Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Higher Education, how do we support our students?

I spent part of last week at a conference at one of our wonderful Lutheran colleges. I know that these colleges provide an excellent education to those students who work hard to receive it. I also know that these places cost big bucks to attend. I am sure that they try their best to provide Christian support and encouragement to the students. Often, students find a sense of vocation that has the Hand of God guiding their choices.

That said, I have wondered how much our Lutheran colleges work toward teaching the students to be "of the world, but not in the world" as Christians. It is NOT evident that they teach anything counter to the American condition (and even Christian American condition!!!) of Affulenza.

I'm reposting an essay I wrote awhile ago about our colleges.

My husband and I are grads of Lutheran colleges, as are two of our children. The other child will graduate from a college of another Christian tradition. We are all "above average" intellectually and attend churches and volunteer in them.

So I guess the Lutheran colleges did their jobs: to educate us and to help build church leaders. I think often and with thankfulness of the Lutheran college I attended.

But think what a narrow segment of the population in general, and even the Lutheran population, attend Lutheran colleges. They aim to recruit the cream of the crop from high schools, maybe the top 10 or 20% of the class, and/or students that have other outstanding talents or interesting backgrounds. Given the cost of private college these days, only those people who qualify for lots of financial aid and know enough to apply for it, or those whose families have saved enough for college can afford to attend. [Or the student steps into a large loan with little education of what this means for the future. But that is the subject for another time.]

Some Lutheran denominations have a presence next to the campuses of larger state universities in the form of Lutheran Houses. How much outreach they provide I don’t know, but I did use one of these houses as a place to hang out at one university I attended.

What kind of support or encouragement do we give to the more “average” students attending state colleges? How about tech schools and smaller junior colleges? Do we encourage spiritual development in any way in students learning welding, electrician skills, police academy? Do we support a sense of vocation in those students to whom God has given great mechanical aptitude or those with an interest in hairdressing or cooking?

If someone has an obvious artistic talent or a gift of music, we might readily say that this comes from God and give that person (spiritual) vocational encouragement. Our Lutheran colleges are especially good in the area of music. But would we not want the mechanic who works on the Boeing 707 to also feel a sense of vocation or calling, and therefore be diligent in his/her work?

Even jobs that don’t take an education have value and should be honored. What hospital would keep a good reputation for very long if the cleaning staff wasn’t diligent?

People of God: let us honor all workers around us, encourage people spiritually by honoring their choice of job and vocation, encourage society to provide a living wage to all who do necessary work, no matter how “lowly.” And let’s encourage the Church to provide spiritual support and encouragement to all students, not just the top 20% of the high school classes.

Volunteer work and hobbies can also be part of a person’s vocation. Several times I have felt a strong call from God to volunteer in certain areas, mostly church related. Consequently, I don’t have a problem saying NO when I don’t feel called.

Originally posted 02/06/2006

1 comment:

  1. Very well stated, I too see this as a problem that needs to be solved. Perhaps it needs to be looked at from a local level, as thats going to be closer to the subject at hand than at the academic level.

    But it also is not an easy thing to hear, and an insanely difficult task for the challenges at hand.


And what do you think?