The Lake Effect

By Matt Beatty, Academic Dean

Humorist and essayist Garrison Keillor created a fictional Minnesota town called “Lake Wobegon,” where “all the women are strong, the men are good looking, and all the children are above average.” Keillor’s mantra has been used to illustrate a pervasive tendency to overestimate one's achievements and capabilities. Society is too easily duped by a legion of professionals into thinking there are no average kids. 

A more Christian way to think about our children lies in the concept of vocation. Interest and willingness to work deliberately at something is far more valuable than natural intellect. (For example, recent studies have shown that high school performance – grades – is the better predictor of college success than test scores!) Any natural advantage gained at birth is often overcome by a student’s interest and willingness to demonstrate the time-honored virtues of perseverance and fortitude. Habits breed success, and the brightest students will have a difficult time outrunning poor preparation and, most importantly, a sense of God’s calling on their lives.

Good college preparation doesn’t neglect being familiar with entrance test content and mechanisms (like the ACT), but it also doesn’t “major on the minors.” When we do, we inevitably send the message that the cultivation of wisdom and virtue really is less important than being someone who simply hopes to “pass the test.” ACT’s will come and go. Life continues. Scoring “above average” on the ACT (or on so-and-so’s big test at MHA) shouldn’t be the goal. 

Rather, our children should focus on learning to run hard after God – body, mind, and spirit – without feeling the yoke of performance-driven spirituality. Together, let’s recover the rich idea of vocation, which begins with the Giver of all vocations – our God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Submitting our plans and futures to Him is the path of wisdom that we desire our children to walk in now and throughout their lives.