A WORD OF HELP

The child goes off to college, the parent worries, hopes, fears, trusts. Every loving parent wants to have done all they could to help their child choose a path, a college. But the older generation, that had this problem 20 or 30 or 40 years ago, sometimes struggles in helping its sons and daughters manage this decision.

In this, parents too need some help. Here are some thoughts by way of support.

Remember that this is a freighted moment in life. Does anyone find it easy to decide what they are ‘going to do with their life,’ as we tend to put it? (That is not putting it very well, actually. We don’t think that our child, just being what God made him or her to be, is, so far, not doing something with life.)

We tend to focus on the problem of the choice of work: what will they do?

Loaded on that question is the practical pressure (your child is going to have to pay their own bills soon). Plus they have their own interests and inclinations. Plus they have you looming over them, with your example and expectations and hopes and fears (they are probably wondering just what you are due, in their education, especially if you are footing the bill).

And they are very unsure how to get all those horses running together in the same direction.

THE FOG

Any young person struggling with this problem may not, as we perhaps think, have all they need to decide. There may be more to the decision of what work they will do. And that more may involve learning.

What is justice? It is something we talk a lot about, and an issue in work: but what is it? What are rights? Where do they come from? What is the purpose of life – presumably, a matter relevant to job choice? What are we saying when we call something good (a good job, a food decision)? What is good? What is evil? What is friendship? What is its relation to marriage? And so on.

In short: what is the nature of the world in which your child will make a life for themselves? Perhaps, to dissipate the fog, they need a clearer sense of it: one sound enough to base a life on. As the philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre has said,

It should matter to anyone what conception of human nature and the human condition students have arrived at by the time they enter the adult workplace .

As parents we have done something to help our children get this picture, but we have also counted heavily on their education. It is good to ask how much secondary education has been able to accomplish?

In fact a small step may be needed between high school  and university – 4 months, or 8 months, in which to get a clearer picture of the world in which your child must soon find his or her place. We offer both options.

PRACTICAL KNOWLEDGE

The idea that what is usually called an education in the Liberal Arts (philosophy, history, literature, etc.) is of no practical use in life is greatly mistaken. On the subject of work, Marcus Aurelius wrote:

Look at the plants, the birds, the ants, the bees working together to put order in the universe. And are you unwilling to do the work of a human being?

But what is the work of the human being? There are things that it is good we know, before we go forth making and doing. As Marcus Aurelius also wrote:

He who does not know what the world is, does not know where he is.

To live as a human being – the one creature made in the image of God – is to understand the world in which one works. It is to understand the place and the purpose of that work in the larger scheme of God’s plan.

The command to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind (Matthew 22:37) calls us to understand the world. And this understanding will help our children.

It will help them to understand the place that they, with their special talents, have in the world.

It will prepare them to engage the culture of our day in reasoned and confident argument.

And it will help them to negotiate the challenges to their faith that they will face when they are on their own.

Recent American studies have found that the majority of young people raised as Christians lose their faith at college. We have found the alumni of Augustine College run counter to that trend. In the years since their graduation, our students have remained solidly Christian to a degree far above the norm.

CAVEAT EMPTOR

Unfortunately, not every college that offers a Liberal Arts education will truly help to reveal “what the world is.” Labels are deceptive.

That this is so will really come as no surprise to you. If universities today can be used as instruments of escape from God’s order, you know very well that a Great Books course can be used in the same way.

Sadly, parents also need to know that not every college that calls itself Christian truly offers a year of study in total harmony with Christian faith. An envelope of Christianity enclosing a program lifted from the secular university is not what you might expect to find at a Christian college or university, but seems increasingly to be the case.

We do not make these claims by way of self-interested bias but pass on to you the verdict of those students who have come to us from colleges of these descriptions that have failed them.

There is no reliable earmark that will make it easy for you to single out the college that your child will need. But look for a college that warns you of these pitfalls.

THE PEOPLE MATTER

Of course there is much more to a college than academics. Another thing parents have reason to worry about is the social environment. 

There is no better place than a small college of fewer than 25 students who are dedicated Christians and a faculty and staff who are all devout in their faith in which to spend 4 to 8 months.

photo by brewbooks