As an educator, I have always been fascinated by God’s plan that when the student is fully trained, he will be like his teacher (Luke 6:40). It is a blessing when our alumni, and in this case, my son, come back to me to teach me something new. Recently, my son Thomas, was our Alumni presenter at the Mission Celebration back in March. On that weekend, he introduced me to a book and a concept I had not studied enough, and was not aware how well positioned JRHS is to address a significant challenge in our culture, knows as the “coming of age” crisis for Gens Y and Z, or more commonly, “Adulting”. Thomas introduced me to Senator Ben Sasse’s book, The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis, and how to rebuild a Culture of Self-Reliance (2017).
In his introduction, Sasse notes that as a US Senator, there are no solutions to America’s simple or grand challenges, if “we lack an educated, resilient citizenry capable of navigating the increasing complexities of daily life. We need our emerging generation to become fully functioning American adults, providing for their families, investing in their communities, and showing the ability to raise children who will carry on after them….We need curious, critical, engaged young people who can demonstrate initiative and innovation so the US can compete with a growing list of economic, military, and technological rivals in the twenty-first century…The generation now coming of age is going to need even greater resilience and grit than previous ages.
This is quite a tall order, and in the spirit of optimism and recapturing a Great America, Sasse goes on to develop five themes that will create the kind of “Greatest Generation” Y and Z’s that will lead America into prosperous times both personally and corporately. As I studied these five themes, I marveled at how poised JRHS is to profoundly impact our students in the direction he is outlining.
Flee Age Segregation “We need to find ways to liberate our kids from the tyranny of the present,” and be more in tuned to the generations of people before them that have not lived the current level of age segregation that our kids face. One basic way to do this is to know other people, especially older people. The hyper-generational segregation of our time is bizarre, unhealthy, and historically unprecedented.” Although maybe not the perfect model of the value and power that comes from inter-generational living, the community at JRHS boasts a robust faculty and staff, offering plenty of opportunity for students to be mentored by faculty, project leaders, staff, Koinoinia leaders, chapel speakers, and more.
Work Hard “Bizarrely, our culture is now trying to protect kids from hard experiences. We should be running in exactly the opposite direction; we should be figuring out how to help them build a menu of really hard tasks to tackle. They need to know in their hearts and in their bones that suffering is not something to be avoided, but conquered…that suffering in our work is actually a character building virtue.” Wow, now that’s not a popular admissions or enrollment topic to have with new parents, but, let’s face it – every great American of all time has been a great worker, and most cultural analysts will attest that a broad swath of Gens Y and Z are not growing up in a culture of hard, meaningful work. JRHS offers a virtually in-exhaustive menu of growth-through-trial opportunities for our students, to name a few: mountain climbing, excellence in writing, putting up a timber frame, Oliver Twist, Work-a-thon, the Semester Portfolio, daily stewardship duties, and the list goes on.
Resist Consumption “We just consume too much stuff. And yet, people remain unhappy and uncertain as to why…consumption is not the key to happiness; production is. Meaningful work – that actually serves and benefits a neighbor, thereby making a real difference in the world – contributes to long-term happiness and well-being. Consumption just consumes.” I believe at JRHS we model this quite well. It may be in the daily mantra of campus and community care that a student learns to be more other-oriented. Or, it may be exposure to great historical figures who marked the way in this critical area. Or, it may be the overall technology philosophy at JRHS that we instill in the students that media consumption can never replace the far greater value of learning to live in and with the good and bad of real, face to face community.
Travel to experience the difference between “Need” and “Want” “You can learn a lot about your own culture by experiencing other cultures. Meaningful travel…is about engaging people in a culture who have assumptions about life, about economics, about government, far different than yours. And, it is especially about experiencing premodern economics – that is, subsistence living, connection to food acquisition, nature, and necessity.” A bedrock principle at JRHS has always been the Spring Mission Trip, in the school calendar. We greatly value taking students to near or distant lands to work for the Lord, and experience someone else’s life, if only for a few days. By way of example, this year’s Seniors have had the opportunity to travel to Appalachia, Haiti, Hungary, Switzerland, Washington DC, Manchester, and Philadelphia. We will never know in specific how these trips have impacted the heart, mind and world-view of our students, but we know one thing: they are far better off for it.
Become Truly Literate “Do you know how to read well? How to read critically – and therefore to think critically? America’s Founders understood literacy as a prerequisite for freedom and our form of self-government. Once we know how to read, what we read matters. So let’s build some reading lists of books you plan to wrestle with and be shaped by for the rest of your lifetime.” This too is a hallmark of a JRHS education – the reading of great literature across the ages and genres, all indexed towards the formation of a Biblical Worldview. When so much of education has redefined the purpose of literature to be an agent of social engineering, at JRHS we value the greatest, classic, timeless truths found in the canon of the best works of all time. At the end of the JRHS career, the diligent student can refer back to a treasure shelf of great works that have shaped his or her life.
So let’s stand up and be proud, Jesse Remington High School students, alumni, parents, faculty, staff and board – proud that we have a cohort of young students that are being raised and trained to be effective leaders for Jesus, no matter where he takes them. I’m excited not about Gen Y or Gen Z, but rather, our little slice of these two emerging generations. God can do great things with the right few.