The College Crash

7:30 AM

Berea College

The college world is messed up.

And I don’t mean by the drunken partying up in UW-Madison or the evolution in nominally Christian universities or the disturbing adventure of walking through a liberal college’s art gallery. I mean that it’s fundamentally, from the roots up, wrong.

Another day I will write about the spiritual decay of higher academia (though, allegedly and interestingly, the more you’re educated, the more spiritual you are). Or do I even need to? If you’re one of those homeschoolers who watched Francis Schaeffer’s How Shall We Then Live? freshman year, you’ll be disgusted by my feeble observations. After that Other Day, I’ll perhaps write again of the dyspepsia and stomach ulcers caused by bad art pandered as self-expression. And perhaps after that Other Other Day, I’ll mention briefly how one cannot even peacefully eat free food in the cafeteria due to explicit and/or wacky student creativity nailed to the walls. And in case you didn’t get the point the first time, I might bring up the subject of art and liberal universities again, playing a sort of sculpture Pictionary with the insane creations planted prominently on the campus lawn.

But even apart from an explicitly Christian background—even discussed in an attempted moral vacuum—even when we’re just dealing with the idea of classical education Aristotle spawned—higher education is morbidly wrong.

Pop Quiz: Why do we go to college?

Actually, that is a ridiculous question. Who asks that question anymore? (That’s rhetorical, by the way—unless your answer is about one of those mean guidance counselors who told every smart person I know that they’d fail in life and college.) What’s so telling about our broken higher education is that we beg the question and assume the answer: “Well, I go to college because it’s as culturally mandatory as 4K kindergarten.”

So the question isn’t asked why, in any sense asking for a reconsideration. The question is what—what degree? what career? what college?

The problem with higher education is twofold: (1) it’s choked by high school grads who haven’t the slightest idea of what they’re doing and (2) it’s dumbed itself down to easy access for those high school grads who haven’t the slightest idea of what they’re doing. And when you have shallow ideas, you have shallow vision, shallow outcome and shallow education. A true education, based on the enlarging of the mind, the tackling of truth and the tapping into of historical thought, cannot be obtained by those not willing to obtain it. Minimum input = minimum output. You get what you put in—no more, no less.

That’s pretty basic to understand. Colleges get this—they get it enough to realize that if they want the funds pouring in, they need to woo those shallow minds. So instead of upholding high standards, colleges have stooped to pragmatism, the one thing shallow minds seem to grasp. Instead of offering challenge, college offers compromise: you come a take a re-run of high school English comp and listen to a few lectures and pass a few tests and we’ll give you a shiny diploma and the (almost) guarantee of a great job.

Too shallow to grasp a different vision that might take a different path from college-career-retirement, these minds and these pupils sincerely sign up, wanting decent jobs and the bragging rights of a minimal post-high education. Bad economics and an obsession for careerism drives much of America’s student body and faculty today.

A marine biologist studying art history? That’s not my field of interest. A secretary knowingly debating about cultural apologetics? How does that benefit me? An English major pursuing a physics class? You never use that in real life, anyway.

It drives me up a wall.

There’s something to be said for prudence and the acknowledgement that no one can be an expert on everything. For some people, they rightly choose the minimal college route in order to jumpstart their vision. But even for them, even for those who may never step foot on campus (except for eight-year-old piano competitions)—a classical, liberal arts education never hurt anyone.

Indeed, it’s the key to success in both career and real life. Back when our founding fathers—no, back even to when Aristotle started teaching—the pursuit of truth, the enlightenment of the mind and those “impractical” courses permeated higher education. You learned political science and Greek not because it was totally pragmatic but because it stretched you into well-roundedness, if you will.

My favorite quote, mistakenly attributed to William Butler Yeats, goes, “Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.” That’s a liberal arts education in a nutshell. What’s special about a liberal arts education is that it just doesn’t teach you what to think, in a finite “filling of the pail” way. It teaches you how to think—in a curiosity-inducing, “lighting of a fire” sort of way. Forced to digest Melville, read Plato and interact with scientific theories (and half-theories)—forced to be reading about events, people and ideas you don’t agree with or aren’t even supposed to agree with—this forces you to really develop the core of your character, your principles, your worldview.

Universities back in the day were hubs of research and exploration into philosophy, science and history. It was the marketplace of ideas. You went there not because you could get a piece of paper and a job guarantee but to be educated—to enlarge your mind in a way grammar school could not.

Reading, foreign language, politics, law, history, the arts—look up the educations of your favorite Revolutionary heroes and you’ll see how strange and marvelously liberating their education was.

“That’s nice,” so one might say, “but how is Plato going to land me a job?”


But that is exactly the opposite of what the liberal arts cultivates. People and life is not primarily career-oriented: it’s all about one’s interaction with the truth, with understanding, with tending to body, soul and spirit—without necessarily neglecting the importance of earning daily bread.

That’s what’s missing in today’s higher education. The remedy? Forbid yourself to ever say, “After all, this won’t matter in real life” and dust off Shakespeare.

(Or Charles Dickens, if you’d rather prefer.)

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21 impressions

  1. First of all, I just wanted to say that in the paragraph about your pop quiz, you proved me correct once more. My guidance counselor told me I needed to go to college and that I'd probably do well in college.

    Secondly, I was wondering why I needed to take Physics even though I'm going for Secondary Education and Spanish. This kind of summed up the reason for me.

    Thirdly, I'm going to school not for the promise of a career or for the college-career-retirement. I'm going because my career requires college. I miss the days when my great-grandmother taught, she didn't have any extra schooling. However, I then wouldn't be able to teach only Spanish like I want to.

    Finally, this blog post was really uplifting. I don't know if I'll make it home for the weekend and I needed a friendly voice with some good advice, thanks a bunch.

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  2. *coughs* Why did it say seven years? Confused. Perhaps I should've read the whole post. I was too busy looking at the background (which has no background) and trying to get it to work. But anyways, here's a comment.

    And if no one else comments, I'll hack and force everyone else to.

    Sincerely,

    Sister Strong

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  3. It’s depressing that you’re probably not coming home this weekend......blah. I hate St. Norbert’s. Just sayin’.

    Okay, I don’t really hate it.

    Just kind of. A lot. But if they put on The Importance of Being Earnest and I get to see it, I will eternally love them.

    You’re the first smart person I know who got a good recommendation from a guidance counselor. A GC told my dad he'd amount to nothing in life, so in general, GCs are my mortal enemy. But I guess if they love The Importance of Being Earnest I could possibly forgive them...after they retract certain statements.

    You're taking physics for your future Nobel-winning son who's going to need extra help at age seven with his college physics homework. So pay close attention.

    Hopefully you didn't take the post as a moratorium (lovely word) on all college...I figured you wouldn't but just wanted to make it clear. I think you're doing it for the right reasons.

    May your weekend be lovely and full of pepperoni pizza. It's Friday night, after all.

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  4. Floppeth. LOL. We could have our own little conversation, seeing as we never talk, anyway. I'm sure we could entertain a whole bunch of stoics if we tried really hard.

    It says seven years, my dear girl, because technically college is supposed to last four years but actually it gets dragged out forever and ever. Don't ask me why. It was orange and looked good on Google search. That should satisfy any questions.

    That background - or lack thereof - bugs me. Do you think Blogger still holds a grudge against me? Did I offend the Eternal Rules of Graphic Designing? Is my blog really so horrendous that the new Internet Explorer browser chooses to desecrate it further?

    I can't say. You are pitted against a dangerous enemy, my graphic designer. May the Force and the CSS code be with you.

    Yeah...I'm kinda hyped on caffeine right now.

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  5. Why are we three the only one's commenting?

    Just asking.

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  6. (1) Because everybody is busy actually doing school instead of talking about it.

    OR

    (2) I write confusedly.

    OR

    (3) They hate the new blog design.

    OR (and most likely)

    (4) Everyone's been abducted by pink aliens.

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  7. Your first and fourth reasons for lack of comments perfectly summarize why am I an not commenting this post right now. Currently, I am busily doing school while being abducted by pink aliens. It's quite a sensation, let me tell you.

    Actually, the real reason why I didn't comment sooner was because I was too busy working on college homework. And I mean that in all seriousness :) Yes, I am in college, and *gasp* I'm not an online student getting my degree from someplace like College Plus. My parents and I thought a lot about this discision to go to college, but we came to believe that this is what the Lord has for me right now. So, for the first time in my life I can refer to myself as a busy college student getting a degree in graphic design (from a community college closeby). I don't it's necessary to go to college, and I almost didn't do it, but the Lord's leading is always best.

    Now, that I've rambled on and really not said anythng that directly pertains to your post (it was a good post, btw!), I shall note that I very much like your new blog design. I've been meaning to comment and say that for a little while now. Forgive my slowness.

    And forgive me for the fact that I rambled on about college without being sure that it pertained to your post. I'm a bit to lazy to actually take the time to think of something to say that does, but I wanted to comment. So this is the outcome.

    (yes, you may official believe that I am weird)

    Love,
    Amy

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  8. *cough* Bailey dear, everyone knows that pink aliens are perfectly friendly. A bit air-headed, certainly, but harmless. The orange polka-dotted ones, on the other hand . . .

    I'm still formulating my official opinion on the "college question". Which is why I didn't comment. Now I'm talking just to make myself known :o) However, I do agree that literature, history, English, and rhetoric have been sadly neglected in modern education, and it would be wonderful if everyone had as much passion for Shakespeare and Dickens as you. (Unfortunately, I'm not included in this group. I attempted to start Oliver Twist last year and put it down after wrestling through the first paragraph, which was all one sentence and very dense. To all you who can actually read that and enjoy it-- may your tribe increase.)

    *HUGS*
    ~Madison

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  9. Dear Amy, you think yourself weird? Then you are allowed to comment. Sensible people are too difficult to get along with. They make too much sense.

    Shifting gears here - you mean you dared go against the Scriptural mandate of CollegePlus! by actually following God's will?

    Shocking. I like you. If anybody should be going to college, it's people like you. (And of course you were on topic. You mentioned college, which has a lot more to do with college than rumors of pink alien abductions that an anonymous crazy girl started.)

    Be blessed and have fun in your college adventure!

    Miss Madison, even if you aren't well-read in Dickens, you certainly know much about alien species. And that's the important thing in life.

    By the "college question"...do you mean "should Christians go to college?" or "should girls go to college?" or "should most people go to college?" or {fill in the blank}? I'd love to hear your unofficial opinion on college, if you have any pressing need to share it.

    It is a great relief to me that you're now safely unabducted and that your short period of abduction probably brought more amusement than anything. *HUGS*

    (You girls are so much fun. :o)))

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  10. If the girls are so much fun, I must still be abducted. I don't think it's little pink aliens or even orange polka-dotted aliens. While I was looking for my little martian while trying to stay away from my college homework, I came across a very unfriendly person. His name is Pizza the Hutt, all of his pepperoni minions keep popping up in all of my conversations.

    See what college life does to a person? Living on campus is liable to drive one insane.

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  11. I must beg for your forgiveness. I didn't comment because of reason 1, and now I'm paranoid that reason 4 will (*SQUEAL*) happen to me!!!

    Actually, that may not be so bad. I might rather be abducted by aliens than have to go study again. After all, today is Sunday. I shouldn't have to do homework. *sob*

    You all are having such a funny conversation that I just had to add a few paragraphs. I'll have to plead guilty to the same fault as Amy, now...this comment didn't really have much to do with your post. I just wanted to say that you're rather funny on caffeine. Maybe that would improve MY sense of humor. ;-)

    Well. Back to the homework.

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  12. Why, thanks. I spent several years studying various rainbow-striped species in a colony on Pluto. Unfortunately, there was an enormous uprising among the creatures when their beloved home was demoted to "minor planet" by those foolish scientists, and my research was lost in the ensuing protests. But such is life.

    And by "the college question" I mean the oft-debated "Should Christian girls go to college?" It seems popular opinion among conservative blogger families is that girls should train as stay-at-home daughters in their single years. Here comes my unofficial opinion. (Prepare yourself; Madison has been known to talk for hours once given the opportunity to air her thoughts. )

    While I do respect girls who choose to remain at home, I think that college can be a wise decision. First, it allows you to sharpen and challenge your mind, which is good in of itself. A well-developed mind would also be advantageous if you plan to homeschool your children, one of whom is certain to be a prodigy of some sort :o) Also, going to college is necessary if God calls you to a field that requires a degree. This leads into the debate on whether women should work outside the home at all, which is a whole other can of worms.

    (P.S. I’m working on setting up my own blog. Toying with settings and designs is taking a while, but once I get it all set up I’ll send you the link :o))

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  13. I have heard people talking about other people who don't have "higher education". They seem to think that they're wasting their lives. However, these people seem to overlook that fact that these other people appear to be doing just fine.

    People have forgotten that a career is not something to be chosen - a career is something to be sought out with prayer.

    It should be "Have you found out what God wants you to do when you grow up?" Not, "What do you want to do when you grow up?"

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  14. Oh, fine, Jake, you're so much fun too, especially since the mention of Pizza the Hutt sent me rolling on the floor laughing out loud.

    Not literally, you understand, though I'm sure you could conjure up the picture.

    And if there's a direct correlation between college and insanity, I must be particularly adept at craziness to be insane at age seventeen. :D :D :D

    The pink aliens MAY NOT touch you, Julia. I gave them express permission not to. Actually, I might rather be abducted by aliens than do college homework on Sunday. Boo. :o(

    Miss Madison, I do believe you found your calling in life. You, an alientologist. Never would have suspected it.

    Thank you for sharing your opinion...I hate the fact that my blog may inspire shame in other girls who don't do life "the stay-at-home daughter way," which is just ridiculous. I'll be writing on That Question later...stay tuned. It should be interesting.

    Anna, good point. College isn't the only avenue to pursue an education, but I do think that if one declares that he IS going to get an education, it should actually BE an education instead of just career training.

    I repeat: you girls (and guy) are so much fun.

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  15. Bailey, your blog is so much fun...all of it...the wonderful posts, the comment converstaion, and just getting to know you. :D You made my day be replying to my comment. I was sitting here at my desk, and happened to think that "maybe, just maybe, Bailey *might* have replied to my comment"...and guess what! She had! My sister was making her bed (it was early morning you see, like 10:00am) and she got a full presentation of my joy over the wonderful discovery.

    Julia, you were doing homework today, too?? You poor thing! I can totally sympathize with you on this point...

    Well, got to get to bed since I have to get back to the books bright and early tomorrow. Thanks for the fun chats about college...they helped cheer me up so that I can actually tolerate this stuff again tomorrow...

    :D

    {p.s. College is not that bad. I just have to get used to being much busier and away from home two days a week. Laugh if you like. But honestly, I've been homeschooled all my life and it's an adjustment to be away from my awesome family that much. Just sayin'.}

    Have a great week, y'all!!

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  16. Since I enjoy this blog so much, I shall go ahead and leave one more comment...because I thought of a few more things to say.

    Miss Madison--if you do start a blog, I do believe I should like to read it. Leave a link here on Bailey's blog or something...I'm enjoying your comments :)

    Here's a thought about college, too: For background, I'm going to the community college for a degree in graphic design and this requires an art history course this semester. I was dreading this, believe me. I *like* art, but I don't really *care about* art the way lots of people seem to. One afternoon I was...er, compaining...to my mom about having to take such a boring and ridiculous (sp?) class as art history, where people are talking about how "art is what fulfills us and satisfies us", etc. Art does not fill or satisty me, thank you; Christ does. But I've actually been enjoying the class since then. The perspective of the class hasn't changed. I don't agree with it on points still, but I think it's pretty cool to read this stuff, realize that it's not correct, and form an opinion why I believe different.

    Is this 'dangerous'?? I mean, I've heard it said that a secular college, especially by young christian women, should be avoided because even if we think we're holding firm to our faith and beliefs, we're really being weakened by this experience. Certainly, that could be a concern, by all means; but I don't think it could be a blanket statement made. In my mind, a person could be strengthened through the experience. I mean, being homeschooled, I don't have much experience with what secular veiws on things may be, and it's almost good to see some of them and therefore be able to determine my beleifs regarding them.

    Anyway, that's just a thought, and I'd be delighted to hear some thoughts from all of you. I'm not, by the way, advocating that this is always good to put yourself in a secular envirenment (sp?) for the purpose of learning more...it's rather the musing of a college student who finds herself in this envirenment and is trying to think some things through.

    I hope this comment, Bailey, isn't minded as taking over your discussion here. You don't have to publish it if you'd rather not. And I very greatly hope that nothing came across unkind, etc., in any way, as sometimes I write something only to realize that it could be taken the wrong way :)

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  17. My goodness, Amy, of course I would respond to a comment from a person as awesome as you!

    I'm so thankful everybody was busy with college and school this week so that nobody commented so that everybody got abducted by pink aliens so that I got to know three of my sisters in Christ better. It's so fun to be able to just chat back and forth and ask all our questions that nobody can answer. :P

    LOL! Oh, homeschoolers...how I do love you and the melodrama of leaving home for a few days. I totally sympathize. Here's a special (((HUG))) for you from a girl who's had to face Education Experiences Far Away from Home. That's what cell phones are for. ;o)

    Any of you lovely people want to take a go at Amy's question? Truth be told...I've wondered the same thing.

    But I too must get to bed, to wake up early, to study college algebra, to take the CLEP test in two weeks. (((shudder))) If I get an amazing college revelation, I'll be sure to let you all know. :o) :o) :o)

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  18. By the way, Amy, you were perfectly gracious, as always. :o)

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  19. Amy—Thank you for expressing interest in my [future] blog! I take that as a great compliment :o)

    Why, you mean that good little Christian girls might actually willingly enter a secular environment because they believe it to be God’s will for them? Perish the thought! (Kidding.) I agree with most of your thoughts; I’ve had the exact same questions at one point or another. Here’s my current take on the situation:

    We will live the rest of our lives in a world that will challenge our beliefs. There’s the Buddhist proprietor of the local Chinese restaurant. The atheist who attends a church function, ready to pick holes in the gospel. The pantheistic “God-is-in-everything” author whose books are reviewed in every newspaper, displayed in every library, and advertised on every radio station. There are two ways to respond to this. We can shut ourselves away in an ivory tower, we can arm ourselves to defend Christianity. Which did Christ do?

    I believe the main mistake students make is to fail to prepare themselves for the spiritual battle on campuses. Thus the enormous number of students from Christian families who abandon their faith in college.

    Please understand, I am not condemning those who choose not to attend college, nor am I saying you should constantly expose yourself to opposing worldviews. At the same time, I believe college can be an invaluable experience.

    I’ve been having a wonderful time with this discussion :o)

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  20. So I've been thinking about Amy's question, and here's my preliminary thoughts.

    I don't think that going to a secular college proves that you're devoted to engaging in the culture and opposing worldviews...nor do I think that getting educated in a secular venue is the best way to go about getting familiar with different viewpoints.

    Indeed, as some people have proven, this "exposure" produces such close-minded pigheadedness toward anything other than a "liberal" worldview that one wonders how much of college was indoctrination and how much true learning.

    But then, I've noted that in Bible college students, especially in denominational ones.

    I think that people like Amy, though, are not as prone to that - they're interested in discovering the truth, not just dabbling around in philosophy to see whatever is most appealing. You're right, Madison...truth-training shouldn't wait until you're in college. It starts early. Way early.

    And just rejecting falsehood without actually replacing it with truth creates empty spaces in your belief system and spirituality, which, more often than not, get filled with whatever is most available or whatever knocks hardest at that space. A fully defended belief is much harder to take down than an empty room preserved For Later Use.

    (Can you tell I was just reading about bloody naval battles? Yep.)

    Ideally, there would be an amazing, passionately Christian liberal arts school across the street. But there isn't. So if it's truly the Lord's will, for whatever reason, to go to a secular college, being really grounded in Christ and fellowshipping regularly with strong Christians is essential...and I think one CAN glorify God there, if your primary goal is to discover truth and defend it, not just imbibe oneself with culture.

    Just my two cents. :o)

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  21. I had fun reading this conversation! Although seriously green aliens have got to be the creepiest. Especially when they have bulgy eyes.
    Anyway, my two cents is on the reasons for going to college. Forget all this nonsense about getting a better job. I want to go for the sake of learning. Just the thought gives me thrills. To spend the rest of my life in the persuit of knowledge would suit me well! Too bad you need to earn money to live (and to pay for college) Though it is probably good or I would end up a stuffy little absent minded book worm. LOL.
    And thus my comment comes to a close. Beware of aliens. The end.

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Hit me with your best thought! I'm very interested in your unique perspective. If you'd like to discuss things in private, feel free to email me! :)