Friday, January 12, 2024

A few thoughts on the university. . .

How easy it is to presume that if the education is good, the work of the university is done.  Whether Christian or Lutheran or not, that is a fallacy that corrupts the educational process more often than not.  It is not simply about the goodness of the education received but it must also be about the moral values that accompany that education and the person you are becoming through that education.

I have probably written too harshly of the state of affairs for Christian and Lutheran colleges and universities.  There are those who have taken me to task insisting that the education offered by such institutions is actually quite good.  For that matter, I am not disputing whether or not the education is good but what I am concerned about is the religion that accompanies it.  You can get a good education many places and some of them a lot cheaper and more cost effective than a private religious school.  While we should not sacrifice academics for the sake of religion, neither should we presume that if we offer a good education our job is done.  

For many folks, the education received at such institutions either directly operated by the churches or church affiliated is probably pretty good. If it is not, someone has some explaining to do and perhaps a refund might be in the offing.  But with that education is to come religion -- or else it is not a religious school.  We do the Church a disservice and we fail at our intended task if we fail to nurture the faith of those who come from devout and Christian homes (and especially Lutheran ones).  We dishonor the congregations and families whose sacrifices established and still fund those educational institutions if we offer them a good education but neglect the spiritual welfare of those who teach and learn in those institutions.  

I do not believe that education must be practical in order to be good -- as a dinosaur I still believe in the classical liberal arts education in which we are taught to think and to reason -- especially under the tutelage of the Scriptures.  I do not believe it helps if we disdain the education in favor of what is eminently practical -- how to earn a living -- but which does not illuminate the mind.  At the same time, I do not believe that we are doing anyone a favor by offering on a religious university campus the option of obtaining a largely secular education.  Devoid of the values and truth of our faith, why would we bother with such a costly and difficult enterprise as collegiate education unless we were willing to match the education of the state school with an even better one which reflects what we believe, teach, and confess right down to the core?  So by all means we must give them a good education but we cannot afford to give them one empty of the values, tenets, and teachings of the faith or we are wasting the valuable resources of time and money the Church needs for other tasks.  

We should not ask our people to sacrifice their education in order to obtain the doctrine and piety of the faith but neither should we offer those not of the faith a decent education without also imparting to them the doctrine and piety of the faith.  This is not simply about colleges and universities (indeed, the whole reason for the parochial school lies within this same context) but it is no less about such institutions of higher learning than it is about the preschools, elementary schools, and high schools of our churches.

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