Yes… but NO.
As I just wrapped up my first semester of college, I came home to a set of parents eager to ask away about my semester. Questions ranged from softball to friends to caf food. And then my mom asked me a question which actually made me stop and think: “Did high school prepare you for college?”
And the answer is no. It did not.
Well, hold on… It did prepare me for such things as writing research papers, taking quality lecture notes and what not, but did it prepare me for college? No.
Let’s start at high school. I attended Beaver Area high school, which is a top-ranked public high school in Western PA. The school itself is not what failed me–Beaver was a great school. What failed me was the public education system. Now I’m not here to go on a rant about how the system needs to be revised (it does, don’t get me wrong), but rather to share my experience with you.
Ask anyone to name the best school in the county and they will say Beaver. Why? Test scores. We had really good scores compared to the other schools in our county and region. We tested well. We became robots. We became numbers and test scores. We became our GPAs and the number of AP courses we were taking. Well, at least I did. And that is indeed partially my fault, but it is also the fault of the public education system.
Instead of becoming better people, growing as young adults, we became people solely concerned with passing classes. At the time it truly seems like the most important thing–life or death. But deep inside me I had this longing for something more in my education. I couldn’t quite put a finger on it, but I knew something was missing. Seven months ago when I graduated high school with Honors and in the top 2 percent of my class, with a super high GPA (which I was all-too concerned about), a successful softball career, and a member of the National Honor Society, I thought that I couldn’t be any more satisfied with my high school career. Here I sit here typing seven months later and can see so clearly how flawed and depleted my high school education was.
Now, I did have some amazing teachers. In every subject I had great teachers who left me with memories that will last a lifetime, and stories I will tell to my kids and grandkids. It wasn’t so much the teachers that were the problem, but rather the curriculum. It was pure facts, knowledge, empirical study. The problem was that there was no point to it. Okay, I just memorized every Supreme Court case, the history of Europe, blah blah blah. But now what do I do with it? I study it for a test, forget it, and relearn it for the final. Then I receive my grades, earn a diploma, and I’m on my way. But as much as high school taught loads of facts and equations and literary devices, it left me hanging as person!
I am blessed enough to have been able to completed my first semester of college at a place (Franciscan University) which has enabled me to open my eyes to see this disaster. I have grown more as person in one semester of college than I have in four years of high school. How has Franciscan enabled me to open my eyes to this? Two reasons. First, it is a liberal arts education. Never did I ever think that I’d be taking philosophy and theology courses in college. Those weren’t geared toward my major. Those weren’t going to make me money one day. Those wouldn’t secure me a good job right out of college. But what they did do was form me as a person. For the first time Descartes was discussed not as a champion of philosophy and the Enlightenment era, but rather as a fundamentally flawed philosopher. (How so? I don’t have time to discuss but in short his theories can easily be proved wrong.) For the first time I studied the classic Greek thinkers in depth and analyzed their work in every form–philosphy, poilitics, ethics, and so on. And for the first time I took a theology course which opened both my heart and mind to the reality which stares us in the face every day. (Obviously I could not have taken a theology course at a public high school because God has been banned from public places. (HAH- as if we can actually assume that we have the power to do so. (He is there we just refuse to recognize Him.))) And this gets me into the next point: that Franciscan University’s main priority is the Truth. The education it provides is shaped rightfully to the Truth, thus in its correct form. Every class starts with prayer. Every subject is made relevant to our purpose here on earth and where that will take us after our time on earth. Every professor is concerned about shaping their students morally and spiritually, and every student is open to the possibility that maybe, just maybe they themselves are not the center of their lives, their degree is not for them, and that all of the stress and studying throughout the semester is not without purpose.
For the first time in my life I am not concerned about my grades. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely care about maintaining good grades because it is not only a part of my vocation as a student, but also reflects my character, work ethic, and so on. Grades say a lot, but they don’t say everything. What I am trying to say is that for the first time in my life I care more about learning because the learning that happens at Franciscan University does not only make me smarter, but it allows me to grow. It opens my eyes, heart and mind to the reality of life, giving a real purpose to my education. It truly fulfills the definition of a liberal arts education, in that it sets me free (liber=free.) It doesn’t constrain me to the viewpoints and biases of my professors or classmates because it presents the truth, and only the truth has the power to radically give life and meaning to our studies and professions. Because the Truth Is.
So, did high school prepare me for college? Not nearly as much as it should have.