Our eldest takes the ACT in a couple months. We’re entering a stage of parenthood that makes me quite nervous. She’s about to make some huge decisions in her life, and she has to make them by herself . . . with us, her parents, as only a potential source of wisdom. Scary, scary, scary.
She’s been getting mail from colleges since she took the pre-ACT at school a year ago. I believe it is all lying unopened in a pile in the cabinet. She doesn’t know where she wants to go, and she doesn’t know what she wants to study. Until recently, I wondered if she even wanted to go to college. But yesterday, at parent-teacher conferences, she was deciding between classes based on what would look good on a college application. So, apparently post-secondary education is in her vision for her future.
If she knew that what she wanted to do in life didn’t require a degree, I’d be fine with that. Or if she thought she wanted to take a year or two and work and figure out some direction, that would be okay, too. I actually think most kids would benefit from a gap year, if used well. But, still, I'd like her to go to college. I see tremendous value in “higher education”, of course. And so does most of American society, it seems, because we believe our government should make it possible for everyone to go, if they want to, by loaning them the money to go – or just flat out giving it to them.
Interesting thing about those federal student loans and grants. I just ran across a quote from Reagan’s education secretary William Bennett:
“There are a lot of things wrong with American higher education, but choice isn’t one of them. You can take a guaranteed student loan or a Pell grant and study at a Baptist college your first year, a Catholic one your second, and Hindu and Jewish ones your third and fourth years. You’ll be theologically confused, but you’ll be entirely within the Constitution because, when it comes to federal student aid for higher education, we don’t care where you take it.”
We worry a lot about public funds going to a Catholic elementary school through vouchers. We worry about even allowing a possibly radical religious education through a homeschool whether we’re funding it or not. But those concerns aren’t present in higher education. And I’m wondering if there’s some kind of odd logic behind that, or if secular progressives concerned with separation of church and state just haven’t gotten to this battle yet.
You want to know my guess? I’m guessing there’s no battle because there’s no real battleground. I think most religious colleges just aren’t much of a threat to a secular agenda. And that’s a shame. The war of worldviews gets pretty lop-sided when only one side's warriors are adequately trained.
Then again, we're studying the American Revolution and how a bunch of homegrown passionate rebels defeated the most powerful army in the world. There's hope.