His voice rang out clearly: “Mom and Dad, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING!?”
Our valedictorian stood at the pulpit during the graduation ceremony, and expounded on his question: in a world that sees standardized test scores, premier college admissions, prestigious career pursuits – and subsequent six-digit salaries – as markers of success, why in the world would parents send their sons and daughters to a small, classical Christian school like ours?
As our valedictorian so eloquently said, in the modern age of radical pragmatism, parents who make such a choice – and pay a sizeable tuition to do it – appear insane. To be successful in this world, in schools shouldn’t parents be looking for signature sports programs, robust class offerings, AP classes galore, an army of college admissions advisors, and more?
The valedictorian paused and repeated the opening clause of his last statement: to be successful in this world….
Therein lies the rub. As Christians, we need to be thoughtful about what success truly looks like. Should we accept what this age considers success: high standardized test scores, college admissions, premier professions, and prodigious salaries? Or, as disciples of Christ, is success something different for us, something higher, something beyond the understanding of the world around us?
As a graduating senior, this particular student fully grasped what it meant to be classically educated in the Christian tradition when visiting Rwanda two years prior. It was Pastor Patrick’s persistent and singular pursuit for his students, many of who live on the very edge of starvation, that really captivated his imagination and brought him to a deeper understanding of the true markers of success for the Christian student: to become good and virtuous servants of the Living Christ.
Success to the modern pragmatist lies in what a student does and how that brings him material gain; success to the Christian family lies in who a student becomes and how that enables them to serve Christ and His kingdom.
Our valedictorian’s final caution still resonates in my mind: because The Ambrose School has grown to meet and exceed many of the pragmatist’s markers – high standardized test scores, impressive college admissions and scholarship lists, etc. – we must be vigilant to remember the difference: our primary purpose as a school lies in who our students are and not in what they do. Let us never lose sight of the difference.
1 Corinthians 3:18-19 reads: “If any of you think you are wise by the standards of this age, you should become “fools” so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight.” Few things Christian families do appear more foolish to this world than to pay for an education when their sons and daughters can go to the government schools for free. Just as the world does not comprehend the wisdom of God, neither does it comprehend the Christian parent’s responsibility to raise up virtuous sons and daughters who love God and love their neighbor.
If the world thinks you insane, that’s likely a good thing.