Friday, June 21, 2013

College's Unwritten Curriculum

I am now a mother of children who have attended college. To date, two have graduated from college. While I am happy about this, there are somethings that I have come face to face with that have been jarring to my spirit.

One of the few things I like to read in the newspaper besides the comics, is the advice column. This  recent letter was in the "Ask Amy" column and it shares a student's perspective of dealing with pressures at college:

DEAR AMY: I am a college student who doesn't drink. I was raised in a religious family, and it was instilled in me not to drink until I turn 21. My roommate drinks and pressures me to drink.
She and my friends never invite me out because they think I will be no fun. One night I gave in and had a few sips of alcohol.
All of a sudden, my roommate was inviting me to parties. When I went I felt uncomfortable, yet at the same time, people were accepting me. A few people came up to me and told me that until that night they didn't want to hang out with me because they thought I was too uptight.
Is it wrong to change what I believe in so that I can have a common bond with my new friends? Do I drink occasionally and have some friends, or stick to what I believe in and sit in my dorm room alone? What should I do?

This letter exemplifies what many of our children go through once they leave for college. As a matter of fact in the above letter you can replace drinking with sex, drugs, partying or any other vice that seems so prevalent during the college years. And unfortunately though many of our children were raised as Christian and some are Christians the situation above is more typical than we can imagine. Though we pray for our children and instill in them morals and values, the rubber meets the road when children are away from home with no parental authority in sight.

When children go away or leave for college they no longer have the umbrella of parental authority. Parental authority provides love, discipline and accountability. While many want to get out from under it, they sometimes initially don't know how to handle themselves when the umbrella is gone.

Also note that bad company corrupts good character 1 Cor 15:33;  why this is so I do not know, but this is the case time and time again. (I sometimes call it the law of gravity). It would be foolish of us as parents to think our children will go to college and not be affected by all that is happening around them.  (I used to feel this way.)

Here's the advice the columnist gave:
DEAR TORN: The job of the older teen/young adult is to try to answer these questions: Who am I? What do I want? The most important guiding principle is that you cannot let other people define you.
True friendships are all about authenticity and the possibility of being accepted for your true self.
Go to parties and have fun without drinking. I assure you, as your friends get more drunk, you will either seem more hilarious, or they will become more belligerent and bullying. Your sobriety will put you at an advantage because you will possess the ability to discern the difference. Many universities now offer "clean living" dorms/communities. You should apply for a slot. You may not form friendships with every sober person you meet, but at the least you will not be judged for having the integrity to live according to your values.

Here's what I suggest:
  • Pray for wisdom - Solomon the wisest man in the world prayed for wisdom and received it. 2  Chronicles 1: 7-12;  you can too  James 1:5
  • Don't be afraid to set boundaries and stick to them - Matthew 5:37
  • Don't be afraid to do what's right - Matthew 10:16
  • It's OK if people don't like you; everyone can't and usually it is their problem not yours
  • Surround yourself with like minded people - Matthew 26:38
  • Nurture your spirit; meditate on God's word so that you can recall it - Psalm 119:11
  • Go back to your foundation - what does the Bible say? What have my parents taught me? Do the two contradict each other? 1 Thessalonians 5:21-23
  • If you were raised in a Christian household, but never believed what you were taught this will also be a time of self discovery for you. Hopefully, in seeking you will find the truth. Matthew 7:7
College is a time for learning who you are. Clean living does not start with a set of buildings, it starts with your internal values; a college's definition of clean may not line up with yours. Also know that there are consequences for every action. Life is not a series of rules where you can't have fun, but rather a series of experiences that are constantly shaping us. You will have to define what is fun for you; it's OK if you don't think all vices are fun. It's strikes me that what most people call fun is shallow, empty and short lived pleasure.
Don't be a wimp about this - there's no need to feel torn as this may be a test for bigger issues you may have to deal with.

Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. 1 Timothy 4:12
Are you familiar with the unwritten curriculum? How can you help a young person today?

1 comment:

  1. This, right here, has been the topic of conversation with my daughter before, during and after her first year away. Our talks have been explicit because the culture into which she has been placed has been explicit. I am happy to say that while she has experienced some lonely moments, she and I have been able to talk them through? "Is it worth losing yourself just to fit in?" She is a young woman of high morale content and she has decided -- because it has been solely her decision -- to stand her ground.

    As her mother, I couldn't be more proud.


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