By Frank A. Brock
This time of year is always exciting for our high school seniors. Of the twenty-or-so students I lead here at our church 4 of them are graduating this May. All four of these young ladies are very focused individuals who have all been accepted into well respected schools. As similar as these young ladies are they have all been accepted into four very different schools to pursue differing degrees. In this situation it is particularly encouraging for me to see the families of these young ladies become involved in their choice of schools. This task of deciding whether or not to go to college, and then what college to choose is always a daunting task. It is on this very subject that Frank A. Brock has written the book An Educated Choice: Advice for Parents of College-Bound Students. Brock is an educator whose resume includes a 15 year stint as the president of Covenant College in Lookout Mountain, Georgia. It is from his vantage point as a college president that Brock writes this book. Brock’s best contribution to this discussion is in the area of what to look for in a college. Brock is very clear that the goal of a good college should be much more that just to graduate students. As he states,
No matter what type of students it admits, a college, a good college, helps those students make significant progress in developing skills, knowledge, and values that will provide a foundation for the rest of life.
This is why it is so important that students work hard to find a school that is going to fulfill their needs in these areas. The problem is, as Brock states numerous times, that most students and parents see a college degree as a means to a better job rather than an educational opportunity. In other words, it is more important to get a degree than it is to get an education. Brock has a word of advice to parents with regards to this assumption,
If you choose a college because you think it’s going to ensure your child a good job, you are probably making the decision based on a false expectation. You might be setting yourself and your child up for disappointment.
Overall this book is quite helpful in thinking through the issues of higher education. Brock definitely writes from the prospective of an educator, and thus I found his conclusions to be a bit one sided at times. For instance, there were several times that I could not help but wonder if Brock had over-generalized the immaturity of today’s college student. There are also times in the book when Brock may over estimate the value of a college education, and the role that colleges play in this country. Brock himself admitted “the idealism of this book” in his introduction.
One thing that did make me a bit uncomfortable with this book was Brock’s tendency to keep coming back to the subject of “self-worth.” Brock even suggests that “functional people” have these three characteristics: 1) a sense of purpose; 2) a sense of self-worth; 3) they feel they are capable of doing what they are doing. I must admit that there is some truth in this point; however I do not think that a low sense of self-worth is a major problem in today’s students. Quite frankly I think that the biggest problem, as it has been since Adam, is pride. But this was not a major point in Brock’s book, so it should not be a major point of concern.
I did find that Brock’s practical advice to parents was quite thought provoking, and would be of considerable value to families as they discuss this issue. There are numerous issues, and specific questions that Brock brings up which I would have never thought about. In one of the best paragraphs in the book Brock said,
It must be kept in mind, however, that parents need to emphasize the importance of college for some students. Not all students are college material. And parents also need to be careful with what kind of expectations they have for their children. Sadly, many parents seem more interested in telling their friends that their child got a scholarship to brand X prestigious college (or athletic program) than in their child’s well-being.
In the end I would not give a wholesale endorsement to all the opinions of this book. However, I would highly recommend it as a resource for families that are preparing to send a student off to college.