United Methodists have always valued education. In formative leaders in the Sunday school movement, to educating clergy, to the founding of seminaries, colleges, and others school the church has been committed to maturing and expanding the minds God has entrusted us with. Beginning with preschool, children, youth through adults, curriculum has been the heart of Cokesbury, the Methodist Publishing House for over two hundred years.
Our recent college tour with our youngest has been a refresher course in the future of education.
While the tuition, room, and boarding have increase by a factor of ten since my college days so has the cost of everything else. Campuses are filled with more students as populations have increased. Social activities inspire relief from competitive study. But something important has changed in forty years.
All of the colleges we visited have historic reputations of providing liberal arts education. In listening to students and courses of study these institutions are more indoctrination machines of single minded agenda rather than embracing true diversity and preparing minds and hearts for employment and explore in a complex world.
In addition, Christian students at most these campuses are at best ignored and in some case under full attack. The handful of colleges and universities that have Methodist Wesley Foundations offer a strong presence to their campus. But the assumptions that diversity is more important than education itself is clear.
Even on campuses that have stated Christian principles, the campus life reflects the celebration of diversity at the cost of unity, settling for uniformity. The specificity of topics for specialization further divide studies while social expressions and athletics are left to rally around.
Colleges are looking for balances quotes of students who will be the most likely to stay as productive students and become supportive life-long alumni. Somewhere along the way the college experience switched from being the safe place to question, explore and test ideas to safe places to escape from the threat of the new non-conformity.
But what difference does all this make for us at home?
For all our students, at every age and at every school, we need to pray for teachers, administrators, operations, tax-payers and benefactors as well as the students. May they be surrounded in the love of God, the grace of Jesus Christ and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
May we hold one another accountable in not allowing any one young or old to be led astray to carry millstones of misplaced values and faith.
Vocational, technical and liberal arts schools can be some of the most competitive and challenge times for a young adult. Learning to grow and thrive in this environment instill skills and experiences that can impact a life time when the tools in one toolbox are matched with the goals. The task for our students is to pray for God’s leading in paving their paths, then seeking the Holy Spirit in whatever path they go.
It is easy to see and complain about flaws in any system. The challenge before us is to help ground our students in timeless faith in an ever changing world. Hold one another accountable in our faith in all the work, study, and play we do.
As friends, parents, grandparents, siblings and neighbors we have a calling to not only feed students food but to nurture their faith and values for a chaotic and challenging worldview.
In summary of how we can help our students: prayer for open minds grounded in Christian faith and practice. Support and hold one another accountable for trusting Christ. Strengthening one another in the power, protection and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
May our students find Christ throughout their educational and vocational paths. Where our paths cross, may we worship, give thanks and find our calling renewed for the tests ahead.