Archive for August, 2014


A new Gallup Poll of college presidents confirms what I have said for years:  Colleges generally do a poor job of preparing students for specific jobs. Worse, universities and colleges that stress job training usually hurt students by neither training them well nor educating them well. The dominant vocational-training model of higher education today may have high student (and parent) appeal, but it sells students short by failing to deliver on the skills and it buries them in a mountain of debt in the process.

As reported by Inside Higher Ed, nearly nine in 10 college presidents said in the survey that an emphasis on “critical thinking” skills and personal development is very important preparation for graduates to get jobs, but only about 40 percent think their own institutions are very effective at providing students with those skills, which are so necessary for success in any career.

801 presidents from a variety of American colleges and universities completed the survey in May and June 2014.

The survey shows that while most universities try to train their students with skills for the job market, a significant number of presidents acknowledge their institutions do a poor job of doing it. The irony is that most colleges and universities today boast to prospective students that they are essential training camps for future job seekers. Shockingly, a significant number of the presidents surveyed don’t actually believe their own institution’s recruiting hype.

According to IHE, 78 percent of presidents surveyed said that providing internships that apply what students learn to “the real world” is very important, yet only 38 percent reported that their institutions do that very well. Put another way, 72 percent of the institutions represented in the survey aren’t very good at giving students what they claim to be giving them.

The survey reveals that university presidents of voc-tech-oriented institutions are now admitting that the model they’ve been operating under is not working and that students aren’t getting what they’re paying for.

“This calls for a serious change,” said John Pryor, a senior researcher at Gallup who specializes in higher education.

The change, I’d suggest, is returning to the classical Christian model of liberal arts education that educates well the whole person for all of life, not just for narrowly defined, here-today-gone-tomorrow careers.

For more on this survey, see Presidents concerned about job training

This was my exhortation to the New Saint Andrews College community, delivered at the 21st Convocation, August 15, 2014.

 

Congratulations are in order. As of today, New Saint Andrews College is 21. It has finally reached legal drinking age.

That means it is time for some sober reflections on what it means for us to be part of the second generation of our College family. We’ve turned 21. We have come of age. We are now legally dangerous.

Much like the generational transition described in Deuteronomy 6, the College’s Board asks you, the second generation of NSA, to remember and to honor the academic and institutional inheritance you have received and are receiving.

We all stand on the shoulders of our theological and intellectual forefathers: Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Kuyper, Edwards, Hodge, Machen and many more. We are in their debt. They were giants. We are their midget children. But we are heirs.

And like the heirs called to remember their great heritage in Deut. 6, the College Board asks faculty and students alike to remember well.

When someone asks,

Q:  Who are we?     [we should answer . . .]

A: NSA is an academic community centered on the Lordship of Jesus Christ over all things. [and when we are asked . . .]

Q: What are we  doing here?     [we should answer . . .]

A:  We are pursuing a robust liberal arts education in the classical Christian tradition in the context of real Christian community. [and when we are asked]

Q: Why are we doing this?        [we should answer]

A:  Our purpose is to graduate leaders who are eager to shape culture, living faithfully under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

That’s our story. That’s our catechism.

How that story, that catechism plays out over time, of course, rests in your 21 year old—second generational–hands.

Will it play out with maturity and faithfulness over time or will it devolve into immaturity and folly? The answer will most clearly be found in the 3rd and 4th generations, as the fruit from our genealogical and spiritual tree.  But we know biblically and historically that certain lines produce some really rotten fruit.

I recently visited Albania, long one of the poorest and saddest parts of southern Europe. On the whole, Albania is still a mess, digging out from the rubble of its Communist past, which goes back to the end of World War II. For three generations, it was one of the most regressive Communist and totalitarian nations on the planet, second only to North Korea.

During the Communist era, Albania had all the laws and institutions of any other modern nation-state, but its guiding ideology was rooted in a culture of entitlement and self-centeredness. Citizens were taught that the state would take care of them, the state would meet all their needs, the state would provide all they desired. Albanians were there to be served, not to serve. Their institutions gave; the people took.

That may have worked for a couple of years, but like all Socialist-Communist regimes, with everyone on “the take” and no one on “the give,” eventually things ran out: the infrastructure broke down, the economy collapsed and the society crumbled. No Albanian had learned how to help others, to fix what was broken, to sacrifice for the needs of others. With no one to care for the needs of others, the nation imploded.

When Mr. Schlect read from Romans 12 a few minutes ago, you might have glossed over those very familiar words about being living sacrifices, blah, blah, blah. But sacrifice is not just a pious idea for other generations. It is the foundation of the Christian life. Christ gave his life for yours. If it is the foundation of the Christian life, then it is a foundation for all of life, the foundation for New Saint Andrews, and for everything else under the sun.

Think of it this way:  all the Christian schools and ministries you know about were once started by someone who sacrificed greatly to establish them. They gave of their time, money, energy, health, careers, sometimes their very lives, to build something they believed in deeply and wanted to give to their children and grandchildren and the kingdom.

Everyone recognizes and honors that kind of sacrifice of institutional founders. But for those institutions to endure and to thrive, the great sacrifice of the founders must be imitated, repeated, by each generation.

The great temptation of the second generation—that would be us–is to honor the sacrifice of others and to imagine no institutional sacrifice is required of us today.  We can be tempted to think that all those institutions that other folks sacrificed to create will continue indefinitely solely on the capital of their earlier sacrifices. We don’t need to give; we can simply take.

Thankfully, many schools and nonprofit Christian ministries, like New Saint Andrews, have endured and thrive precisely because the second generation of pastors and elders, faculty and staff, and many others continue to sacrifice for the mission and vision of the institution. We owe them, as much as the founders, a great debt of gratitude.

But the great danger for this generation is to imagine that these institutions are there simply to serve us, to meet our needs, to fulfill our desires. Sweat from our brows is not required.

Think again. Renew your mind, as Paul puts it.

Whenever a spirit of entitlement—a spirit that says an institution owes you something and not the other way around–be it scholarships or pay raises or honors or recognition or any other goodies—then we are on our way to turning that institution into another crumbling society drained by greed and self-centeredness.

This temptation common to the second and third generations is easy to understand. We’ve arrived at a place already built. The faculty is already in place. The administration is already leading. The board is already governing. It is easy to presume that no sacrifice or assembly is required. It is like our national or state governments that some imagine are simply there to meet their needs, provide their health coverage, and give them a check.  But we are never merely the beneficiaries of what institutions provide. There are no free entitlements.

A people can get away with being on the take for a few generations, while the capital invested by their forebearers lasts. But at some point, the coffers run dry, the bills come due, and the maintenance can no longer be deferred. Soon everyone is looking for a ladder to climb back up to bottom.

The point, the charge I want to leave with us tonight, as we begin our 21st year, is to guard ourselves against the temptation, common to the second generation, to believe that the age of sacrifice is over. It is not.

I call on you, the New Saint Andrews community, to let your lives–this student body, this faculty, this administration, this board–embody faithfully the call to selfless sacrifice found in the 12th chapter of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans:

(1) Present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

Give yourselves away for others, not counting the cost.

(3) Do not to think of yourself more highly than you ought

(9) Abhor what is evil; love one another with brotherly affection

(13) Contribute to the needs of the saints and show hospitality

(16) Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.

(16) Never be wise in your own sight.

(20) If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink;
(21) Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

God bless you & God bless New Saint Andrews College in this academic year and in all the generations to come.

And happy 21st!

Thank you.