Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Thoughts on the Notre Dame Scandal

In short: I don’t care.

To elaborate: This ship has sailed a long time ago. They employ Fr. Richard McBrien, for cryin’ out loud. He teaches heresy daily in the theology department. Isn’t that worse than having the President as a commencement speaker? Their faculty don't even sign an oath of fidelity. Now look, I think the honorary degree is despicable, but it's not out of character for the university. Why are we just now acting outraged, as if this has come out of the blue? Let Notre Dame's reputation suffer among practicing Catholics. Let the bishops decry, that is their job. But why should those of us in faraway states go to great lengths to protect it? I haven't even bothered signing the utterly useless internet petition. Not because it's inconvenient, but because it's pointless and irrelevant, and Fr. Jenkins just doesn't care. So neither do I.

More ramblings on college in general:
Besides, I’m not sure I buy into Catholic (or any religious or private) higher education as it exists today anyway. Maybe I’m too practical. I see college as training for adulthood. As such, the “college experience,” in my opinion, is way overrated. I’m sure it’s fun to go halfway across the country and live alone and “discover yourself,” but I don’t think it reflects real life.

I'm still relatively new at parenting, but I tend to favor a solid high school education, likely home schooling, covering the liberal arts, and then onto college as job training. I once knew a fellow from India who was an M.D. by the age of 24. They choose a field, and study that field (only), and then go and get a job. They don’t waste a lot of time with the “core curriculum.” That’s what high school is for. Or your free time in adulthood. Who says you have to stop learning when you leave school? Who says you should be forced to study “the classics” if they have no relevance to your career? College used to be for mature young men and women with an eye on their future. Today, it’s prolonged adolescence.

We have some time to discern our boys' path, but right now we are leaning towards two years of community college, while living at home, and finishing up at a respectable public university with a solid Catholic student ministry. (Most likely Texas A&M.)

It has been my experience that a degree helps get you the job. From there, it’s all about your work ethic, professional designations, etc. to promote from there on. I went to a “second tier” public university, and I have coworkers with name brand diplomas making the same money as I do. Having said all that, I would be fully supportive of trade school or military service if that is what my sons choose. (Did you know that your local Lexus mechanic makes six figures?) But it’s not about the money. They should be able to support a family, but they can live simply - we will teach them that! We are trying to get them into heaven, not Harvard.

I also believe in a good relationship (and reasonable proximity) between parents and children. I intend to help guide my sons into adulthood, and hope that I have a good enough relationship with them that they will be willing to accept my advice. I expect them to already be mature young adults by the time they get to college. If I’ve done my job well, they can handle the inevitable challenges to their faith and worldview that will come in a reasonably priced public university. We will discuss at the dinner table, and they will hopefully gravitate towards fellow Catholic students and chaplains with whom they can share and learn and retain their faith.

Can I prevent them from going off the reservation? No. My own family shows that some people just make stupid choices in life and have to learn everything the hard way, despite every advantage in their youth. But if my own kids do go nuts, should I be spending tens of thousands of dollars on their education anyway? If they aren’t mature enough for college at age 18, I’d prefer they work for a while until they are ready to move on. I don’t see the point of paying out the nose for a protective environment when it's the child's choices that determine whether they will live a good life and keep their faith. In my opinion, if you are ready for college, then you are ready for public college, and your parents don’t “owe” you $200,000. They gave you life. They taught you practical skills. They taught you to study. It’s up to you to make good choices and work hard.

This is especially true at the undergrad level. For higher degrees, I can see that school choice, special programs, reputations, make a difference. If they think they need a fancy graduate degree, let them work and pay for it. I might even help! But a B.S. is a B.S. is a B.S.

This might sound strange coming from a home schooler. We are often criticized for being too protective of our children. Why should they be "in the world, but not of the world" in college if we worked so hard to shelter them the first 18 years? Well, the answer is simple. They will be ready for the challenge by then, if we have done a good job as parents. We won't just throw them to the wolves, unaware and unprepared. Again, we will help them step gradually into manhood. They will be able to think critically and filter out the nonsense at a public university (just as they would have to at Notre Dame!)

If there was an excellent Catholic university close to home and affordable, I'd consider it, obviously. But the "college experience" is overrated and stupid. And to try and return to my original point, that's why I just don't care about the "Notre Dame Scandal". I have no use for a school like that, and I don't mind that they are being exposed as a waste of money.

1 comment:

nicole said...

I think our experiences in college advising helped form our philosophies. I know I saw innumerable students not ready for college, or not interested in college, there only to make the parents happy. Travis and I have both said more than once that college is not a given for our kids. They might choose to be mechanics or hairstylists or something else not requiring a four-year degree. Similarly, we do not feel we are obligated to pay for their education. Of course we will plan to do so, if we can afford it. But they might have to work to pay for school and it might take them a little longer.

I think one reason students are having to take core classes these days is to teach them how to study, manage time, etc, before tackling their major classes. High schools are no longer doing an adequate job, at least some of the time.

I hope your boys like ridiculous fight songs and silly rules. ;-)