To the Class of 2005
- Friday, September 10, 2004
Class of 2005: this fall, you'll take your place at the helm of homeschooling as the brightest, most promising, and latest products of that fantastic movement. You'll hear the proclamations that as a homeschool graduate, you're better equipped than your public and private schooled counterparts. And you'll be asked (at least a million times) what you'll be doing after graduation.
You've probably given a lot of thought to that topic, and over the coming eight or ten months, those thoughts will start to get legs. Hopefully through this letter, I can describe a helpful way to think about your future.
To begin, I'll try to dissect all the praise you'll be getting this year and uncover some of the realities surrounding your homeschool education. Then, I'll use some biblical and practical principles that may help you plot a path that enables you to use well the education with which you've been blessed. More than that, though, I want to use this letter to encourage you to finish high school with gusto, determination, thanksgiving, and humility.
So first, as your plans for the future become more central in your mind this fall, I encourage you to keep a right understanding of the praise that will be heaped on you. Just as I often heard it, I'm sure you'll be told that as a homeschooler, you are somehow better equipped to go into the "real world" than students who will be graduating next spring from a public or private school.
When your parents or others say this sort of thing to you, I suspect that they're referring to the steady stream of statistics that show homeschoolers tend to perform better than others, and that homeschoolers tend to leave the home with strong conservative, Christian values.
Statistics like this do not mean that homeschoolers are, on the whole, more intellectually gifted than the rest of the population. Nor does it mean that we're harder workers, more driven, or that our model of education works better because it's more biblical. I believe it points to something different.
It seems that American society is becoming polarized into two different classes, which I'll call the Doers and the Thinkers. Doers don't think, they do. Becoming ever more resistant to actually thinking thoughts for themselves, Doers are ever increasingly reliant upon external sources—their friends, popular role-models, politicians, and mostly magazines, television, and radio ("The media")—to make decisions about life.
Thinkers certainly also do things, but more importantly, they help Doers know what to think. Thinkers promote their ideas about things with friends, families, employees, the members of their church, and with the people who listen to their radio stations, watch their speeches, and read their books and articles.
Another way to articulate this is that Thinkers are trained with logic, and well versed in the facts of the world. Then, they apply logic to the facts and arrive at conclusions about the world in which they live and apply the conclusions to their lives and encourage others to do the same. Doers, however, are trained only in conclusions and applications.
The reason that homeschoolers tend to perform well academically is because homeschoolers are raised as Thinkers. A Thinker's education can be had at any sort of school, but as it happens, most homeschoolers get a great Thinker's education. You've been trained to think for yourself, to apply the information you've learned and make interpretive judgments about life, and not to be reliant on others to supply you with regurgitated value assessments.
So, be thankful! You have been blessed with a great gift: a Thinker's education. This should also encourage you to work hard in your studies as you finish up the year, so that you will more completely own your education experience and become more steadfastly rooted as a Thinker.
There are hard parts to being raised and equipped to be a Thinker—it extends beyond our calling as students. We have been stripped of the right to be apathetic in any way. In our callings as siblings, it means that we do not stand silently by as a sibling looks for wisdom and encouragement. Our calling to be a Thinking son or daughter doesn't mean that we should exert our influence on parents, but quite the other way around. As their fellow Thinkers, we can listen to and learn from our parents' wisdom, then actively look for ways to apply it in our lives. It means that our friendships should have depth beyond simply spending aimless time with people, but actively being involved in their lives, investing in our friends so that we all benefit from being involved in each other's lives. In our calling as a citizen, we have access to the halls where far-reaching decisions are made, and we can play a role. As Thinking employees, we shouldn't mindlessly execute the tasks we're given, but actively look for ways to im
prove on the systems that drive that organization.
Being a Thinker doesn't mean your occupational calling is going to be a high-profile, high-paying, power-brokering position in a big city. It isn't a paycheck or a job description, but a way of going about your daily life and a lens through which you view your future.
As you consider your future, remember that the people in the ivory towers, walking the streets of Wall Street, preaching from the pulpits, writing books that shape our culture, and raising the future generations of Thinkers used to be in your position, a few months away from graduating from high school. They, too, faced the same set of decisions you now face.
When you graduate next spring, you're going to join a hugely influential sector of society that is looking for successors, of which you're the youngest and least. But everyone started out in your shoes. Face this with humility, but gusto and determination. Great things are ahead, things for which you have been soundly trained.
Ethan Wingfield will be a sophomore this fall at Brown University. Having grown up in Western North Carolina and homeschooled for 13 years, Ethan comes from a family of six children. He is currently an elected representative on Brown's student government, the web editor of the Brown Spectator, on leadership with Brown's Reformed University Fellowship, and heads a web development firm.
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