Students and parents of students might want to read a column my friend Byron wrote for yesterday's local paper. He says a number of interesting things and makes some good suggestions for those preparing for the challenges that college life will present. Here's the heart of his essay:
It has been a hard year for higher education. The massacre at Virginia Tech, the revelations of debauchery that came to light in the fiasco of the Duke rape trial, the reports of widespread cheating at some of our most prestigious schools. The arrest on sex charges of a mid-state professor reminds us of the complexities of navigating the college experience.
Books like "Binge: Campus Life in an Age of Disconnection and Excess" claim to report "what your college student won't tell you," while memoirs like "Goat" tell of brutal hazing within the fraternity system. Novels like Tom Wolfe's important "I Am Charlotte Simons" tell of the moral confusion amidst the "hooking up" culture of the postmodern campus. In a hipster sociological work, "My Freshman Year," a prof goes undercover posing as a first-year student living in the dorm. She was surprised to hear what the students said, how little they studied, and what they really thought of her tenured colleagues. She was surprised to see the lewd posters un- ashamedly displayed on many girls' doors.
Happily, there are reports that indicate a cultural, intellectual and spiritual renaissance among college students. Wall Street Journal reporter Naomi Riley's "God on the Quad" documents the increase in religious activities on many campuses. Groups like Hillel, the Newman Center and InterVarsity Christian Fellowship are flourishing. Riley makes it clear that such groups help with the often-tumultuous college transition.
Congregations that have cared for their children through high school are thinking about how to equip them to be faithful in what some have described as Babylon U. Locally, at least one church, Asbury United Methodist, has hired a campus worker whose job it is to represent the church to local colleges. With college and technical school enrollments rising, congregations may need to explore partnerships with para-church college ministry organizations and think creatively about ways to maintain an appropriate presence on campus.
A central Pennsylvania campus worker, Derek Melleby, has recently co-written an upbeat book to help Christian students bring their deepest convictions into their college classrooms. "The Outrageous Idea of Academic Faithfulness" is a guide for students that captures, I think, the longing of my confirmation class: to discover a purpose-laden sense of calling for the vocation of being a student. It tells stories of collegians who hungered for intellectual and moral coherence in their young adult lives, an outrageously idealistic sense of making a difference, meshing their faith and their college experience in ways that are exciting and sustainable.
What will become of the 2007 graduates who will leave us next month college-bound?
Some, I am confident, will thrive, holding in fresh ways the values and visions nurtured by home churches, synagogues, schools and community organizations. Let us wish them well. More, let us offer support and encouragement, starting in their freshman year.
Read the whole thing at the link.RLC