Essay / Education

Foundations for University Study

It is amazing how much time and effort parents put into raising their children. We get them immunized, take them to the dentist, and pray that they don’t need braces. We take them to birthday parties, soccer, football and basketball practice. Given all the effort we put into the raising of our children, it is remarkable how little we consider preparing our children for the intellectual and social pressures that will exist when they leave the home for the first time to attend college.

Recently, I’ve been spending some of my evenings with a couple of other dads coaching eight and nine-year-old boys how to play basketball for our church league. I have already discovered that teaching them some of the most basic principles of basketball is rather challenging. One of the problems is that many of them have not played an organized sport before, and this is their first entrance into this world. Getting them to work together in any organized sense is like herding cats. They play offense when they’re on defense and defense when they’re on offense, and I had one boy who was particularly offended (I am still not sure why) refuse to pass the ball to anyone else on the team.

These eight and nine-year-old boys have the attention spans of a gnat. As practice starts, the other coaches and I gather these young and eager potential Michael Jordans (at this early stage this is not a lie– who knows how well they will progress?), and we believe that they will be attending to our every word of wisdom as their “coaches.” I am not sure why I deluded myself into that belief, as I have trouble enough getting my own nine-year-old son to listen to me when he is by himself.

For parents, watching their children begin to participate in sports can be difficult. They want so desperately for their child to be successful in their athletic endeavors, and with every mistake or missed opportunity you can see the parent cringing—not with disappointment in their kids, but because they want to see their child flourishing in everything they do.

Interestingly, the hopes and desires parents have for their children don’t diminish as they get older—they may even increase. As a university professor I often come in contact with parents who desperately want to see their child be successful in their academic and occupational pursuits. The difficulty is that many parents don’t know what it means for their child to be flourishing in higher education.

Many parents incorrectly think that if they put their child in a position to be able to get into a top-tier university, then they have put their child on a pathway that leads to success in life. Large numbers of parents send their children out to national universities only to find their years of work in raising their children as followers of Jesus Christ being undercut by the university to which they entrusted their children.

Universities are no longer about fostering in their students a rigorous sense of moral values. University faculty no longer see themselves as an integral part in the moral and social development of their students. Rather than enabling their students to arbitrate between what is true and false they turn out to be more like Pontius Pilate who famously proclaimed, “What is truth?” Today’s universities pride themselves in not judging others’ views of the world no matter how out-of-sync with reality (insert Christian here) they may be. This relativistic view creates an intellectual path that has no ultimate destination or purpose.

Many parents will spare no expense in ensuring that their students have all the academic skills necessary to gain admittance into elite schools of higher learning, because our culture has taught them that it is the ticket to happiness, but they are often unaware of the overwhelming pressure to conform to the secular outlook that their student will have to wrestle with on a daily basis at their university.

Just as students need to be coached athletically to perform well, students need to be able to react to and resist the irrepressible atmosphere of the secular university. This takes training and resources. Don’t wait until after they graduate to begin to have them start gaining the skills to successfully navigate the intellectual waters of the university.

This is the season in which students are finishing up their applications for admission to the university of their choice. It is important that your student is equipped to engage the culture in a manner where they come to understand the project of modernity, but also to understand the transcendent greatness of God and His Kingdom purposes.

Here are some resources you and your students should be using to your advantage:

I recommend listening to the latest episode of Middlebrow where I discuss this topic in greater detail with Torrey Honors Institute director John Mark Reynolds and Wheatstone Academy directory Rebecca Fort.

Students should attend Veritas Forums which were created to engage university faculty and students “in discussions about life’s hardest questions and the relevance of Jesus Christ to all of life.”

Juniors and Seniors in high school should attend Wheatstone Academy in the summer. Wheatstone is a summer program “that combines mentor-guided discussion, world-class cultural experiences and personal interaction with top Christian scholars. The Wheatstone experience challenges and equips students for a lifestyle of passionate learning for the sake of Jesus Christ.”

Students should read:

Louise Cowan: Invitation to the Classics: A Guide to Books You’ve Always Wanted to Read

JP Moreland: Love Your God with all Your Mind

James Sire: Universe Next Door

Dallas Willard’s The Divine Conspiracy

A few suggestions of websites you and your student should bookmark:

Dr. William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith

First Things

Leader U

Albert Mohler

Stand To Reason

Dallas Willard

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