A (Free) College Education for Everyone?

This article originally appeared at Conciliar Post.
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Magdalen College, Oxford

You may have heard that last week President Obama announced an initiative to provide “free” community college education for qualifying students, tentatively defined as those maintaining a “C” average in school. As noted several months ago here at Conciliar Post, the status quo of the American education system needs reform, as the overall monetary and policy prioritization of K-12 education has done relatively little to effectively educate America’s youth and prepare them for their future vocations.1 Few deny that something needs to change in education, though conclusions as to just what that something is remain debated. The purposes of this article involve neither rehashing these concerns nor reacting to our President’s particular proposal—for actual details are scant at this point.2 Rather, this article considers the generalities of “free college education” for everyone, just one part of the greater “education question” that faces our nation. To these ends, I reflect on three questions concerning the cost, need, and implications of a program offering “free” community college education. Continue reading

Reflections on Beginning Anew (Semester)

Happy New Year hd wallpaper 2015For as far back as I can remember, the New Year has been something forth looking forward too. In the lull that follows the festivities and joy of Christmas (seeing old friends, eating too much good food, sharing gifts with family), having something to look forward to helps quite the spirit. “New” is invigorating – the past is behind us, our errors may be forgotten, and the future stands bright before us. This isn’t to suggest that everything new is necessarily good; history and experience indicate otherwise, and we would be wise to heed those lessons. Instead, the New Year and its accompanying newness offer us an opportunity to better our world, those around us, and ourselves. There is something cathartic about ringing in the New Year that propels us into the winter (at least for a while).  Continue reading

Book Review: Is College Worth It? (Bennett)

Is College Worth ItHalf of the college graduates in 2010-11 were unemployed or dramatically underemployed in 2013. Student loan debt is mounting for thousands of people across the country. More people are finding it difficult to get a well paying job with only a bachelors degree. Many people know that there are some problems with the American Higher Education System. But few take the time to sit down and really examine the costs and benefits of the American College Dream. To critically assess these issues (and more) comes the latest book from New York Times Best selling author William J. Bennett and David Wilezol, Is College Worth It? A Former United States Secretary of Education and a Liberal Arts Graduate Expose the Broken Promise of Higher Education. Continue reading

Life at the Bottom

Life at the BottomVery often (especially among us academic types) we tend to read a snippet of news here, a blog post there, and maybe have a conversation with a friend about a topic and, suddenly, our minds are made up about that topic. There’s nothing more to learn, to additional evidence to consider. This is especially true when it comes to important issues like religion or politics: we want stability, so we grasp whatever affirms our worldview as quickly as possible. Sometimes, however, its good to undergo a bit of “paradigm realignment.” That is, it’s good to engage sources that stretch (or even break) the limits of your worldview by forcing you to consider evidence outside the realm of what you normally think about. And for well-off Americans, one such topic is poverty. Continue reading

Thinking About Change

ChangeHaving just moved to a new city, a new apartment, and started a new job, the subject of change has been on my mind lately. Change is hard: the times when I’ve transitioned to a new environment, be it moving across the country or going off to school, have been some of the most challenging periods of my life. Apart from practical and logistical concerns (Where IS the nearest grocery store? My, that is an impressive pothole!), when people move they often experience opportunities to let their faith change or, worse, slip away. The large portions of graduating high school seniors who walk away from their faith during their undergraduate years is well documented. So how do you remain faithful to your faith during times of change and challenge? Here are some suggestions. Continue reading

Book Review: NIV College Devotional Bible (Zondervan)

College Devotional BIbleCollege students are busy, with class, homework, living on their own, a social life, and (often) work vying for their time. Amidst this busyness, it’s relatively easy to neglect the more important things in life, like reading your Bible. To help address this problem, Zondervan has released the New International Version College Devotional Bible.

The College Devotional Bible is intended to encourage Bible reading among college students by emphasizing regular devotions and a series of reading plans that help keep students in the scriptures. Included in this Bible are 222 devotionals, which include a scripture reading, a short devotional story (historic, pastoral, or narrative), and reflection questions. These are generally good devotional moments, geared toward busy students and the questions they may come across while at college. While it would have been helpful to have an index of all these devotions, having them tucked within the contexts of the scriptures serves as a good encouragement to read this Bible along with the devotional content. Continue reading

Book Review: Leadership Lessons (Hawkins and Parrott)

Leadership LessonsIn Leadership Lessons: Avoiding the Pitfalls of King Saul (Thomas Nelson, 2013), Ralph K. Hawkins and Richard Leslie Parrott outline ten principles for leadership building from the life and failures of King Saul of Israel. Leadership Lessons uses the “worst practices” model of instruction, learning through the examination of the failures of others, much in the model of Gary McIntosh and Samuel Rima’s classic Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership. Beginning with an explanation of why leaders should study Saul (he was quite the failed leader after all), Leadership Lessons contextualizes Saul and then traces his failures as king of Israel, from his lack of humility and isolation to his inaction and failure to make necessary changes. Especially important are chapters on Saul’s failure to love his people, his neglecting to think before he spoke, and inability to trust God as his true leader. Overall, Leadership Lessons provides leaders of all types an opportunity to profitably learn from the mistakes of Israel’s first king. Continue reading

The Importance of (Liberal) Education

This article originally appeared at Conciliar Post.
Photo Courtesy of Richard Lee

Photo Courtesy of Richard Lee

Every year in America millions of dollars are spent on “education.”1 We have made K-12 schooling a priority, offered every child the chance at a high school diploma, and, more recently, emphasized the importance of a college degree. Yet despite this commitment of time, energy, and money not only are students falling behind internationally on test scores2 and graduating high school unprepared for college,3 but they are also often graduating college unprepared for their careers.4 This has lead many people to conclude that how Americans do education needs to change. Part of the solution to our education woes, I would suggest, is more precisely determining what is meant “education.” Continue reading

Book Review: Varieties of Religious Experience (James)

The Varieties of Religious Experience by William JamesIn The Varieties of Religious Experience, a work based on his delivery of the Gifford Lectures at the University of Edinburgh, William James sought to examine from the perspective of psychology the subject of religious experiences, seeking to understand man and his consciousness concerning religion.[1] Varieties has become a classic work in a number of fields, but especially so in the study of religious experiences and psychology of religion, a fact to which The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church attests.[2] In this work, James examines an enormous amount of data concerning religious experiences and concludes that religious experience constitutes a positive saving experience that appears to be literal and objective insofar as he can determine.[3] In this paper, we will review and examine James’ book, paying particular attention to facets that may need rethinking or revision in the current 21st Century religious and academic contexts. It should be noted that James provides in this work an astounding amount of evidence and that the scope and depth of his work remains such that we cannot consider every nuance of his presentation. Thus only major points, both for James and for our current consideration, will be examined. Upon reviewing this work, we will find that James has a great deal of insight and evidence to offer concerning religious experiences, but that his perspective needs revision and expansion before it can be considered normative for argumentation today. Continue reading

Reflections on Harry Potter

“I cannot get a cup of tea large enough nor a book long enough” –C. S. Lewis

HarryPotterLogoMuch like C.S. Lewis, since I acquired the ability to read, I have always greatly enjoyed the reading of books. Lots of them. In fact, during elementary school I once read so many of the books in our classroom that I resorted to reading the World Book Encyclopedia in order to prevent myself from re-reading too many things. The more books I have read, the more I have come to realize two critical facts: First, there will always be more books to read. By this I mean that no matter how many books I read, there will always be more ideas and narratives to engage (this I see as a great thing, in case you were wondering). And second, there are such things as good books and bad books. That is, the content and worth of all books is not inherently equal. Some great works of literature are clearly more valuable for understanding the human condition than others. To see this, one only need to compare something by Shakespeare with any modern paperback Harlequin romance novel (or perhaps the Twlight series, but I won’t go any further into that hornet’s nest). Of course, there are less drastic comparisons and rankings, but that’s not the point of this post. Instead, I want to delve into a discussion of some (relatively recent) works of literature that have elicited a variety of judgment calls, especially among American Christians: the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Continue reading