MyCollegeGuide

     

    A Waste of Time?

    I thought liberal arts classes would be boring—until I started finding God in every one of them.

    by Steve Lansingh

    Staring at my 12th-grade class schedule, with all its AP classes and impressive electives like economics and sociology, I wondered how I was going to survive the year. A hefty workload was nothing new to me, but high school was just about over, and I wanted a chance to slow down and enjoy it.

    I had always focused on getting good grades. Maybe it started in preschool when I got check-plusses for learning my colors. Maybe always being a year younger than my classmates made me want to excel. Or maybe when my parents started expecting me to do well, I didn't want to disappoint them. Whatever the reason, I dutifully memorized what I was taught so I could succeed later—junior high would prepare me for high school, high school for a good college, college for a high-paying job.

    But during my last year in high school, I started thinking about these impressive subjects I'd signed up for. Would I really need calculus, for instance? Would it help me in college or my job? I was planning to become a journalist, and I didn't think I'd be writing too much about big math equations. So, I figured, there was no reason for me to take math in college. I dropped the difficult class and replaced it with my first-ever study hall.

    Instead of trying to do well in every class, I started appreciating only the ones that seemed valuable to me as a writer. Later, when it came time to look at colleges, I wondered if I should escape boring subjects entirely by attending a journalism school. My best friend was going to a one-year broadcasting school to prepare for a career in radio. I was tempted to follow suit and skip all that "well-rounded education" nonsense.

    Still, a four-year college sounded like a lot more fun than a one-year professional school. And even if the general-education courses would be a pain, I decided the social life at a Christian liberal arts college would be worth it. I figured I could speed through my gen-ed classes and then enjoy the rest.

    Into the trap

    My freshman year at college was a whirlwind of changes as I learned to live without Mom and Dad, tried to get used to the cafeteria food, puzzled over finding all my classrooms without looking clueless, and worked on making new friends. In the midst of so many adjustments, my gen-ed classes at least were familiar. I signed up for economics and sociology, figuring my experience in high school would help me coast through the classes with minimal effort.

    In both of these classes, I barely listened to the lectures and zipped through my homework. I memorized only the parts of the books that would be useful for the tests. With those study habits, I forgot what I'd learned the minute I handed in each exam. I was wolfing down my gen-ed classes like the cafeteria food I swallowed without really tasting.

    One class I did enjoy was Freshman Experience, in which our group would sit in a circle and just talk about our new life at college. I now realize the class was designed to combat the typical freshman trap I had fallen into—treating coursework like something to get through, putting the absolute minimum effort into a class instead of really thinking about it.

    As part of Freshman Experience, the professor introduced our class to the idea that all our academic experiences were searches for truth in the world around us. And every truth we learned about the physical world or the human race would give us insight into our relationship with God, who created everything we study. Saint Augustine (one of the many old guys whose work I read at college) put it this way: "Wherever we taste the truth, God is there."

    Since writing, art and literature interested me, I first began to "taste the truth" in these classes. The creativity I was able to put into my writing and art showed that I truly was made in the image of a creative God. Learning to understand literature of different cultures and eras gave me insight into the Bible, a very ancient and richly cultured book itself.

    I had always wanted to serve God as a writer, but I started to see that my career would also teach me a lot about him. But it would be another year before I would understand that all of my college courses—even ones I wasn't naturally interested in at all—could reveal God to me.

    A real history lesson