College Transition Initiative

Welcome to the blog of the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding’s (CPYU) College Transition Initiative (CTI). This site contains commentary on transitional issues, exploring research, trends and college student culture. For more information visit:

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The transition from high school to college is a difficult one, and yet, it is a transition that is often overlooked. This site is to help college bound students, parents, and youth workers stay up to date on the latest research and trends in regards to college transition. Your comments are greatly appreciated. Join the conversation!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Does College Turn Kids Secular?

The main focus of this blog is to bring to your attention research and trends in regards to college transition. I occasionally offer commentary if I find it appropriate, but I'm more concerned that people are connected to helpful information. I once read that there are two types of blogs: thinking and linking. This would definitely be the latter. My goal is to link you with good things to read and cut down on your navigation time. I find that the blogs I read the most often are ones the point me in the direction of helpful resources.

I do offer extending commentary on transitional issues, however. Quarterly for CPYU's Engage Journal, and occasionally I'm asked to write for other publications. I'm telling you this, because where I'm going to point you next does require further commentary, and I hope to write something about it soon.

Sociologists Mark Regnerus and Jeremy Uecker have written an intriguing article basically saying that college does not turn kids secular (READ IT HERE). You can read a short interview with Mark Regnerus at Christianity Today here.

Their main point is that the trajectory of students' lives are "set" long before college, and nothing really happens in college to change fundamental beliefs. Today, college is about getting a degree to get a job and rarely are students asked to wrestle deeply with ideas that change a person's worldview.

This is interesting, of course, because it is the exact opposite conclusion that LifeWay Research released last week. How can this be? Feel free to offer your thoughts.

I think I'm going to read some more and, perhaps, an article will come out of it!


Blogger tgrosh4 said...

Derek, I don't see the conflict between the pieces. Life changes or life situations press young people to ask the question of whether they can embrace the faith of their parents and raise the question as to whether their parents/faith community will stand with them, as Smith points out 'moralistic therapeutic deism' can't hold the day. Note: in our culture the transition from home is very significant, but there are other crisis situations or extended periods of doubt which cause even the best of us to question God, e.g., recent highlighting of Mother Teresa, or to come to God/the People of God.

Lifeway's research says, “Clearly the reasons young people leave are a reflection both of their past experience in church and the new opportunities they have as young adults,” McConnell summarized. “To remain in church, a person must have experienced the value of the teaching and relationships at church and see the relevance for the next phase of life” . . . Stetzer noted, “There is no easy way to say it, but it must be said. Parents and churches are not passing on a robust Christian faith and an accompanying commitment to the church. We can take some solace in the fact that many do eventually return. But, Christian parents and churches need to ask the hard question, ‘What is it about our faith commitment that does not find root in the lives of our children?’”

For Regnerus, the question also is whether one's parents/faith community has prepared one for the next stage: "In conclusion, the college experience—more than the education itself—seems corrosive to religious faith only among those who were at an elevated risk of such corrosion when they arrived on campus. This spells good news and bad news for all parties here. First, it suggests that antagonistic professors are having little effect on the religious faith of most students. Faith challenges and belief systems hanging in the balance are not the norm (though they do of course occur). Second, it suggests that Christian “revivals” during college rarely connect those that entirely lack a religious sense. Instead, evangelistic efforts tend to connect best with the dormant faith and inactive-but-intact belief systems of previously religious youth. Accounts of completely new conversions—from either one religion to another or from no religion at all to a committed faith—are uncommon. They happen, but they are rare. Each, however, is far less frequent than the “revival” of dormant faith, which in turn is much less common than the temporary religious exit
that the early twenties often witness."

As you might know, I have a fascination with the Hutterite Society in John Hostetler's book of the same title (1997, p.145), he writes:

"Since human nature is sinful from birth, Hutterites value education not for self-improvement but as a means of 'planting' in children 'the knowledge and the fear of God.' The consequences of original sin are moderated by intensive teaching from an early age. 'We should let the Heavenly Gardener implant such fruit that will bear everlasting life,' explained a contemporary Hutterite preacher.

The individual will is broken primarily during the kindergarten years. The child is taught self-denial, humility, and submissiveness. After approximately twenty years of rigorous indoctrination, the individual is expected to accept the teachings of the colony voluntarily. When he is able to express remorse, abasement, and the loathing associated with the sinful self, he will receive baptism."

Time for the Body of Christ to get back to intergenerational life together in which we reject "cheap grace" and call one-another to die as we encounter the costly grace of the Person of Jesus Christ. But will that guarantee faith in the next generation . . . no, just ask the Puritans. Following Christ is costly and each person/generation/congregation is faced with the costly decision. May the Master Gardener sow, water, and reap in our families, neighborhoods, local assemblies, and campus ministries.

3:21 PM  

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