condemnation if someone figured out what had happened. I think I also realized that I was unlikely to get any real help at Cox Cottage. That night was one of the scariest of my life.

Five Questions – Principia Edition – B’s Answers

Former Principia Students, who are former Christian Scientists, answer some of the most common questions they’re asked about their Principia experiences.


Why did you attend Principia? 

I applied to Principia College because it was recommended by my brother (who had attended the Upper School) and other people in our local Christian Science community.

Did your experiences at Principia impact/influence your views of Christian Science? 

I was a fully believing Christian Scientist when I started at Principia, and I was still a true believer when I finished. If I had attended a different college or university I probably would have become a more critical thinker and developed doubts about Christian Science.

If you had a do-over would you attend Principia again? Why/why not? … 

No. Looking back, I realize that Principia did little to prepare me for life in the real world. Principia is a sheltered experience that is not helpful for developing maturity and independence.

Would you recommend Principia to a young Christian Scientist? 

Young Christian Scientists would do well to avoid Principia College (unless your intention is a career within the Christian Science community). If you are interested in science or engineering, be aware that physics at Principia is taught with a metaphysical slant that will not be regarded well by graduate programs. If you are interested in a career in wildlife management or ecology, be aware that Principia’s limited biology curriculum is weak in the areas of microbiology, biochemistry, and anything to do with pathologies (all of which are essential for a field biologist).

And by the way, you should know that Principia is puritanical on the matter of sex. Principia urges students to “strive for dominion over all claims of sensuality.” You can be expelled for premarital sexual activity.

Please share one positive experience and one negative experience about your time at the school/college. 

Principia’s no-cut policy made it possible for me to play an intercollegiate sport, which I probably would not have been allowed to do at some other school. I was a mediocre player and spent most of the time on the bench, but it was nice to have the opportunity.

On the negative side, I was disciplined twice for free speech. One incident involved the campus newspaper, the Principia Pilot. We published a satirical issue and the administration was not amused. We were ordered to report to the Dean of Faculty, who reprimanded us and demanded that we recover and destroy all the copies we could find. Principia College has low tolerance for expression of diverse views.