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Chapter 6: The Folly of Traditional College

A Full Reward: Reformation Through Family-Run Christian Schools

Rev. Aaron Slack

Pastor, Author, Marketing Manager, Preschool Director

Chapter 6

The Folly of Traditional College

What is “Traditional College”?

In this chapter I will be discussing “college,” and for our purposes, when I say “college,” I mean “traditional college.” What do I mean by this? I mean leaving home after high school to live among and be instructed by others for a period of most likely years, with limited family contact, spending tens of thousands of dollars you probably don’t have (the amount is steadily increasing), all aimed towards the goal of attaining a piece of paper saying you have met the requirements of an institution of “higher learning”—no real-life work experience necessary. This is in sharp contrast to apprenticeship, the subject of the next chapter.

There are many other ways to attain the credentials necessary for your calling that do not involve the expense and danger of traditional residential college. I am not disparaging these methods, or the concept of “higher education” in general. I commend those seeking knowledge in the pursuit of their callings. I see the growth in recent years of online and community colleges as a very positive thing.

It was once my goal to go to traditional college. I cannot take credit for my decision to forgo it; I give all the glory to God. It was clearly an example of the Holy Spirit’s leading. Now that I am older, I have more “empirical” evidence to back up my actions. Many of the parents who come through the doors of my schools are the product of a college education, and the results have not been pretty.

The traditional college degree has steadily declined in actual value while still retaining its reputation as a status symbol. Idolaters continue to fall to their knees to worship the golden piece of paper at the end of the college rainbow. Like the famous Tin Man of The Wizard of Oz, all too many people consider themselves “uneducated” without this document.

It should be noted that this piece of paper known as a diploma, as dubious as its benefits may be, is not really what many young people are interested in. College is often sought for its “social atmosphere” and “party scene,” and the education desired by students is frequently of the extracurricular sort. Binge-drinking, drug abuse, and illicit sex are three of the most popular courses.

Why College?

The idea of “going to college” saturates our society. Not going to college is seldom considered a possible option, let alone the ideal one. Typically today, a person who doesn’t go to a traditional college doesn’t do so voluntarily, but only because adverse circumstances make it impractical. Those not seeking a college education are met with questions: “Why would anyone not go to college? Don’t you realize everyone who can goes to college?” Like a silver bullet or a magical door, higher education is treated as a one-stop solution for the problems of not only our nation’s youth, but people in general. “Do you want to get a better job? Do you want to make more money? Do you want to be somebody? Go to college!”

Living in our culture as we (must) do, it is difficult to step away from the flawed presuppositions that make up our worldview and take a fresh, Christian look at traditional college. While the specifics of higher education may be criticized, the concept in general little is.

Besides “everyone is doing it” (enough reason for many people), why do people go to college? The standard line, at least for people who take the time to think about why they go to college, is that they will reap some benefit from the time, money, and effort they expend getting their degree. Some common reasons are “to make more money”; “to get more opportunities”; “to prove myself”; “to find myself”; or “to achieve self-actualization.” Perhaps the most common reason, even if not stated explicitly, is the last one. “Self-realization” or “self-actualization,” thanks to our humanist psychological educations, is something we have all bought into to some degree. We ask our children, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” as if we are in control of our destinies instead of God. By going to college, somehow our children will “be somebody.”


College is presented as the premier opportunity for young people to spread their wings, fulfill their potential, and realize their dreams! It sounds great, but what do people actually mean by this? R. J. Rushdoony has written on the topic of “Sin as Personal Fulfillment.” Sadly, sinning is what is almost always meant by people using these phrases. When a person says to another, “live a little,” what they usually mean is “sin a little” (or a lot)! Breaking God’s commandments (sin) is seen as much more than just having a good time, according to modern psychology and popular belief, sin is required for a person to be a healthy individual. In fact, psychologists teach that it is Christianity and its law system that causes guilt, not the sin. In their view, as long as an action does not harm another person, it is entirely an individual’s sovereign choice whether or not to commit that action.

Our society views college as a possibly once-in-a-lifetime chance to “sow wild oats” and experiment with no consequences—what happens in college, stays in college. You can do anything in college, and it doesn’t matter. Only, it does matter—a great deal. One thing college advocates and I agree on is this—what you do in college can shape the person you will be for the rest of your life. If this experience is one of lawlessness and perversion, partying and excess, it does not bode well for your future.

Of course, not everyone seeks after college for immoral reasons. But is college the best way to achieve godly goals? Regardless of you and your children’s motivation for seeking college, there are some very important questions you should ask yourself. Most importantly—is college worth your child’s soul?

Is College Worth Your Child’s Soul?

My target audience for this chapter are the Christian families who may be considering college. In many cases, I believe Christians are not fully aware of the danger that the traditional college “education” poses. In other cases, they do not care. I will assume you are in the first camp.

The family’s primary mission is to bring up its children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.” This is the priority. Even if you accept at face value the purported advantages of having a college education, you need to ask yourself, “Is it worth it?”

Everything has a material and spiritual cost/benefit. You need to decide whether or not the benefits outweigh the costs, and indeed whether the Christian can biblically accept the cost. The sad fact of the matter is that our institutions of so-called higher learning are cesspools of immorality, negative peer influence, and anti-biblical teaching.

The truth is that college places children and young adults at a tremendous risk of temptation. Christian families, many of which have gone to great trouble to keep their children from the evils of the public school, send their children off to college—and into an alien environment. It is often done with the best of intentions. I understand. Parents want the best for their children. They want their children to have access to opportunities they didn’t have growing up. They think that sending their precious offspring off to college will turn their kids into mature, skilled, and credentialed adults. One thing college will certainly not do is increase a child’s moral level.

Among the many vices and immoralities the college student has all but unfettered access to, the greatest is sexual sin. To survive as a force in society, the Christian family must regain as a priority the protection of its children’s sexual purity. We are created in God’s image, and sexual sin especially is an assault on God’s law and moral framework. Furthermore, the family is the foundation of society, and sexual sin is treason against the family. It is hard to overestimate the importance of this. Traditional college is antithetical to this goal of protecting the family’s children.

Sin, particularly sexual sin, has horrible consequences. The breaking of the seventh commandment and the consequent guilt is responsible for so many of the emotional and psychological problems people struggle with throughout their lives. Every day I get to see the results of sin in the parents who come through our doors, many of whom have been or are college students. I have been working with Grace Community Schools for nearly fifteen years, and I still am sometimes taken aback by the horrors in the lives of our clients—the children born out of wedlock, addiction to drugs (prescribed and otherwise), abortions, failed marriages, divorces, hurting children. Almost all of it stems from sexual sin. The goal of our ministry is to change this. For the adults, it is too late. For the children, we teach God’s law and pray. It is why we do what we do.

The kindest thing a parent can do is prevent their child from falling into sin. A strong emphasis on teaching the Ten Commandments—which is in accordance with God’s Word (Deut. 6:7)—, discipline, prayer, setting a good example, and parental vigilance are needed. God uses strong words. “Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body” (1 Cor. 6:18). We have our orders. This cannot be taken too seriously, but many Christians do not take it seriously enough.

The levity that many Christians have for the seventh commandment is evidenced by their acceptance of and participation in things like sleepovers and siblings of mixed sexes sleeping in the same room. When was the last time you heard a sermon preached about the dangers of these and similar things? Probably never. Am I overprotective? I don’t think so. Should children think it is normal to sleep together with people from other families, or with different sexes in the same family? It is not wise to do these things, but those who abstain will be called foolish by the world.

Studies reveal some very chilling facts about fornication among young people. Although abstinence education doesmake an impact, sexuality among unmarried teenagers and young adults is still extremely prevalent. Loss of virginity before marriage is a terrible problem in the Christian community (as it is in our culture in general). Furthermore, the overwhelmingly most likely place for a teenager to lose his or her virginity is in the home, either in their own or at the other participant’s. This should frighten every parent.

Only a few things seem to do anything to prevent these early acts of fornication. Family characteristics make the biggest impact. Children who live together with both parents typically hold on to their virginity longer. The more biblical and stable the family, the less likely a child is to give in to temptation, or be put in a situation where temptation is possible.

Science, particularly from Freud on, has attempted to convince mankind that what God calls “sin” is just normal behavior. If humans are just animals, it makes sense for them to act like animals. Do animals suffer for giving in to their natural impulses? Actually, they enjoy it. Why can’t man be like the other animals? What has happened is that all aspects of sex have been relegated to the realm of personal choice. Homosexuality is an “alternate lifestyle.” Sex outside of marriage is just fine, and woe to anyone who says otherwise. Why, that would mean you are judging people! Surely there are no negative consequences to doing what comes naturally?

The real world, however, is the realm of God’s reality. You can deny that fornication is sin all you like. You can even intellectually convince yourself that it is not sin, but you cannot dismiss the consequences of what is, in fact, sin. Sending a child off to traditional college is to risk terrible problems. Does this always happen? Of course not. There are always exceptions. But is your child’s soul worth such a gamble?

Those who maintain that college does not encourage sex outside of marriage should read I am Charlotte Simmons by Tom Wolfe. What the defenders of college attitudes toward sex maintain is that sex is a private matter. As the students in college are consenting “adults,” it is out of line for colleges to regulate such matters, they say. To have sex or participate in drinking is presented as a purely personal decision, without any kind of moral imperative to consider. It is a choice that is up to the students to make, we are told. According to our humanistic legal system, they are correct. The result is that colleges, universities, and the fraternities associated with them are dens of iniquity. While college ostensibly builds its students up and prepares them for life, in reality it puts them on a course set for hell unless God intervenes. The mistakes young people make will follow them throughout their lives. Is college worth it?

Returning to the subject of sleepovers, you should think of college as one big, unchaperoned sleepover every night. When even parents at home are lax in their supervision of such things, do you think it is any better at college? The curriculum teaches them that humans are animals, and animal behavior is exactly what is encouraged.

Imagine this. You have very carefully kept your children away from evil influences. Hearing about the sex education classes in public school, you have shunned government schooling and its deviant ways... and then you send your child off to college. College is a place where temptation abounds. Coed dorms or not (most are coed), staff and teachers are uninterested in reinforcing the morality learned in the Christian home. Do not forget to keep in mind that college students are usually, as defined by law, “adults.” Anyone eighteen of years or older is considered by the government (and college authorities) to be grown up. In an era in which fornication and homosexuality are legal, it is no surprise that universities are unwilling to create rules barring their students from engaging in these acts, provided they are consensual. College, for many, is one great big orgy.

At this point, many parents will say, “But I trust my child.” Scripture says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer. 17:9). College is radically different from the home. The children have moved from a place where (Lord willing) parental teaching and influence is paramount, to college, where peer influence is strongest. Parents would like to think their morally superior Christian child will be a force for good on campus, but does this really happen? Will the white glove stuck in the mud stay clean?

Your children should not be sent off to be missionaries to the heathen in college. No matter how virtuous your children are, it is far more likely that the evil influences in college (from both peers and the educational establishment) will rub off on your children. In any case, it will be extremely unpleasant for the true Christian. Parents should be careful. There is a danger—both to your child’s soul, and to your reward in heaven and on earth.

Then there is the Christian college. Aren’t they better? There is yet another kind of danger here. Studies (and my own experiences) show very little difference between the sexual morality of “Christian” young adults and the general young adult population. Some studies show it to be somewhat worse. It startled us one day when one of our managers remarked that she could not think of any parents in our school, professed Christian or otherwise, who had not moved in with each other prior to marriage. I remember when my bride-to-be and I talked to our soon-to-be neighbors when we were buying a house in their neighborhood. We received some strange looks when we told them we would not be living in the house until after our wedding. That kind of behavior was unheard of. Why should this be? As I have pointed out elsewhere in this book, the easy believism common throughout the Christian community has created an attitude amongst Christians that sin is of no consequence—so long as it is forgiven sin. Jesus always forgives, so sin doesn’t really matter. Christian colleges are full of people who believe they can act however they want, and still be white as snow, without even the temporal consequences. If God is obligated to always forgive sin whenever we call upon him under all circumstances, why be concerned about sinning? What is sin, anyhow? The average Christian cannot give a clear definition. Knowing what sin is requires knowing something about God’s law.

Even with the terrible risk of moral corruption, people are willing to make tremendous financial sacrifices, usually involving debt, to gain a college degree. Again, is it worth it? We will be called to give an account for what we have done with what God has given us. To return to the Parable of the Talents, God has given us our money, along with everything else we have. Does Jesus think spending thousands upon thousands of dollars on a college degree is a good use of His gifts?

Traditional College is a Bad Investment

The legitimate purpose of college is to provide its students with the credentials and knowledge they need for their chosen careers. Ideally, students also pick up some actual skills and experience that aid them in these careers. A former purpose of college, now considered unrealistic or unimportant, was to provide an all-around education and preparation for life (the so-called “liberal arts”). As we see shall see in the next chapter, the Grace Community System does a superior job of performing this function.

A college diploma is supposed to mean something. As a consequence of time and effort (and money) spent, the college graduate is prepared for life—ready to go out and conquer the world. All things being equal, college graduates are better-equipped for life and the job market than their competitors who did not go to college. Potential employers can look at an applicant’s college degree and be assured that they have achieved certain benchmarks of success and learning. At least, this is how it is supposed to be. Reality is different.

It is beyond the scope of this chapter to go into all that is wrong with college. A book could be written (many have been) about the cheating on tests, watering down of the curriculum, the students who can get through college without ever reading a book and who purchase online the one or two term papers required, and much more. Grade inflation in particular is rampant—students can get an A by doing virtually nothing. Universities are loathe to do anything that might cause a student to leave. These are just problems with the academic side of college; the moral problems are much greater.

Even if a student succeeds in college, and has gained in knowledge during the years spent working on a degree (a feat by no means achieved by all college graduates), the reality is this: academic success is no measure of success in the real world, especially the world of business. “Letters after one’s name do not have much economic value in a free market.” Granted, our market is not completely free. There are companies and job positions that require degrees, but there are alternative ways to obtain the needed credentials. Online and correspondence classes are two ways.

Many people know that George Washington and Abraham Lincoln did not go to college. They are only two examples. You may recognize some of the names of these other men who never got a college degree: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Glenn Beck, Andrew Carnegie, Winston Churchill, Walt Disney, Thomas Edison, William Gibson, Tom Hanks, and Larry Page. All are successes by any definition of the word. Were their careers hampered by their dearth of degrees? I hardly think so.

Every year, the job market is flooded by new college graduates, out there looking for their dream jobs. To their dismay, they discover that there are not nearly enough jobs for everyone. Once they feel reality setting in, they settle for jobs that do not require their very expensive degrees. Part of the reason for this is that there is intense competition amongst college graduates for these limited positions. The other reason is that a degree is not nearly as valuable as it once was. You can have some fun googling “janitors with PhDs” to get the statistics on just how many Americans are vastly overeducated for their occupation.

There is nothing wrong with these jobs. Scripture tells us, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might” (Eccles. 9:10a). Every man’s calling is a holy one. The problem is that these jobs could have been obtained without the trial of college, without the wasted years and tens of thousands of dollars, and especially without the likely loss of morality that goes with the college experience. Some people even realize that the profession they are truly called to necessitates a different credential, and they must then spend more money and more time to get a different degree—basically, they go to college twice. This brings us to the number one reason (other than moral corruption) not to go to traditional college: the unnecessary monetary expense.

Of the many things needed to succeed in life, a crushing load of debt is not one of them. Nevertheless, two-thirds of college graduates cannot get through their schooling without racking up student debt. The data on college expenses and debt are disturbing. College costs are skyrocketing well ahead of inflation—a single year of Harvard costs over $35,000 now. Keep in mind that most students don’t get a bachelors degree in four years of college. What could a young person or his or her parents do with $35,000, one year’s worth of Harvard tuition? Well, if you’re reading this book, I’m guessing you could do something much more productive with this sum than throwing it away on a college diploma. Starting a small business is the most obvious possibility. Even buying a home would be better than college; at least our young person would now have a place to live. Stock market investing is risky, but it’s a surer thing than betting that a college degree will pay for itself. Total student debt loans now exceed total credit card debt in the United States (itself another non-laughing matter)—although college students come out of college with credit card debt too. Many people go to college to get away from their parents—and then end up moving back with their parents because they cannot afford the real world. My suggestion? Save your money, become a Grace Community School apprentice, and use your savings and knowledge to build God’s kingdom and your own school ministry.

Here, some may object. They will say that college might not make straight monetary sense, but the skills and experiences gained by the college graduate do help him or her to be more successful. No, traditional college does not “build important skills,” especially for the real world. The self-reliant, self-disciplined person does not need college to gain knowledge. If you are one of the few people going to college to actually learn (rather than party), you still do not need college. Self-teaching is the way to go. In any case, purely academic skills are not real world skills.

I am sure that I still have some readers holding out. I return to my original thesis: going to college will not improve your morality. It is a hostile environment! You are likely to leave college with a crippling load of debt—and an even more crippling load of guilt.

The Christian has to have his priorities straight. It saddens me to see Christian parents encouraging their children, many of whom attended Christian schools and homeschool, to embrace college without a thought to the alternatives. Good Christian children go off to college each year, to face situations and people that cause them to question their faith, and tempt them to go against what they know is right.

“But my child is going to a Christian college!” That is no guarantee of safety. As with the Christian school, the title “Christian college” can be deceiving. At least with a non-Christian school, you know to be on your guard. The only thing worse than an unrepentant sinner is a sinner who thinks repenting makes sin unimportant! Those claiming the name of Christ operate as if salvation gives Christians a license to sin. This mindset is not surprising considering the antinomian teaching in our churches. Take the lawless graduates of Christian schools, and remove adult supervision—this is the Christian college. There may be exceptions, but again, do you really need to go to college? If you are enterprising and diligent enough to succeed in college, you are enterprising and diligent enough to succeed without it.


My parents taught me that when we follow God’s will, He will provide a way, no matter the obstacles. You may not think that there is another way to achieve your life goals—or for your children to achieve theirs—without college. I thought that way once. You may be correct. Perhaps your goals are not God’s goals! I urge you to reconsider the pursuit of traditional college. To college we can say, “Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting” (Dan. 5:27). I found something better than college: apprenticeship. Let me tell you about it next.