Convocation 2016 A Crafted Education

This year’s convocation speaker was alumnus Gavin Leach (Class of 2014).

In the field of economics, the terms “value” and “worth” hold two distinct definitions.  Though 13937785_10154252444390491_6724752289772648588_owe often use these words interchangeably in our speech, “worth” refers to how much something costs–its price; while “value” is the measure of how much importance or meaning that same item has to you personally.  For example: an antique watch I own may be worth fifty dollars to a collector, but it is much more valuable to me than that amount because it was once worn by my grandfather.

In a similar way, we often find that things which we have made ourselves have a much higher value to us than products which we simply purchased.  Personally crafting something is more fulfilling and often renders a more useful object to us than buying a similar one off of a shelf.  Consider a model car or airplane.  Perhaps several of you here have built one before.  Painting and gluing all the pieces together can be a tedious process.  But is it not much more satisfying to show to your friends than one, all painted and ready to go, that you bought at the store?  Building something for yourself is making it yours rather than settling for a mass produced, easily obtained item.  There is tremendous virtue in personally crafting the things which are important to us because, in doing so, we transfer to them a very high value.

This same concept is applicable to an education.  The cost of tuition is the measure, in dollars, of how much the education is worth.  However; from student to student, the value of that same education can vary greatly.  That value of an education is determined by the three groups of people represented here today: family, faculty, and students.  Each of you has a vital role in creating an education.  And, when built correctly, a crafted education is far more edifying, useful, and valuable than any other alternative.

What then is a “crafted” education; and how do we build it?  At face value, an education branded as “classical” does not necessitate that it is also crafted as I described.  Simply completing a classical curriculum by going through the motions is only basic consumption of the material.  A built education goes deeper than this.  In short, a crafted education is one in which students learn and discover truth for themselves, and continue to do so for life.  The alternative is a package full of information with “truth” written on the label, prepared to be received by the student as easily as possible.

The crafted education goes beyond simply fulfilling class requirements and assignments.  First and foremost, it requires a commitment by all involved to be vigilant, watchful, and intentional in their building.  Like most worthy endeavors, maintaining diligence in this is not easy–but it is absolutely necessary.  The student seeking this form of learning is cultivated to be proactive, rather than reactive, in their studies.  The goal is to do more than the face value of the assignment.  This is achieved by asking critical questions of the material and exploring what this information means and not just what it says.  The end product of assembling such an education is not the curriculum, teaching method, or school building; but the person such can potentially produce–an individual finely tuned for a fulfilling life glorifying their Creator.  This sentiment is certainly reflected in the mission statement here at Providence.

As I mentioned earlier, family members, faculty, and students themselves each have a role in this process.  Parents are here today as those primarily responsible for their children’s education.  You have made an intentional choice to bring your student here rather than anywhere else.  You have done so, I presume, out of a desire to provide what is best for your children.  This is certainly commendable.  It is no secret that there are alternatives to Providence–many of which unfortunately reflect the “education-in-a-can” style of learning to which I previously alluded.  Instead, you paid for your children to be here today.  And, in doing so, not only have you demonstrated an appreciation for the value of the education they could receive, but you have also felt the stated worth of such.  May you continue in this path by remaining an active part of the work done here.

Faculty do much of the practical constructing of a student’s experience.  You are the ones, after all, who give the actual teaching and instruction.  First hand, you craft an education which is uniquely fitted to each student in your classroom.  In doing so, you ought to always be seeking improvement–from both yourselves and your students.  Settling for “good enough” is selling a poor product on a dusty shelf.  May you continue to encourage students to be asking questions, exploring ideas, and finding truth for themselves.

Students, you are the key to your own success.  A weighty opportunity has be given to you; do not fail to take the utmost advantage of it.  A good friend of mine once wrote to me that “time is our greatest gift, do not squander it”.  I would like to pass these words onto each one of you.  Make the most of your time here by remaining steadfastly focused on the task ahead of you.  I know firsthand how hard it can be to avoid distraction.  Allow me to assure you now that the endeavor is well worth the effort.  Additionally, make your education your own by seeking opportunity and experience beyond basic classroom learning.  May your time here be something you can look back on with pride knowing it was something you had a hand in crafting.

All the materials necessary to build a great year of learning and growth lay before you all.  A successful construction ultimately depends upon the sovereign will of God.  We must ask for, and depend upon, His generous help.  With the blessing of our Lord, may this institution continue to be built up and improved for His glory.