I noticed two contrasting articles from a couple of back issues of World Magazine (and yes, I promise to do more than just read and comment on what World says). The first article is from the May 14, 2005 issue, and talks about a Princeton senior who plays high stakes poker. Two quotes from him are enlightening. The first is on the value he places on his chosen profession: “My parents thought I should do something useful…I thought that [winning $10,000 last summer] was pretty useful.” Apparently, the usefulness of the job is determined by how much money one can make from it, and how quickly.
The second quote concerns his post-graduate career: “I don’t think I can make $120,000 doing anything but poker”. Hence the career choice: that which will make me 1) the most money 2) in the easiest way, is the career for me.
I contrast this with an article in the previous week’s World. In the May 7 issue, there are a few quotes from a man who taught at Princeton Theological Seminary. J. Gresham Machen gave a commencement speech many years ago, and he said the following: “The man who today enters upon the Christian life is enlisting in a warfare against the whole current of the age.” I have to agree; the current of the age is this: get a job that makes money. Machen also says that conflict with the world “can be avoided if the one who professes Christianity adapts his message to the desires of those who are about him.” Ouch.
I was thinking of how this applies to the average high school kid who professes Christianity. This student is taking his Biology test and is confronted with some question about evolution. If the student believes that God created the earth, putting that down as an answer will result in getting the question wrong. The student is now faced with a dilemma. Do I answer honestly and get the question wrong, or do I give the expected answer, even though I don’t agree with it?
Here’s how I think the reasoning goes:
I can give the expected answer, even though I don’t agree with it. The expected answer will get me a good grade on this test. A good grade on the test will get me a good grade in this class. With a good grade in this class, I can get into a good college. A good college will help me get a good job. A good job is one that will make me more money.
Thus we run into the current of the age.
I have the opportunity for the next week to spend some extended time with high school and middle school students. I plan to ask the students, test out my theory and see if I’m right.
2 thoughts on “The Current of the Age”
Unfortunately, most of the students don’t take their reasoning as far as you did. They stop at getting a good grade in the class will please my parents. Thus, the parents are perhaps more entrenched in the curent of the age than the students and the parents are, in essence, training their children to follow that current.
Grades are the key. Do they mean success? We have recently been in touch with a high school senior who received really low ACT scores, this student won’t be going to college unless something changes.
Is that the end, as a “productive” member of society? And which society, exactly, is that?
At this rate, the student won’t be able to choose from an array of jobs. Fewer choices, less chance to make a lot of money. Nearly every measurement we have points to this as failure. It’s not my student, so I can look at this a little more objectively. Were it my student, I’d want the best grades possible, for the best array of choices possible. Of course those choices are being “set” by the culture. Success and failure, then, are determined by the culture, and I know the culture is not being run by God.
So, maybe grades are not the key. But if my kids don’t want to do homework, I’m not going to let them slide. Can we hold standards that are driven by something other than culture, but still result in hard work, and the fulfillment of potential? Can a student read The Jungle “as unto the Lord”?