Why I hate the “freshman dorm”

The older I get, the more I appreciate God’s emphasis on mentoring.  Life is far too complicated to be “taught” like a classroom subject. Sure, “tests” appear pretty frequently from our Master Teacher but clearly the people older than I are supposed to be my “study buddies.”

Many skills-based careers still depend on the master/apprentice relationship. Carpenters, electricians, and machinists (among others) even still use those medieval terms: journeyman, master.

I recently read that tattoo artists learn their complex trade by apprenticing themselves to a master artist who takes full responsibility for the younger’s training and development as an artist. When the apprentice has exhausted his master’s knowledge and skills, he moves on, perhaps to found his own shop.

Artists and musicians are part of a centuries-old system of mentorship. Professional trade the names of their teacher like Olympic medals or badges of approval. “Well, I got to take a master class with so-no-so before he died.”  “Ooooh! Really? Wow!” *eyes open* Even musicians trained outside the traditional system proudly acknowledge sessions spent doodling or jamming informally with the musicians they most admire. “I learned those sweeps from Paul! He was chillin at my buddy’s house before a show so we hung out….”

For most disciplines, a “good education” must be mediated through someone else’s guidance and experience.  Wise students attend colleges where a well-trained faculty invest themselves in training students well and directing their entrance into the discipline. So it is with life.

If I went to college thinking I would get answers to my deep questions, I was disappointed…. I didn’t.  I only got more questions. Ditto with master’s degree #1.  Masters #2 *did* provide a wealth of foundational material for my thinking, but I think that had as much to do with my being older the second time around as it did with any particular course content.  Education is never about the content….

Let’s be honest:  Life is tough. We all need each other — isolation is deadly — but we need these people ahead of us on the journey even more. We need these storehouses of experience to open themselves up for us to rummage around and find what we need as we need it. And it’s not just the “big questions” of life that fall under Paul’s injunction that”the older teach the younger” — think of what humanity would lose if Southern women stopped teaching their daughters how to make fluffy biscuits and sweet tea! 

Several of my former students and friends just moved thousands of pounds of STUFF into their dorm rooms at college. An overwhelming number of them now live on entire halls or buildings crammed with hundreds of freshmen controlled by a scattering of RA’s (who are nearly as inexperienced at life and the universe and everything).

Doesn’t the very concept of “the freshman dorm” cut the legs out from under God’s vital process of life-mentoring? 

Sure, college classes provide plenty of intellectual discipleship into a professor’s underlying worldview … but dumping all the newbies into one building to muck along on their own as best they can (aside from the “freshman life seminars”) suggests we don’t really care much about our freshmen …. or deem them capable of much more their first year besides public drunkenness and a need to be sequestered from the quieter, calmer, older student population who find freshmen too irritating to keep close by.

I critique BJU a lot, but I deeply appreciate now the way they nestled the freshmen into already-existing communities of older students. Every room contained a jr/sr, a sophomore, and a freshman (usually). Having those older, wiser people around me in abundance made a whale’s difference in my freshman year — though I recognize that only now. The University purposefully created ‘spaces’ in the student organizations where freshmen became woven into the fabric of university life instead of being left to clump together in one lump of inexperience. Looking back, I can’t remember the names of all the upperclassmen girls who reached out to me in my first months at college, but I can’t tell you how much their stability and wisdom protected me from a lot of stupidity and mistakes. (And loneliness.)

Unintentionally, NCS ended up following a similar pathway as we designed the high school.  I noticed my first year there that the 8th graders become so much more mature by hanging out with high school kids all the time. We have seen the older kids take an intentional role in raising up younger students who know how to act right; who treat their classmates with patience; who treat a lady with respect; who learn what to do at a formal dance. We’d drive those relationships all the way down into the elementary school if we could.  It’s so good.

Almost by definition, young adults lack the experience they need to actually “make it” in adult life. Dropping all the young’uns into a single building where they can be managed, controlled, and kept away from the mainstream population robs them of so much that ought to be part of a college kid’s dorm experience!  You don’t learn wisdom and life skills from classroom lectures; it comes as someone older than you teaches wisdom “when you’re lying down, and when you rise up; in your goings-out and comings-in; as you walk along and when you eat” (so says Deuteronomy 6, more or less).

Isolation from older, wiser adults is a systemic flaw in the American college system.

Mammon

I fear, as an American, God’s corporate judgment on America.

Jesus talks about God’s evaluation of nations as a whole in sheep/goat terms.  I’m not *really* scared — I understand redemption….

But I remember how sick I felt in my stomach as a kid when I knew I had disappointed my parents. I’m afraid that God will look at His rich American church in The Great Hereafter and we will feel sick… for we will see the weak, the poor, the minorities, the underprivileged, the starving, the hurt ones that we set aside because they weren’t neat enough,
clean enough,
rich enough,
smart enough.

I own an iPod, a television, a computer, a cell phone, a stereo, an XBox…. a college education, two master’s degrees, and hundreds of books. I go to movies a couple times a month, drink Starbucks lattes about once a week, and eat out occasionally.

I have friends in Christian ministry in America & around the world who have seen their support drop by half due to the economy.

I have brothers & sisters in Christ who will not eat much today because they don’t have much; fellow believers whose homes will be vandalized because they are Christian; whose jobs are the worst of their society because they aren’t following the preferred religion.

I enjoy multiple American comforts because immigrants (legal or not) perform the “worst” jobs so that I don’t have to. I buy cheap merchandise made by workers in developing nations who lack any basic guarantee of safety or fair income.  I teach at a school that barely 1% of people on earth could afford.  And, for the record, my parents could have never afforded NCS for me … as it was, they sacrificed every creature comfort to pay my tuition.

I share the planet with fellow humans who are starving, sick, and poor. Who live in cardboard houses, receive little health care, and will never need an iPod because their country doesn’t have a stable power grid to keep its battery charged.

I am ashamed and disgusted.

… we will answer for these things…

 

~~~~~~~~~~

This post originally appeared on my Xanga site. I want to include the comment stream as well:

Saturday, 15 August 2009

  • I fear, as an American, God’s corporate judgment on America.

    Jesus talks about God’s evaluation of nations as a whole in sheep/goat terms.  I’m not *really* scared — I understand redemption….

    But I remember how sick I felt in my stomach as a kid when I knew I had disappointed my parents. I’m afraid that God will look at His rich American church in The Great Hereafter and we will feel sick… for we will see the weak, the poor, the minorities, the underprivileged, the starving, the hurt ones that we set aside because they weren’t neat enough,
    clean enough,
    rich enough,
    smart enough.

    I own an iPod, a television, a computer, a cell phone, a stereo, an XBox…. a college education, two master’s degrees, and hundreds of books. I go to movies a couple times a month, drink Starbucks lattes about once a week, and eat out occasionally.

    I have friends in Christian ministry in America & around the world who have seen their support drop by half due to the economy.

    I have brothers & sisters in Christ who will not eat much today because they don’t have much; fellow believers whose homes will be vandalized because they are Christian; whose jobs are the worst of their society because they aren’t following the preferred religion.

    I enjoy multiple American comforts because immigrants (legal or not) perform the “worst” jobs so that I don’t have to. I buy cheap merchandise made by workers in developing nations who lack any basic guarantee of safety or fair income.  I teach at a school that barely 1% of people on earth could afford.  And, for the record, my parents could have never afforded NCS for me … as it was, they sacrificed every creature comfort to pay my tuition.

    I share the planet with fellow humans who are starving, sick, and poor. Who live in cardboard houses, receive little health care, and will never need an iPod because their country doesn’t have a stable power grid to keep its battery charged.

    I am ashamed and disgusted.

    … we will answer for these things…

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Comments (4)

  • We had a visiting preacher a few years back open out of Ezekiel 16. For all that Christians like to treat homosexuality as the *biggest* of the sins we don’t do; Jerusalem was called out for being *worse* than her sister Sodom. Why??

    And your elder sister is Samaria, who lived with her daughters to the north of you; and your younger sister, who lived to the south of you, is Sodom with her daughters. Not only did you walk in their ways and do according to their abominations; within a very little time you were more corrupt than they in all your waysAs I live, declares the Lord God , your sister Sodom and her daughters have not done as you and your daughters have done. Behold, this was the guilt of your sister Sodom: she and her daughters had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy. They were haughty and did an abomination before me. So I removed them, when I saw it. Samaria has not committed half your sins. You have committed more abominations than they, and have made your sisters appear righteous by all the abominations that you have committed. Bear your disgrace, you also, for you have intervened on behalf of your sisters. Because of your sins in which you acted more abominably than they, they are more in the right than you. So be ashamed, you also, and bear your disgrace, for you have made your sisters appear righteous. Ezek 16:46-52 esv

    Maybe the “powers that be” in the US today (who by some accounts seem bent on redistributing the wealth) are going to make us (the church) do what we were *supposed* to be doing all along. What good are we if we just say “be warmed and filled”??  [from Savage1992]

  • @Savage1992 – We read our OT so little, we forget that God talks far more about social sin and injustice than He does about what we consider “moral” crimes. It’s easy to stone a murderer.  It’s hard to take care of poor people over a lifetime.  [from lorojoro]

  • @LoroJoro –  Indeed!! Social injustice ranks WAY high on God’s care-o-meter. And just because it’s fun to say “shit”… my favorite Tony Campolo quote (that we’ve discussed before)…

    “I have three things I’d like to say today. First, while you were sleeping last night, 30,000 kids died of starvation or diseases related to malnutrition. Second, most of you don’t give a shit. What’s worse is that you’re more upset with the fact that I said shit than the fact that 30,000 kids died last night.” – Tony Campolo

    [from Savage1992]

No hope for change….apart from the Spirit

Saw Funny People a couple days ago. Completely different than what I expected, actually. The trailer made it look like a thoughtful comedy about a comedian with cancer.  Turned out to be a thoughtful drama about a comedian with cancer.

2009_funny_people_wallpaper_001

I’ve not worked with enough people to really say I know the type of person who is purposefully self-destructive as a result of selfishness. I’ve encountered the sentiment occasionally (in myself and others at times), and it’s really frustrating to deal with.  But that’s a pretty normal life pattern for many folks. They are unhappy and dissatisfied with themselves and everything about their lives, yet they lack the power to effect any real change.  They openly use people around them for their own purposes, manipulating to get what they want and then throwing friendships away when they no longer provide the necessary perks.

Adam Sandler nails that personality type in Funny People. Seth Rogan is the moral, conscientious, lovable awkward friend who tries to keep Sandler’s character from imploding.  Fascinating story of an odd yet all-too-realistic friendship between two men.  Well, it’s not really a friendship … more of a constant irritation with a relatively happy ending. And the supporting characters add a lot of life to the film.

As for the film, I’m not sure whether I actually recommend it or not. Cons: It’s slow-paced and longer than necessary; very crass; and a little heavy. But the acting is great, and it’s a film that prompts a lot of reflections on dealing with people who, at their core, are nothing but selfish. The plot isn’t predictable either — which I appreciate.

So… not recommending. But have been thinking a lot since seeing Funny People