Higher Learning? by Anne Hendershott

As the mom of a college student (and more coming in just a few years), I keep my eye open for articles such as this which I see as a “state of the nation” type of report.

As the mom of a previously-homeschooled college student, you can bet I still keep an eye open for whatever material my child is exposed to at school. Just because our oldest is now 18, a young adult — and very mature for her age, I think — that doesn’t mean our job of parenting and guiding her is over. If anything, we are trying to be ever more vigilant. The dangers are many and oftentimes sneakier. This is, of course, part of the “real world” (whatever that means) that she has to be exposed to, just because we can’t shelter our children forever. For our children to be effective harbingers of peace, justice and love in the world, it is sometimes necessary that they see the unrest, the injustice, the hatred that is around us in their rawest forms. Much as we’d like to continue to shield her from all of that, we realize it is futile, and perhaps harmful in the long term.

What worries me sometimes, and brings me to my knees, is the insidious nature of secular thought. I hate to sound paranoid but the fact is that you cannot let your guard down, even for one minute. This is not something to be complacent about. We have spent many years of our lives exposing our child to — hopefully — the true, the good, the beautiful… so that when faced with the lies and ugliness out there, she can distinguish the difference, and make choices in accordance with who she is: a loving child of God. The scary part is that these ugly lies are often cloaked in colorful, shimmering robes that attract and deceive. Sometimes they come full force, with malicious intent, but more often than not the root is something innocent (or ignorant), and can therefore be easily dismissed as nothing of consequence. And that is where we/she might make our/her biggest mistakes.

As we navigate the waters of college life, one thing we hope to maintain is that parent-child dialogue that, due to ever-busier schedules, is often hard to find time for. Beyond the usual “How was your day?” there still needs to be time for mother-child and father-child and father-mother-child talks. And so, in a way, the homeschooling hasn’t really ended. None of us have graduated yet. In just a few short months, we have had our eyes opened to this process of enculturation that goes on in the college world and beyond. It is a frightening thing to behold. But it’s also a challenging thing, and therefore exciting. Our college student is bringing home experiences and thoughts and ideas that we as a family need to put under a microscope and examine, with great care. I am thankful that she allows us this scrutiny and joins in with much enthusiasm and openness.

My concern right now with this particular child is achieving that balance… somewhere between letting go of this young adult who is stretching her wings and flapping them gently, more strongly by the day… and keeping just enough of a hold on her to keep her grounded, attached to the values and beliefs that she has leaned upon and cherished in her young life. I don’t want to hamper or hinder.

I wonder… if the awareness and the vigilance are there, would those be enough? It’s so easy to say, she’ll be fine, she’s a prayerful person, she loves God…. but looking at these politicians and seeing the fruits, I worry. Did their parents see this coming? Or did they see it coming but did not recognize it? Did they say to themselves, he/she’ll be fine — he/she is in a Catholic college/university and that’s *good enough*. Apparently for these people in office, it wasn’t.