Is a lot of higher education today really higher education?
That is, would God approve?
It seems anymore, most college brochures scream something to the affect of: Come to XYZ University, Where the Path to a Bright Future (read: Path to the New Lexus) Begins!
Translated even more: It is all about: money.
But not at the University of Dayton.
UD, a Catholic school in Southwest, Ohio, is on the leading edge of helping students consider the lives they lead, the work they choose, as: vocations.
And the program, for instance, is propelling students on Spring Breaks to one of the poorest areas in New Mexico; on social justice summer trips to rural South America; on fall semester outreach excursions into Daytons inner city
In the current society, students feel so much pressure to make money, Chaminade Scholars Program Director Maura Skills told me.
However, UDs elective program helps orient students to look in a broader context toward the: common good of all.
Credit courses in this program have students looking at such topics as: how to build communities that will positively impact society; and, how to use prayer in discernment of career (including a trip to St. Meinrad Seminary in Indiana to study how the monks there use contemplative prayer).
Now how youd actually grade prayer is another thing, but
If, for instance, a UD student has a passion about helping end world poverty, they are encouraged to explore ways their talents, untied with, say, an international aid agency, may help impact this global issue.
Like what happened with Allen Schulze.
Allen had been in the Chaminade Program for three years. He was majoring in engineering.
The summer of his third year, he chose to wave going back to his hometown to work in a high-tech factory for good money and a chance to hone more of his skills; instead opting for a low-tech job volunteering with Ethos Engineering in Nicaragua and Bolivia.
Allen explained to me that people in the rural areas of these countries often cook in their small dwellings with open fires that are not vented. This causes many severe burns, especially to children, and a tremendous amount of respiratory problems.
As an answer to this, Allen said Ethos Engineering (an international aid agency) shows people how to design and install closed, ceramic stoves, that are insulated with pumice and vented out of the dwelling. While the stoves are somewhat rudimentary by American standards, Allen said they are a marked improvement from the open fires.
And as Allen chose to spend the summer in South America, other Chaminade students recently chose to spend their Spring Break, not partying in Key West, but rather working in Lumberton, New Mexico (no postcards, or anything) in an economically depressed area near an Indian Reservation.
Chaminade students have also been involved in any number of service learning projects around the Dayton area, including helping at a homeless shelter, in a community garden, at a Boys & Girls Club
As I listened to all this, I couldnt help but think how much better off wed be as a society, wed be as a world, if similar elective programs were instituted at every college in America.
And if this became the case, I also couldnt help but think how the term higher education would take on a much richer meaning.
That is, richer when it came to the common good, for everyone.