Good evening and welcome to our inaugural convocation service for Comeford College!
Lord willing, this will be the first of many such gatherings. If I recall correctly, it was somewhere around May of last year that a small group assembled to discuss starting Comeford College. Even before that the idea had been percolating in the minds of a few for several years.
So, what on earth would possess these individuals to be so audacious as to launch a new college? Isn’t there already an abundance of higher learning institutions to choose from? Yes, and no, it depends on what one means by education and what one is hoping to accomplish with such an education.
It also depends on whether you wish to flourish where God has established your people, your culture, your loves, and your roots.
It’s customary today to raise children just shy of two decades, then send them off to a far-away college, and ultimately have them plant new roots somewhere else. Our technology driven world makes that easy to do.
Brave New World types envision a global neighborhood where the distinctions of “home” and “our people” lose any meaning. The grand vision is that this will bring people closer together.
The jet-age combined with the internet-age has shrunk our world in many ways and yet, isn’t it ironic in a day when people can digitally share words or pictures faster than the speed of thought – and many do – that we find ourselves less and less connected with our past or present than ever before.
Clearly, disunity and tribalism are on the rise. The days of “boys will be boys” has become “boys will be girls” and vice-versa. At the heart of much of this mayhem lies a deeply broken system of education.
It has been nearly 400 years since the founding of the first university in America. Today there are approximately 5,000 degree-granting postsecondary institutions in the U.S.
What has all this “education” brought us? Are we more “enlightened” today than our forefathers were? I submit to you that modern education, for all that is has enabled, falls far short of what true education is for.
In the few moments I have, I would like to answer the question “What is Education For?” and, in doing so, make the case for why Comeford College exists.
To start, I ask that you grant me a simple postulate. If anything that can be known is revealed to us by our heavenly Father, then education, if it indeed be education, must result in worship of the Father.
Any other purpose for education, however useful, is secondary in nature and falls far short of the ultimate aim. One may learn that two plus two equals four and with that, and other bits of knowledge, send a man to the moon; but unless one worships the God who made the moon, one cannot be said to be truly educated.
Did not Christ ask,
“For what shall it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and lose his soul?”
Nothing I have said thus far should be construed so as to cast complete derision upon secular institutions of learning. Even in their limited understanding of education, God’s common grace has allowed much useful learning to occur.
The problem is that their goals fall short. Higher education today serves multiple purposes that can be viewed as a ladder of ascending value to the individual and the culture. All institutions offer one or more of these value propositions. Few achieve the ultimate purpose.
At the lowest level of the value proposition is the claim that higher education is necessary in order to promote good social order. Certainly, a society comprised of uneducated individuals is likely to degenerate over time into disorder and perpetual unrest, or so they say.
The belief is that a good education will necessarily produce a good citizen; one who will play nice with others and be a productive member. The emphasis is on fitting in to the collective without disturbing the social order or being a burden to it.
And so, we urge young men and women to get a degree even if that degree ultimately ends up being needless. The reality is that few will have use for their degree once they land their first job. A can of Spam has a longer shelf-life, and more uses, than many college degrees today. Higher education for this value proposition alone rarely makes sense.
The next rung up the value proposition ladder is that higher education will result in a better paying job. There is evidence to support this argument although not for the reasons you might expect.
In his book The Case Against Education, economist Bryan Caplan makes the case that the real value in having a college degree is that it is the de facto way to “signal” potential employers as to who will make the best employees. Never mind that up to 40% of most Bachelor degree programs are padded with classes of questionable value.
Employers are not as interested in what you know as in knowing that you have the grit to slog your way through four years or more of higher education. They will teach you what you really need to know when you start your new job.
The problem with this educational goal is that the course of study, excluding the fluff-n-stuff classes, is so limited in scope that all it does is prepare the student to fill a useful slot in society. The student misses out on seeing, let alone discussing, the kaleidoscope of thoughts and ideas that make up the cultural river they swim in.
This narrow teach-to-the-job education prevents students from having enough range in their knowledge base to draw solutions and applications from other fields outside their area of study.
Fragmented, or siloed, education is like having a box of tinker toys with all the wheel parts and none of the sticks. Nothing fits together.
With the get-a-job value proposition the fact remains that a highly educated cog, in the end, is still just a cog. Education that does not rise beyond this goal is a stunted education.
As we continue our ascent up the proposition ladder, we come to the claim that higher education produces leaders.
How often do you hear the claim that colleges produce critical thinkers? Today, if a college invites a controversial guest speaker, you will notice that the students are far more critical than thinking.
This lack of thinking skills shows up in the current trend of tearing down statues and renaming things. In so doing, they fail to see the irony of standing on the bruised shoulders of their forbearers as they criticize them.
This leadership claim assumes that by virtue of the fact that a person has endured the rigors of a multi-year program that they somehow are now imbued with the qualities of a leader. They mistake qualities like hard work and stick-to-itiveness with true leadership ability.
The notion that higher education equals leadership is so prevalent that it is difficult for anyone without a degree to climb the corporate ladder. A degree is often used as a filter to keep the “non-leader” types out.
One advantage Comeford College offers over most modern colleges is its training to be a true leader. It does that by offering a classical liberal arts program which learns from, and builds upon, the great ideas that define Western Civilization.
It recognizes that God has worked through imperfect people to bring us to where we are today. Rather than erase history we see it as beneficial to informing our future.
Any education that does not teach “When” cannot properly prepare you for “Then”. Given the rapidity with which our culture is decoupling itself from the past we must ask ourselves, “If Western Civilization ever collapses will anyone remember how it was built?”
This is a serious question given today’s focus on producing specialists who are devoid of any real appreciation for the landscape of our nation and culture.
A modern college degree might assist you to the hilltop of your chosen profession, but a fuller education will take you to the mountain top overlooking those hills.
We would do well to learn from Israel’s history. It took less than 100 years from when the people declared to Joshua,
“Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods” to the time it was said of them “there arose another generation…who did not know the Lord or the work that he had done…”
This brings us to the top rung of the education ladder which I stated before is to worship the Triune God.
There is a reason that Theology was once called the Queen of the Sciences. It is only as we learn about God, from the bottom up through Nature and human history, and the top down through his Word that we can properly order our understanding of all things.
Albert Einstein, in response to Thomas Edison’s claim that a college education is useless said,
“It is not so very important for a person to learn facts. For that he does not really need a college. He can learn them from books. The value of an education in a liberal arts college is not the learning of many facts, but the training of the mind to think something that cannot be learned from textbooks.”
I doubt the “something” Einstein had in mind was God, but he was certainly right that a proper classical liberal arts education, altogether unlike today’s liberal arts indoctrination, trains the mind to comprehend what cannot be learned from books alone.
In 1889 Abraham Kuyper gave the convocation speech to the Free University in Amsterdam, which he founded just nine years earlier.
The title of his speech was “The Secret of Genuine Study.” In the speech he put forth this question, “What should be the goal of university study and the goal of living and working in the sacred domain of scholarship?”
In his lengthy answer he made the following statement:
“(God) created us as logical beings in order that we should trace his Logos, investigate it, publish it, personally wonder at it, and fill others with wonder.”
Why does Comeford College exist?
We exist to help believers reach the pinnacle of education which is the worship of God in spirit and truth, full of wisdom, knowledge, and love, so that they will flourish in their place among the generations of their people.