Saturday, February 17, 2007

What is college for?

So the elder teen is in the midst of decision-making... if she is admitted to Macalester (which in my view seems likely) then if I have this right she'll be choosing between it and Calvin.

Which brings to mind the questions
  • What is the purpose of college?
  • What is most needful for me in particular, that college would address?
So I googled on "what is college for" (no quotes) which led me to this 1986 article from Time, which talks about "real education" versus the idea of a trade school, among other things. Do colleges graduate technocrats rather than intellectuals?

Another result was What's College For? by Karabell. The reviews on indicate that the usual themes are covered...

Macalester's website basically brags about its intellectual orientation, as testified in reviews and rankings and in its statement of purpose. That purpose statement sounds reasonable, but there's not much to disagree with in it. I mean, it reads kinda like motherhood:
We believe that the benefit of the educational experience at Macalester is the development of individuals who make informed judgments and interpretations of the broader world around them and choose actions or beliefs for which they are willing to be held accountable.
It doesn't exactly sound like medical or engineering school, but nothing in there is antithetical to medical or engineering school. Or business school for that matter, though recent scandals might tempt one to think otherwise.

Calvin's website talks a lot about the Christian orientation -- from the "about Calvin" page to the quotes on the endorsements page. Here's their pitch:
What Makes Calvin Unique?
Calvin is the distinctively Christian, academically excellent liberal arts college that shapes minds for intentional participation in the renewal of all things.

  1. Profoundly Academic
  2. Purposeful Renewal
  3. Spirited Community
  4. Promising Futures
  5. Remarkable Investment
Well, I have to say that the Calvin pitch gives the stronger impression of something unique, and distinctively Christian. When I was much younger, thinking about getting through college quickly, relatives used to say, "You'll be working all your life; why rush into it?" An analogous thing here might be, "You'll most likely be working in an environment that's at best neutral toward your faith; why not take advantage of your college years to solidify your intellectual growth in an environment that will support your faith rather than opposing it?"

But I don't know what to recommend ultimately. There is plenty of time later in life for intellectual growth (I'm a case in point; I now regularly read things that would have bored me in my 20s), but that doesn't mean it should be neglected in college. And the same could be said about spiritual growth. My leanings are probably obvious from the above...

(a good essay should have a good concluding statement but i'm just going to go back to bed)

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