Marvin Olasky

Senior Fellow, Center for Science and Culture

Marvin Olasky is a Senior Fellow of Discovery Institute and its Center for Science and Culture. He edited WORLD magazine from 1992 to 2021 and was a professor, provost, chairholder, and dean at The University of Texas at Austin, The King’s College, Patrick Henry College, and the World Journalism Institute from 1983 to 2021. He is the author of 28 books including The Tragedy of American Compassion, Fighting for Liberty and Virtue, Abortion Rites, Reforming Journalism, and Lament for a Father.


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Dr. Olasky earned an A.B. from Yale University in 1971 and a Ph.D. in American Culture from the University of Michigan in 1976. He was a Boston Globe correspondent and a Du Pont Company coordinator, and has written 5,000 articles for publications including World, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and Fortune.

Dr. Olasky is a Presbyterian Church in America elder and has chaired the boards of City School of Austin and the Austin Crisis Pregnancy Center. He has spoken on six continents and his writings have been translated into Chinese, Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese, and Russian. He has been to 79 major league and spring training ballparks, all 254 Texas counties, and all three Delaware counties.

Marvin has been married for 45 years and has four sons, four daughters-in-law, and five grandchildren. He has been a foster parent, a PTA president, a cross-country bicycle rider, an informal advisor to George W. Bush, and a Little League assistant coach.

Archives

Could Shared Housing Help Curb Homelessness?

This week I'm writing about an unconventional man mostly ignored, Michael Ullman. My January 13, 2023 column examined his work, which grows out of his 25 years of experience in managing and researching homeless services, and his hundreds of conversations with people living in shelters and on the streets. He is still rowing against the current with his National Homeless Information Project.

The Blazing World: A New History of Revolutionary England

On July 4 we celebrated the rare revolution that worked. This page focuses on two wonderfully readable books about the mostly unsuccessful 17th century revolution that preceded America’s 18th century one, and the partly successful 19th century revolution that followed. Jonathan Healey’s The Blazing World: A New History of Revolutionary England, 1603-1689 (Knopf, 2023) features vivid, specific detail. Some on the Puritan side who opposed any physical depiction of Jesus “used a statue of Christ for musket practice, cheering when they hit it in the face.” In London, Sir John Clotworthy used his halberd—an ax blade topped with a spike—to rip up a Rubens painting of the crucified Christ. That’s what happened to objects. Subjects—human beings—often had it worse. In the

Community — Not Housing — First

Can people, laden with childhood traumas plus the hard experience of years of homelessness, overcome their pasts? On a Monday afternoon in May, I threw that question at Alan Graham, founder and CEO of Austin's Community First! Village (CFV), where close to 400 formerly homeless humans now live.

A Church Dinner for the Homeless

At 5:50 pm on a drizzly day in May, in the parking lot closest to the church's back entrance, backpacks held spots in line for the central Austin homeless who sat on a nearby patch of grass, waiting for dinner.

Homelessness is Exceptionally Hard to Solve

Sunrise pastor Mark Hilbelink said its navigation center last year helped more than 800 people get off the streets. Michael Busby was typical among those who benefited. He told the press that Sunrise staffers "helped me out a lot. They helped me restore my sanity. They help out with housing, they help out with medication, they keep your meds for you, and they give them out to you every day or every week."

Middle America Has a Lot to Teach us About Homelessness

In this episode, I’m joined by Discovery Institute Senior Fellow Marvin Olasky who is the author of 29 books, the former editor of WORLD Magazine, and has spent the last year living in homeless programs across the U.S. to learn from the people living in them. We discuss the bias of West Coast journalism, what makes programs successful, and the stories of people Marvin has lived

Not In My Backyard: When Serving the Homeless Clashes with Neighbors

Five miles southwest of "Church Under the Bridge" is Sunrise Community, a church that's part of everyday trench warfare against homelessness. At 11 am on Wednesday, May 22, 60 people (mostly in T-shirts and worn jeans, and carrying plastic shopping bags) waited patiently in two quiet lines. One line was for lunch: Two volunteers sat at a table handing out cups of cold water and plates of pizza and sandwiches. The other line was for everything else, including picking up ID cards and bus passes. One window was for getting mail — for thousands, it's their only address.

Mission Possible: Feeding Bellies and Hearts in Austin

Last month, starting on a Sunday morning, I learned more about the intractability of homelessness in my home city, Austin, Texas. During three decades of "Church Under the Bridge" Sunday morning services, some of the faces have changed but the overall tragedy of lost lives has not.

Families, Politics, Baseball, Movies

We all tend to favor life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but what happens when the pursuit ruins children’s happiness (and sometimes keeps them from life itself)? Melissa Kearney’s The Two-Parent Privilege (U. of Chicago, 2023) shows that the national Wars on Poverty and Drugs have been less effective than the War on Family that the cultural left has waged for sixty years. In 1960 5% of births were to unmarried mothers: Now the figure is about 50%. Some reasons—worse job prospects for working class males, better prospects for women—have economic roots. Some are cultural: Kearney notes, “The conventional mores in the United States today are to treat matters of family and family formation with a dedicated agnosticism, avoiding any suggestion that one type of family

Beyond the “Vets, Pets, and Kids” View of Homelessness

This column starts my third year of weekly writing about homelessness, with the goal of learning, teaching, and eventually turning the columns into a book. Both human interest and intellectual interest propel me. I'll start with the human interest and the two words "suffered enough." The expression comes to mind every time I live in a homeless shelter for a few days and ask residents about their pasts.

Helping New York Orphans: What Went Wrong, and Right

The past two weeks I’ve given a largely positive view of how Charles Brace and others helped homeless children in New York (and other northeastern cities). But when orphan trains headed west from 1853 to 1929, sometimes things went wrong.

Go West, Children: How Charles Brace Placed Orphans in Families

Last week I wrote about how Charles Brace set up homes for homeless children but did not see institutionalization as ideal. He wondered whether it was possible to find thousands of families willing to take responsibility for the children of the streets. The problem seemed enormous. Brace wrote: "How were places to be found? . . . And when the children were placed, how were their interests to be watched over, and acts of oppression or hard dealing prevented or punished?"

Caring for Orphans in New York City

Two columns ago I mentioned Charles Brace's concern about high rents in New York City. When Brace founded the New York Children's Aid Society in 1853, he began by setting up religious meetings aimed at orphaned or abandoned boys from 10 to 18 who slept in alleys.

The Wrongs of Spring

Two decades ago John Judis and Ruy Teixeira prophesied big changes in their book The Emerging Democratic Majority. Their new book asks, Where Have All the Democrats Gone? (Henry Holt, 2023). Essentially, college-educated professionals (some with unorthodox lifestyles) have now pushed out “many of the people in the deindustrialized towns and small cities of middle America stripped of essential elements of their identity.” Now that Democrats are no longer “the party of the common, average, ordinary man and woman,” good Republican candidates often win. The Hollow Parties by Daniel Schlozman and Sam Rosenfeld (Princeton University Press, 2024) shows why both Republicans and Democrats aren’t able to select the candidates most likely to win: Money talks and political parties no

Go West, Young Man (and Woman)

We often think westward migration was for males only. In 1862 the Homestead Act allowed land claims from “any person who is the head of a family, or who has arrived at the age of twenty-one years.” Women, including those widowed by the Civil War, made one third of all homestead claims. Some men and women who made it to the Midwest and went no further became homeless.

Helping the Manhattan Poor: A History

Much of what we hear in national media concerning homelessness originates in the salons of Manhattan, and if we want to understand why our policy savants sometimes go far off course, we should understand the history of New York City’s successes and failures.

The Ups and Downs of Recovery at The Forge

The past two months I've written about those making progress at Forge, the Christian shelter I lived at in Joplin, Missouri. But not everyone perseveres. I played disc golf on a sunny day last October with one Forge resident who told me how he had become a devotee of YouTube Satanist channels. For a time, he combined demonic rituals, drug use, and increasingly elaborate drawings of skulls and skeletons.

Homelessness in Colonial New England

Since starting this weekly column in June 2022 I’ve covered lots of topics, including homelessness in late medieval England — but I’ve shorted American history. Since today, April 19, is the anniversary of the battles in Lexington and Concord that started the Revolutionary War in 1775, it’s a good day on which to take a rapid ride through the New England countryside and summarize common responses to homelessness in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Remaking the World, Past and Present

Andrew Wilson’s Remaking the World: How 1776 Created the Post-Christian West (Crossway, 2023) has probably left dozens of historians groaning, Why didn’t I think of that? Wilson could have written one more bloviating account of how the WEIRD revolution — Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic — affected the world during the past 250 years. Instead, he concentrated on the one year that brought forth our Declaration of Independence, Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason draft, Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, and many other seminal texts. Wilson combines on-point research and clear writing. Patrick Weil’s The Madman in the White House (Harvard, 2023) is two interesting books in one. The “madman” is

The Four Phases of Recovery at Forge Center

Last year I wrote about how formerly-homeless residents of the Orange County Rescue Mission in California could progress through an 18-month program in four phases that give them the readiness to live on their own. Through hard experience the Forge Center in Joplin, Missouri has also come up with four phases, with completion possible in 16 months.