descending from the city on a hill

This video depicts a Wednesday at Tri-County.

As of Tuesday a week a ago, I have given my last presentation at Tri-County Technical. I have climbed and descended those great flights of steps for the last time.

Tri-County is something of a city on a hill. I’ve told friends that if disaster strikes, that’s where I’m headed. Whether it’s an invasion or a flood, Tech is something of a fortress – easily defended and about two hundred feet above parking level. And I was just a little sad to leave her for the last time.

After I graduated from high-school, I spent the next two years entertaining thoughts about higher education. Deep down, in about three places, I was always afraid of it. I was afraid that even though I got good grades at my old school, I would be inadequate as a college student. I was worried that it would cost a fortune. And finally, I wasn’t easily able to see its practical purpose.

Inadequacy

I was afraid that maybe I’d go to college, try as hard as I could, and just not be able to succeed. Basically, I was afraid that I wasn’t smart enough to be educated – which is really silly if you think about it. I don’t know if other people feel like that – I tend to feel that way a lot. But it didn’t last long. It became apparent pretty quickly that, as a general rule, the kids who did well were the ones who were willing to try. I think anyone with self-discipline and the ability to read can do quite well at Tri-County. It’s really a lot like high-school, except that no one calls your parents if you don’t read the material, do homework, or show up to class. As it turns out that’s actually more than most kids are willing to do. My classes were not all easy, but I think that as a you can succeed here if you want to.

Money

When I first started applying and getting things in order to start at Tri-County, the whole financial thing was kind of indefinite. As it turned out, I never ended up paying any tuition. The first two semesters I spent a couple hundred bucks on books. But I learned that the South Carolina Life Scholarship is available to anyone who graduates high-school in S.C., becomes a full-time student, and can maintain a 3.0 GPA (or an 80). Since I was really unsure about what degree I was going to get, I was afraid I’d be sinking money into wasted time. After three semesters, I’ve probably spent about $600 on books, parking decals, and transcript fees. I got the Life Scholarship and applied to the general list of available scholarships and got one of those each year. College thus far has cost me about as much as having a gym membership and a Netflix account for 15 months.

Pragmatism.

My experience in my community and culture has taught me to be very pragmatic. This means that everything serves a definite purpose, is undertaken to produce a result. We often read the Bible looking for life lessons: how does this apply to my life…what is the moral of the story…where’s the important principle? Going to school has helped me unlearn some of this mindset.

There are different views about education and its purpose. Some see it as a pragmatic means to a monetary ends. Go to school, get that piece of paper, then can get out in the real world and make good money. I think that’s a pretty lousy ideology. It’s also why there were so many lazy, pathetic students sitting beside me. Education was their means to monetary ends, nothing more.

There is another view of education, the one held by Socrates and the one I prefer, which says education is a turning of the mind, a re-direction. Socrates calls it a turn from becoming and towards being.

“The power to learn is present in everyone’s soul and the instrument with which each learns is like an eye that cannot be turned around from darkness to light without turning the whole body…until it is able to study (the brightest of things), namely, the good. Education is not the craft of putting sight into the soul. It takes for granted that sight is already there but that it isn’t turned the right way or looking where it ought to look, and it tries to redirect it appropriately” – Socrates (The Republic).

Some Christians get squeamish because they think going to college will fill your head with false information – you’ll get brainwashed by atheists. I was surprised to find that most professors were intent not on teaching me what to think, but instead, how to think. Most of my professors were quite reserved in giving their beliefs out. They were teaching to equip students to think well about important things, not indoctrinating them. Except of course for math classes – they’re pretty dogmatic.

So then my fears and hesitations, about insufficiency, money, and purpose, have proved to be mostly unfounded. It’s been worth it.

This spring, I’ll be going to Toccoa Falls College over in Georgia. There are many things about Tri-County I shall miss – the dried out burgers and flights of stairs are not among them.

If you ever have to choose between classes, I’d be happy to give advice. Here’s what I’ve taken, from most to least favorite:

(1.) Sociology (2.) Philosophy. (3.) English 202 (4.) English 101 (5.) English 102 (6.) Spanish (7.) Psychology (8.) Early American History (9.) Music Appreciation (10.) Speech (11.) Western Civ. (12.) Psychics/Chemistry (13.) Technology in Society (14.) Probability and Statistics (15.) Astronomy.

6 thoughts on “descending from the city on a hill

  1. I love this post. Especially regarding your last point…I had a very similar experience my few terms of college. But I’ve always had a hard time explaining to people the value of learning just for the sake of learning, even if it doesn’t necessarily end up netting me more $$$.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I found your comments on feeling inadequate really interesting. I’ve known a number of Mennonite kids (myself included) who did reasonably well in high school, but didn’t have any context for how it would translate to college because they hardly knew anyone who had done it, and then went on to do quite well in college. I’m not entirely sure if we’re smarter than we realize or if we just feel more guilty about skipping classes and assignments.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I love your comment of going to college for the sake of higher education, and not as something one has to do to be able to have a good (rich) life later. I come from a small minded Mennonite community. Recently my sister expressed a desire to go to college after completing high school and no one in my family supported her. My aunt said it was too much money to invest in a girl who’d get married later. Now if she was a boy it’d be different… I’m just about peeling out of my skin if I hear that.
    I’ve never been interested in college myself because I didn’t know what to be when I grew up. Didn’t know what to study for or work towards. I was also afraid of having wasted money if things didn’t pan out later. This post changed my mindset completely.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a scary thing to realize how much of our lives are built around money. That about your sister is really unfortunate. Thanks for sharing this. Those last two sentences are very meaningful to me, and I’m glad I could do that for you.

      Liked by 1 person

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