When Messiah College students cross the platform during their graduation ceremony they receive a small white towel. The towel symbolizes service. As Jesus washed the feet of the disciples, so we hope our graduates will think about their lives in terms of service to others. I thought about this Messiah College tradition when I read Tom Perrin’s excellent New York Times op-ed, “One Way to Make College Meaningful.” I especially like the subtitle: “Don’t find yourself; find a vocation.”
Here is a taste of his piece:
Why vocation, though, rather than the old model of learning for learning’s sake? Why not, as the religious studies professor Ron Srigley has recently argued, return to the old, “beautiful goal” of the university, “to discover and then to tell the truth,” disentangled from the mercenary arms of the offices of careers and student life? My answer would be that universities have always been hybrid creatures, serving many masters at once: social norms, the market, churches and the exacting standards of disciplinary research, to name four. But the fantasy of the university as a disinterested sphere of pure knowledge is just that. This is not so much to attack the liberal arts as it is to point out that to link them purposefully with life and career goals is not at all to alter the way they have long functioned.
Read the entire piece here.