Is Post-Secondary Education a Waste of Time?
For many today, university or college education has become par for the course, simply another stepping stone on their way to the career of their choice. Young people are flooding campuses at record rates, and with good reason. Post-secondary education has never been more available and affordable. Many people who a generation ago would not even have considered post-secondary education are now able to attend. But this widespread availability also has a dark side. Many students are on campus not to gain knowledge but to gain a degree, not to expand their horizons, but simply to expand their credentials. These schools have, to some extent, transitioned from institutions of higher learning into graduate factories. As Christians, what should be our approach to post-secondary education? Is further education a valuable experience, adding to our knowledge and appreciation of the world we live in or is it a waste of three or four years that would be better spent earning a paycheque? Is it something to aspire to, or something to avoid because of the secular nature of most universities? Of course, there are no blanket answers, but these issues deserve a closer look.
Often in Scripture, we are exhorted to get wisdom, understanding and knowledge. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge (Prov. 1:7). But we should not stop there. God has given mankind stewardship over the earth, and we have a responsibility to learn about and care for His creation. God has also created us with inquisitive and intelligent minds to use to His glory. We have an appreciation for beauty and order in nature, art, architecture, music, literature, and so much more that differentiates us from even the most intelligent of animals, and is evidence of the majesty of our Creator God. If God has created us for His own glory, shouldn’t we strive for a greater understanding and appreciation of His creation and the gifts and talents He has given us?
The point of all this is not to put post-secondary education on a pedestal as the only way to attain knowledge, as if those who have never gone are poor, uncultured peons. Not everyone can or should pursue this path, and sometimes reality makes it impossible. Financial considerations are often at the top of the list of obstacles to overcome. Four more years of school, paying for tuition and supplies and no paycheques? Frankly, it probably doesn’t seem too appealing to someone who has just spent the last thirteen years of their life going to school ten months out of the year. “I’m finally free and I’m not going back!” While this sentiment is to some degree understandable, we should consider whether we are really using our talents and intelligence to the fullest.
Are we doing ourselves and God justice if we leave our gifts undeveloped and let them go to waste simply because we want the “instant” gratification of the financial freedom that comes with full-time employment? Financial concerns should not be overlooked, especially for mature students, but if we are called to further education, we must be prepared to make sacrifices and trust God to provide.
Another objection often raised is the secular nature of most universities and colleges. Parents often worry that their children will adopt the relativistic worldview espoused by many/most in the academic community and return home with a different set of beliefs than they left home with. While this can and, regrettably, sometimes does happen, it should not keep us from sending our children for further education. We must raise and educate our children to know what they believe and why. “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Prov. 22:6) If our children are not firm enough in their beliefs to withstand a few years of postsecondary education, it is doubtful whether they could withstand the pressures they will face when they enter the workforce. Certainly, Christians going to university or college will face pressure to conform to the secular and relativistic standards of many of their peers. Instead of worrying, we should pray that, instead of caving in, they may be given the courage and eloquence to be ready to give an answer to everyone.
Having dealt with a couple objections, let’s look at two positive reasons that post-secondary education is important. Christians are called to be the salt of the earth. And what better way to exert a godly influence on our society than to have learned Christian men and women in positions of influence? How much good could be effected if we had Christian politicians, Christian lawyers and judges, Christian writers and academics, etc.? Throughout history, God has used godly men and women to change things for the better.
The second reason for the importance of post-secondary education has already been touched on, but deserves reiteration. It is that each of us use our talents to the glory of God; to explore His creation; to admire His creativity; to wonder at the order and logic of the universe; to be amazed at the beauty of music and language; to marvel that the more we learn, the less we really know. And to stand in awe of our great God, for “in him we live, and move, and have our being.” (Acts 17:28)
So whether you’re a student contemplating your future, or in the workforce and thinking about a career change, university or college is something to seriously consider. Each of us is called to maximize our potential and use our gifts to the fullest. Whatever our lot in life, whatever our calling, whether we have a Ph. D or just grade three, “whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.” (Eccl 9:10)