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A Question of Price versus Cost, part 3:

A Christian college education comes with a price. But research suggests that every penny of that price may be worth avoiding the cost of the alternatives.

by Steve Henderson, Ed.D.

  Part 1 | Part 2

"Train Up a Child"

Clearly I believe and support the Scripture "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it" (Prov. 22:6 KJV). Two quick observations are appropriate. First, notice that the word is "should," not "would" or "could." The natural self-will of a child is often contrary to the will of the parent. On matters of lifelong importance, parents need to make sure that right choices are made. They should not abdicate this training/leadership role to a willful child.

Second, perhaps we have, albeit unintentionally, put a time limit on the word "train." It is clear that people in the era when this passage was written considered children of any age to be under parental authority until they had established their own families and careers. Perhaps we have come to the erroneous conclusion that our parental training responsibility is finished at high school graduation, especially for those who have invested in Christian high school education or home schooling. Most of us would agree that the vast majority of 17-year-olds are not quite ready to start their own lives without some parental input and control.

We need to understand the lifetime impact of good early training in light of the research. Not only do students normally reflect the values of the college professors of their senior year, but they also tend to reflect these same values 25 years later. Perhaps we have too early acquiesced -- given in by passivity -- our responsibility for the training of children.

Young people's search for identity is going to happen for our kids during these college years. However, students are using this time for exploration and experimentation that is often unhealthy and unholy. In Tom Wolfe's book, I am Charlotte Simmons, Charlotte's best friend expresses:

I guess what I really mean is college is like this four-year period you have when you can try anything -- everything -- and if it goes wrong, there's no consequences. You know what I mean? Nobody's keeping score! You can do things that if you tried them before you got to college, your family would be crying and pulling their hair out and giving you these now-see-what-you've- gone-and-done looks?... College is the only time in your life, or your adult life anyway, when you can really experiment, and at a certain point, when you graduate or whatever, everybody's memory like evaporates.

Clearly, this vital, pivotal time of exploration is best negotiated in a structured, value-based setting that has the potential for safeguards and correction, not just accommodation.

Let us not underestimate the magnitude of the problem. Of the approximately 400,000 high school seniors each year who would meet the admissions criteria for a CCCU college, only 15 percent (approximately 65,000) are attending any type of Christian college. If we lose them at only the 52 percent public university drop rate (remember that others have a higher rate) for all students who go to non-Christian colleges, that means that at least 177,000 young people have moved away from the faith. Strengthening the faith of the 65,000 who attend Christian colleges is commendable, but having three times that many fall away is horrendous.

Concluding Thoughts

What we are facing is nothing new. This morphing of students' family values has been happening for centuries. The Babylonians understood this and implemented an interesting public educational agenda. The best and the brightest Jewish children were selected for education in the art, history, and language of the Chaldeans for a time period equivalent to a four-year college education. The agenda was clear: change the students' location (separate from the family roots), change the support group (remove from family, friends and church), change their names (all were given non-Jewish names), and change their lifestyle (things that were detestable and unclean according to family tradition were forced on them).

It is not hard to notice similarities to the Babylonian educational agenda within our public higher education system. Young people identify with a fraternity or sorority instead of a church. They dabble in many things that would not be allowed in our homes, and the list could go on.

We don't know how many young people were drafted into the Babylonian educational environment, but we know of only four who stood, and only one by his given name, Daniel. All the others who bowed to that system lost their future, their past, their purity, their heritage, and most likely their God. Even our heroes who stood probably bore the pain and scars of emasculation, a common occurrence for those who were put under the care of the court officials and eunuchs.

What marks and scars will our children bear even if they make it through our public or secular education system? Which of our young students will bend and bow to the world's system if they have to make that choice? Over half are doing it now.

From Genesis through Revelation, there are countless warnings regarding the results of acquiescing to the world's system. Most likely, the Babylonian captivity was the direct result of the complacency of the parents for generations not standing firm on their Scriptural religious values. We must not let future generations label us as complacent about something so important as the long-term spiritual lives of our children. Help them prepare for the college environment wherever they go, and, perhaps most importantly, help them choose wisely ... Remember that the lower price may not be worth the cost.

This article, which was published in the March 2006 issue of Christianity Today, is reprinted with permission.

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