Knowledge and Praise: An Open Letter to Christian Students at the Journey’s Beginning

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I begin with a simple question for the class of 2018, though it is really a question for all of us: Why higher education? Why are you now in the place where you find yourselves, whether in the great urban universities of New York or Chicago, at my home institution of Messiah College, or perhaps Valparaiso University in Indiana, or in the shadow of mountains at Bennington in Vermont, where my son is attending this fall? Until very recently, a very small percentage of Americans chose to or even had the opportunity to attend a college. Only two or three generations ago, the large majority of Americans went to work after high school, or started families, or joined the military. To these generations, the question “Why go to college?” was real and urgent, and people who did so were considered unusual, if not strange. Now, going to college is for many, though certainly not all, nearly as common as owning a cellphone, as natural to our culture as breathing, such that collectively we hardly stop to ask after its purposes in any serious way. At least not until recently. But going to college is not, after all, breathing, and so it can be worth stopping to ask yourselves why now, of all the possibilities you could imagine and conceive, you find yourselves on a college or university campus.


Originally published as:

“Knowledge and Praise: An Open Letter to Christian Students at the Journey’s Beginning. The Cresset. Michaelmas 2014. Vol. 78, No. 1.