Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Wilson and lowered nets

Doug Wilson has started quite the discussion on a Christian perspective of higher education here.

To Sum up, he argues that there is a push to see every child go to college. In the same way, if we pushed for every American to dunk a basketball we would either have to come to grips with that impossibility or we would have to lower the net. He argues that we have already “lowered the net” for college standards and will continue to see it for the foreseeable future. It is a very good article and I highly suggest you read it.

Wilson would like to see students pointed towards vo-tech training if their tests show they have a lower academic aptitude. I know this isn’t PC, but he isn’t and neither am I. I am pretty smart, but I have a couple of friends studying for their PhDs (Oxford and St. Andrews) and it is pretty clear they are smarter. Now, he reminds us that all work is good work when done onto the Lord. Vo-tech skills are not less important to God than liberal arts skills. One thing I can tell you from being a long-time reader of Doug Wilson is that he truly believes that. It is not a flippant response to justify an elitist mentality. Directing students towards vo-tech training would likely happen in the latter stages of high school.

It is here where some of my alarms were going off. You see, I, like Tim P. from the comments (btw, Go B-ham!!), hit my “academic stride” later on in life. I was a pretty good student in high school. My verbal was really good, but my math was horrible. There is no way I was even close to the admission requirements for NSA. I went to a good university and my GPA was in the mid-to-high 3’s, but nothing stellar. And then I decided I wanted to go to grad school.

I talked to an admissions counselor and she told me I wasn’t going to be able to get in with my average GPA. I was crushed and then I was angry. So, I buckled down, and finally started working at my real level. In fact, I needed two classes to graduate (Advanced Christian Worldview and Hebrew) and they were both being offered at the same time so I ended up teaching myself Hebrew and then showing up for the tests (with my instructor’s permission). I got four A’s and one B+ that semester.

I brought my GPA up to the level required and was accepted into grad school. Now here is the rub: If Wilson’s perspective held sway, I would not have gone to grad school, and there was a very real chance I would not have done my undergrad. My first response is to get upset and think about all of my missed opportunities. But let’s go deeper.

Sin, the sin of the sluggard, is what would have kept me from going to university and grad school. Tests only show true aptitude if you are actually working hard. If not, they reveal work ethic. My aptitude was pretty good, my work ethic sucked. I had to repent of my laziness in order to see some reformation in my life. Repentance always comes before Reformation. I had to habitually turn away from my laziness and turn to hard work.

My take-away from this important discussion is to push academics, but more importantly to teach my son the book of Proverbs and the effects of sinful laziness. As I read through Proverbs I am continually amazed and the effects this book would have had on my life had I internalized these lessons and lived them out from a young age.

Our interpretation of Wilson’s educational views should also be proverbial in nature. I’m sure everyone who reads his article can come up with some time when this or that would have been missed and then next Einstein would be doing under-water welding. Good work, great pay, not what an Einstein should be doing for the glory of God. But Wilson is not (as far as I understand him) trying to argue that this will always be the case. He’s discussing policy and perspective, not cold, hard rules that will be applied to every student irrespective of any outlying circumstance (or later repentance).

So, for those of us who struggle with the sin of laziness, we need not get out knickers in a bunch.

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