Saturday, Ozark Christian College was ranked as the number 9 college “not worth the money” by Business Insider. I couldn’t be prouder. No, that’s not sarcasm – I’m beaming as I write and I’m proud of my alma mater.
See this kind of thing puts my little Alma Mater on the map while drafting up a stark contrast against those other 12 colleges Business Insider deemed “worthless.” At Ozark, they teach things like “who we teach you to love is more important than what we teach you to know.” The goal of the college has never been high-profit careers, and in an age plagued by greedy banks and out-of-control stock markets, that’s a beautiful thing.
As Seth Godin taught us in Linchpin, it’s the old forms of capitalism and communism that ask, “how much will we make?” The New Creatives, on the other hand, ask “how much do we care?” The latter measures the amount of humanity and excellence brought to the table. That in mind, Ozark has always taught us to do things well and to do them with great love.
When the ’08 crash kick-started the “Great Recession,” Ozark already boasted hundreds of alumni who served in some of the poorest nations on the planet, alumni that stand in solidarity with the poor. Countries like Papua New Guinea, Zimbabwe, and Haiti know nothing but constant recession year-in, year-out. While Wall Street whined about profit-loss, Ozark alumni cared for the poor.
Proud of my alma mater for lowest return?
This is the college where, during one chapel, I remember Dr. Mark Moore (University of Wales) requesting poverty relief for D.R. Congo. “I want you to go back to your dorms, back to your apartments and imagine a Congolese orphan or former child soldier standing next to you. And then I want you to grab anything that’s worthless compared to a fresh set of clothes or a meal and bring it back to give away.” The chapel stage that day filled to brimming with televisions, iPhones, computers, rare commentary sets – the list goes on – that were all sold to raise funds. This is the college whose alumni started refuge houses for sex-trafficked girls before that kind of thing came into vogue. This is the college whose grads were first on the ground during the Joplin tornado.
This is a college of world-changers.
Even the men in my dorm who grew up to become graphic designers, film makers, storytellers, and audio engineers all excel in their fields. Guess what? Ozark doesn’t teach a single class in any of those areas. We Americans live in a culture that offers transitive education – you do this task, you perform this skill. That’s not working out so well for us, is it? In the middle of a transitive culture, Ozark offers an intransitive education – learn to think for yourself, speak for yourself, write for yourself. You don’t perform tasks at Ozark. You bloom. Every class features some piece of logic, rhetoric, or grammar that accelerates the maturity of her students. While other universities raise students up for now non-existent factories, Ozark expands minds and hearts so her students can create and enrich humanity in whatever context they find themselves. It’s a school unconcerned with the bottom line, because it digs toward a deeper bottom line…
“The end then of Learning is to repair the ruines of our first Parents by regaining to know God aright, and out of that knowledge to love him, to imitate him, to be like him, as we may the neerest by possessing our souls of true vertue, which being united to the heavenly grace of faith makes up the highest perfection.
– John Milton, “Of Education”
My friend Stephen responded to the survey with W.E.B. DuBois:
“Whither, then, is the new-world quest of Goodness and Beauty and Truth gone glimmering? Must this, and that fair flower of Freedom which, despite the jeers of latter-day striplings, sprung from our fathers’ blood, must that too degenerate into a dusty quest of gold?
…the true college will ever have one goal — not to earn meat, but to know the end and aim of that life which meat nourishes.”
If learning how to sell everything I have and give to the poor, to walk the second mile, to love my enemies and neighbors, to put a tornado-devastated city back together piece-by-piece is “unprofitable,” then I don’t know if I ever want to make a profit again. That in mind, I suppose Mother Theresa’s work among poor lepers was “unprofitable.” Martin Luther King Jr.’s work among poor African Americans was “unprofitable.” Francis of Assisi’s peacemaking work among poor Europeans during the crusades was “unprofitable.” Ozark’s a school that follows a homeless, crucified savior who gave himself for everyone else. Profitability’s not an A-priotity. Nor a-priori. Ozark’s a school of alumni that keep founding non-profit organizations. They care more about observations and experiences that exegete the human condition and invent workable solutions than about profit.
In an academic climate where students will most certainly enslave themselves under the tyranny of near-unrepayable debt, Ozark remains the only college I would choose for a master. If they are “unprofitable,” it’s only because they choose to work in the framework of a broken system where American banks get a hall-pass to solicit ignorant freshmen and lobby for jacked-up tuition prices. We need more schools willing to crawl down into the mud and offer sanity, more schools that care about enabling their students to learn and mature rather than to take the next class. Open courseware’s a good start, but we need more ideas, and good ideas come from good-idea cultures. Ozark’s unprofitable by an outer association, but not an inner culture. If our education system’s broken, then Ozark’s one of the few schools mending it: they refuse to worry about profit and maintain the lowest costs compared to her peers, all while driving her students toward sacrificial generosity.
And no, I don’t work for the college. I’m just one more graduate who passionately cares for the work of the school.
As for the survey, basic statistics theory asks this question first: what are the demographics of this study? How big was the sample size? A bit of digging revealed that only 31 people filled out this survey (thanks, Troy).
I don’t know if they will – I’m just some no-name recent grad – but if my fellow alumni choose to pass this post around, I guarantee we can easily get over 31 grads who think the Ozark experience was well worth every penny, interest included.
If you read this and you stand for, in, with, or by Ozark – just comment below with a simple “worth it.” You might also add where you serve, your age, your chosen profession, your degree, or a story about how Ozark influenced your life for the better.
Join this guild of renegade imaginations.
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PS> UPDATE (5.10.13) :: For those who choose to tweet this, I believe they’re using #WorthIt