I’ll never forget a conversation I had
with a roommate who came from a religious background that was unfamiliar
to me. In an attempt to correct one of
his many theological errors, I trotted out
what I assumed was a self-evident truth
about the nature of God and His relationship to man.
“Why do you believe that?” he said.
“I have no doubt of it,” I replied.
I sat back in triumph. Now he would
surely see the light.
“You know, that’s not a very good rea-
son,” he said. “People are honestly mis-
taken all the time, and you could be hon-
estly mistaken too. Unless you can come
up with a better reason for your answer,
you will never convince me. How do you
know you are not mistaken?”
I was at a complete loss for words, and
not for the last time. Despite my rote
learning of myriad answers to questions
philosophical, theological, political, so-
cial, economic, and literary, I was unpre-
pared for the most basic question of all:
How do you know you are not mistaken?
I can’t remember exactly what I said
in answer to my roommate, but it was
along the lines of “that’s what my mommy and daddy told me.” I soon realized
that regardless of whether my mommy
and daddy were right (it turns out they
were),;I;was;going;to;need;a;better;an-swer than that.
I found this experience repeated count-
less times in my four years as an under-
graduate. Over and over, I was forced to
ask myself, “How do you know you are
not mistaken?” Slowly I became more
than a memorizer of the right answers; I
became an asker of the right questions.
I came to understand the difference be-
tween the statement “God created the
world, of course” and the question “How
did the world come to be, and how can I
be so sure?”
As I confronted the questions myself,
the answers I had recited as a boy became
more than fill-in-the-blank exercises on
a worksheet; they became firmly held,
well-reasoned, defensible opinions. By
the time I graduated college, these opin-
ions amounted to a worldview of my very
own. Its foundations lay in the work my
parents had done to pass their wisdom
on to me, but I built the superstructure
myself as I took their ideas into battle and
became a thinking adult.
My college experience was an abso-
lutely necessary part of this process, and
that is why I encourage parents to con-
sider college for their homeschoolers.
Your student . . . .
needs to understand
that not everyone has
the same perspective
on life’s big questions.
Second, he needs to know the wrong
answers. He needs exposure to a wide
range of other worldviews for comparison and analysis. He needs to understand
that not everyone has the same perspective on life’s big questions. He needs to
study those other perspectives, understand them clearly, and compare them
with the truths he has been taught.
Finally, he must be forced to ask the
questions for himself. Who am I? Who is
God? How do we relate? What is a good
life? What is a good love? What is a good
society? Until a student asks these questions from his own heart, they are no
more than an academic exercise.
Here is my point: Homeschooling is
the best method ever devised in our civilization for meeting the first two needs
above, but you can’t beat college for
number three. It’s the best capstone to a
homeschool education, and I think prudent parents should carefully consider it.
But wait, you may be thinking, the
average American college is a terrible
place—a moral and intellectual cesspool
of debauchery and irreligion. Are you advising me to send my kids into that den
of iniquity to risk falling under the influence of some Marxist atheist professor?
You are right to be cautious, of course.
Next time, I’ll offer some thoughts on the
state of higher education in the United
States, as well as some guidance on navigating this important landscape.
Adam Andrews is the Director of the Center for Literary Education and a homeschooling father of six. Adam earned
his B.A. from Hillsdale College and is
a Ph.D. candidate at the University of
Washington. He and his wife Missy are
the authors of Teaching the Classics, the
popular reading and literature curriculum. They teach their children at home in
Rice, Washington. For more information,