25 Aug “When I Think Back to All I Learned in High School – An Autobiographical Reflection”
For those paying attention, the title to my article is, of course, edited in terms of what Paul Simon actually said in his masterpiece song, Kodachrome. “When I think back to all the CRAP I learned in high school, it’s a wonder I learned anything at all.” So said the great songwriter, and in it, captured what so many have said over a couple generations, and even worse, what is completely true for so many over a couple generations.
When I think back to the four years I was in high school, I confess to having mixed feelings about a lot of what happened. I haven’t spent a lot of time publicly discussion much of this, but my high school years did coincide with three events that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. Three days after my freshman year ended, my mother took off, never to be seen again, eventually marrying the 21-year old kid she ran away with. A year after that, the high school I attended, the high school my now late father taught for, the high school I loved, closed down. Six months later, the church my father planted when I was five years old went through an ugly church split. Three events covering the middle high school years of my life. Readers can use their imaginations on the impact these events had on me and my family.
But here’s the thing – my high school years were among the greatest years of my life – those pivotal years where so much of who I am and who I would become were developed in a formative basis. They were filled with many occasions of joy, the kinds of memories people make a collage for or a bad teen movie. I had disappointments. I had exhilirations. I experienced ups and downs. And I began the process of getting to know myself, and ultimately, developing the one attribute I literally feel compelled to thank God for every day: Despite all the challenges I have experienced in my life, and believe me, I live a blessed life, but coming out of my high school years the early foundations were there to be content – to take what life gives you, even if sometimes it is on the chin – and to live with a sort of Fight On spirit that can enables one to survive significant moments of pain, stress, and worry. I don’t believe all I learned in high school was crap, and I don’t believe it’s a wonder I learned anything at all. Friends, this is the point I am making: I believe one’s high school years are SUPPOSED to be the greatest years of their life. I believe it is supposed to be positively remembered. I believe it should have an impact of formation and character development – even when it coincided with the deterioration of one’s family, school, and church. In that sense, what I am saying is that the high school years are a sort of bridge into adulthood that represent a certain magic. People should exit high school ready to fight the good fight; ready for adulthood; armed with joy and contentment.
It is among the great burdens in my life that for so many this is not the case. And since that date 25 years ago that the Newport Mesa community lost its aforementioned high school, there has been a void in this community, despite the existence of some very good schools. For those seeking a faith-based option with a particular academic rigor, the options have required significant commuting. Many have done so, such is the commitment parents often have for their children. I would drive my children to Sa Diego if I had to – that is how badly I want them to have a memorable and positive high school experience (okay, I’d hire a driver, but you get my point). Today marks the recreation of a high school learning institution in this community I live in – one that is dedicated to teaching kids to think and live well. Today we open Pacifica Christian High School of Orange County.
There have been a series of events in the planning, visioning, and launching of this school program that suggest God has been driving it each step of the way. Providence has ruled the day, and doors have opened, and individuals found, and events unfolded in such a way that some of us wonder if it has been a supernatural experience. My co-founders on the board are people of leadership and character. Our administrative team is what we call the “A team”, and having an “A team” in ANYTHING in Christendom these days is, shall I say, not common. Our faculty are first class educators who embody a relational model of teaching. God has been in this place, and He has not despised the day of small beginnings.
I do wax and wane nostalgically about my high school years. I had good friends, good times, and a sort of social structure came about that became a substitute to the tough things I had experienced in my personal life. I wish I had ready 60-70 pages of systematic theology, because I do truly believe the 10,000 I read was (a) Excessive, (b) Unassigned by a teacher, and (c) Damaging to my development. But I think of those years with a smile – with gratitude – from the basketball team to everything else. But here is the thing I want for Pacifica that I suffer from not having today as a 41-year old man. I am a highly productive person – I was very goal-oriented even in high school, and it has carried with me. My lifestyle is one many would not understand. I wake up very, very early, and I run at the speed of sound. God wired me how He wired me, and thank God my wife loves me for who I am. But when we talk about the young men and women of Pacifica being taught to think and live well, it is my heartfelt desire that this project we have embarked upon will create producers, culture changers, and people who impact the communities in which they live. I pray they will be taught first things, understanding the basic precepts by which a cohesive and coherent worldview can be formed. I pray they soak up every moment of social interaction, learn to interact with adults, learn to have friends, and learn to be a friend. BUT I ALSO pray that they learn to live their lives at a slower speed than I live mine. I pray they live through a prism of grace and truth, always and forever, never allowing one to exist at the expense of the other.