May 18, 2023Liked by John Hawthorne

This is a difficult post to respond to—there’s a lot to ponder! … Parents and students are culturally-shaped and (just speaking personally) it takes many years to outgrow some of the poorer aspects of that shaping. … Parents are concerned primarily about (in no order): (i) a sweet Christian spouse for their child, (ii) a marketable degree, and (iii) faithfulness to their (the parents) spiritual tradition. These are the first-tier concerns for the average parent. There are second-tier concerns, one of which would be student debt. Parents will focus on these things, as they navigate the worry they have over their child’s future in this chaotic world. “Changing the world for God” is too tall an order for one family. [Indeed, it’s too much for one or even several denominations…or even the thousands of denominations we have.]

Christian institutions will, for the time being (which is years to come), just keep their heads down and pray to manage the demographic and cultural crises we are sliding into. Our society is cash-based and w/o cash anything in our culture dies. Students and money are to a small private school what water and sunlight are to a plant. … Money defines what success and failure are in our culture. We live in a vicious, competitive culture and it’s rather difficult to be fearless.

Once again John, thanks for making me think and allowing me to ramble. God bless you.


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Just details, but: parents play a relatively strong role in college choice for practical reasons like cost, but also, to a certain extent, politics. Regardless of changes in demographics (fewer college age kids), the heightened emphasis on anti-wokenesss might be a strategy that is attractive to conservative parents, who may be increasingly afraid to send their kids to a more woke college. This is not a small number of parents.

Are there Christian colleges that have embraced an approach that approximates what you are proposing? We have a small theological graduate school (MTSO) near us that is so woke it shocks our typically agnostic students (we send students there for internships and events). I'd be curious to know how well a deeply religious institution that is not conservative would do in recruiting students.

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Yes, parents play a huge role at least in initial college choice. I would hope that the persuasive culture making efforts I envision would open those minds up a little bit over the long haul. Idealistic, I know, but that’s my argument.

A few Christian colleges approximate what I’m proposing, but most don’t for fear of being called out. After nearly four decades at five different Christian liberal arts institutions, I’m confident that the current “Chase after the conservatives” approach is not likely to succeed long term. The shifts in GenZ are just too great. I keep imagining that a progressive Christian philanthropist (they do exist!) would be moved to fund an institution willing to try a new path.

You should send some students over to Cedarville and then have them talk to those who visited MTSO!

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