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Saturday, March 26, 2011

College exam and "fair"

There is an amazing college in our local area. It provides students with everything they need in terms of facilities, faculties, academics and extra-curricular opportunities. For that reason, most students are anxious to attend.

Last weekend there was an exam for admission. Roughly five hundred students arrived early Saturday morning for what ended up being a pretty grueling day of testing. Composed of extensive questions covering five different areas, my son spent all morning and part of the afternoon, pencil in hand, pondering and answering questions, some easy, some terribly difficult. He got home at 2:00 and waited for the posted results. At four o'clock the scores were published. He was pleased that he got 88% correct. He was disappointed to learn that a score of 100% was required. He spoke with a few friends and learned that one made a 93%, another 83% and the rest were between 64% and 77%. According to the website, no one made above a 95% so no one was accepted into the school.

Like most kids, he was pretty down as he went out to his ball game at 7:00 pm. He got a hit and his team won 7 to 6. Still smarting from his academic failure, he texted his friend who had made the 64%. It was late, but I allowed him to text because it would not wake anyone. My son was shocked to find out that his friend had been accepted into the college after all. In fact, he was told, over sixty students were now enrolled on full scholarship. How did that happen?

The Dean of Admissions had called three of the kids up after the exam and told them about a re-test to take place around the time our game had started. The three were told to let the other students know. One of them was so excited about the second chance that he had celebrated with his family but had not contacted anyone. The second youth had called a few friends, but they were satisfied that their group was able to take advantage of the opportunity. The last student, aware of how important this opportunity was, made an effort to contact everyone he could. Some of the kids said that they did not want to go through another test, some said they would be there but didn't show up and several came for the retest but failed to pass the second test because they did not follow the retest instructions.

The instructions, it turns out, were rather simple. The Dean of Admissions had taken the exam himself at an earlier time. He was the first person to make 100% on the exam. The Dean of admissions was the son of the school President. The President wanted every child to have an opportunity to attend the college, so on the retest he allowed each student to simply write in the name of the Dean of Admissions so that the Dean's score could be transfered to them. In essence, each young person o filled in the Dean of Admission's name on their own exam, automatically got a 100%. In addition, the Dean of Admission had also declared that he would pay the entire cost of school for everyone who had passed. A four year, full ride at the best college ever!

My son was devasted by this. He complained bitterly that it was not fair.  As any father would, I felt his pain. He had missed out on an amazing opportunity to enjoy the most wonderful experience imaginable. I tried to explain to him, that the President of the school had a right to set the standards. "100% may seem high to you, son," I explained, "but the school is outstanding so one should expect the bar to be high. We both know that throughout your life you have squandered many chances to learn. It is your own fault that you got some wrong." "But what about the Dean of Admissions only letting some people know?" he replied. "Well," I explained,  "they are not obligated to tell anyone anything. The fact that any students got the second chance is really pretty amazing. To think that no one passed the entrance exam and now sixty kids are not only getting into school but are there on a full ride is pretty gracious." Eventually, my son admitted, that the President and Dean were certainly under no obligation to let anyone in the school and he acknowledged that those who had received the second exam truly had enjoyed a remarkable gift.

Later that day, on the news, there was an interview with the school president. He proclaimed how happy he was that sixty local students were going to be able to attend the college. He also made clear that he desired every child in the area to enroll and attend the college. He emphasized that while no student had lived up to the admission expectation, he was glad that some could get in any way because of his graciousness.

I do believe that the President and Dean have a right to admit anyone that they want. I think it is fair for them to be gracious to whom they want. I guess my question is this: is it fair that they claim that they desired everyone to get into the school?

I write this as an obvious 'parable' of the Kingdom. Like all parables, there is some use of imperfect analogy. Even so, I think it does illustrate salvation and grace.

God is perfect and His perfection cannot endure our imperfection. He is represented as the President and the required score of 100% .
Jesus is obviously the Son/Dean. He alone is worthy and He can offer the gracious exemption to whom He wants by the means He desires.
Student (us) are accountable for our failures. Our standards for passing scores are too low. We have all failed to reach the bar. No one deserves or has a right to anything.
The responsibility of some students to tell others is evangelism. In reality most Christians do little or none of it. Others are very much isolated and only share the faith with a handful of closest friends and family, and only on rare occasions someone outside their personal circle. A significant number of people do try to spread the Good News. They use their time, talent, and treasure to see that as many people as possible get the word and know about the second chance. Unfortunately, for people like "my son", lots of people are just never made aware of the second chance. Understand, I am not saying that they have a right to know about it nor do they deserve it. I am just saying, many people never, ever had information about the second chance.

The question remains, can the President sincerely claim that he did everything he could to make sure that everyone got into the school? The President and Dean were certainly gracious and kind, no one deserved it or earned it and the fact that anyone got into their school on a free ride is a marvelous mercy. But it just does not seem accurate to say that they have made a commitment to include everyone in the gracious offer. Nor can anyone deny that those of us entrusted with "the secret" have done a pretty ineffective job of getting the word out.

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