Rankin File

Ruminations, fulminations, and cogitations on the spiritual life

Cooling Off, a Little

A commenter on my blog about getting a job (10/11) reminded me of a verse from Ecclesiastes (3:13), “It is God’s gift that all should eat and drink and take pleasure in all their toil.” Since this statement is all that the commenter left me, I take it to be a gentle criticism of my “worker bee” reference.

I’ll accept this remonstrance. As I think about people who work in technical fields with technical degrees (including my own son) I do not want to create the impression that such jobs are not good, honest labor with their own inherent value. They certainly are. My intent was not to play the elitist and put down technical schools or work, in general. In fact, I want just the opposite.

Rather, I was and still am aiming at the absurd prejudice so prevelant in our society, that the main purpose of going to college is so that you can get that good job. That is not the purpose of college at all. It is, rather, to figure out who you are; to become a thoughtful, wise person. Furthermore, Christian higher education , to which I am committed, is about becoming a mature, fruitful disciple of Jesus Christ. (Perhaps the Bible college mentality is the Christian analogy to technical schools. Now I’m probably in trouble with a different set of people.) Having a job is certainly an important part of being a faithful Christian. But the “technical school” approach to adult life is dangerously short-sighted.

I suppose what I’m really talking about is the old idea of “vocation.” You can get training in a particular skill set and get yourself a good job. But you – a person – are so much more than your job skills. I’d like for every line worker in the country to know and believe this truth deeply about him- or herself. How will anyone know it if all we think a college education does is help people get a good job?

Here’s the irony I find behind my commenter’s gentle criticism: it is at least possible that a college student might actually have to read Ecclesiastes 3 for a class and think about what it means. That action of having to think about something beside just how to work a piece of equipment or solve a mechanical problem (worthy skills, I repeat) is exactly what I’m talking about. I have a hard time imagining that a student in technical school would – as a part of his/her education – ever run into such a reading.

Thus I return to my main concern: wise, thoughtful, people and, more to the point, that kind of Christian populating our society. It is why I reacted so negatively to that newspaper article. We need a broader vision about college than the entrenched technical school mentality and, however people get it, our society needs people who know the difference between sound wisdom and instrumental skill. We are slipping badly on this count.

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October 13, 2008 - Posted by | Higher and Theological Education

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