Mike Kueber's Blog

October 28, 2012

Road trip – Ohio and Franciscan University

Filed under: Culture,Education,People,Politics — Mike Kueber @ 2:41 am
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Although I just returned from an exhausting one-week stay in NYC and an even more exhausting rotator-cuff surgery, two circumstances conspired to get me on the road again before I had expected:

  1. My son Jimmy, who is attending Franciscan University (“academically excellent, passionately Catholic”) in Steubenville, Ohio, was coming to the end of his first season of rugby.  Like the “blind man in the bleachers,” I had never seen him play, so why not do it now?
  2. My man Mitt Romney was in a really tight presidential race, and it sounded like the voters of Ohio would provide the decisive electors, so why not spend a few days volunteering for Romney in Ohio.

I hemmed and hawed about taking the trip for a couple of day, but when I called the Romney folks in Columbus on Tuesday and they offered to provide me a bed, I decided the stars were aligned. 

I hit the road on Thursday morning (on the radio – Beck, Rush, Hannity, Levin, Miller), drove through the night, and arrived in Columbus Friday afternoon.  But instead of stopping by the Columbus campaign office, I decided I would rather watch Jimmy’s 4-6pm rugby practice, so I kept driving to Steubenville and arrived just in time to watch some practice. 

After practice, Jimmy’s team met for a prayer session and then had their pre-game supper.  Jimmy and I finally got together around 9pm and spend a couple of hours driving around Steubenville, which has to be hillier than San Fran (though I’ve never been there). 

While driving around, Jimmy and I talked about life and his life.  He seems to be supremely happy at Franciscan as he is surrounded by kindred spirits – i.e., passionately Catholic.  And these kids are palpably different.  As I wandered around the campus asking for directions to the rugby field, I was struck by how openly “happy, cheerful, and friendly” the kids were.  And, like Asian immigrants, these kids did not have the cockiness, brashness, or outsized ego that you commonly notice in many college kids. 

The fact that Jimmy is flourishing with these kindred spirits raises the question of how important diversity is.  The liberal advocates of affirmative action say it is critical for America’s future leaders to be exposed to people of all types – rich & poor, liberal & conservative, black, white, and brown, gay & straight, etc.  Yet, most people don’t dispute that all-black, all-girl, or all-religious schools have a record of turning out outstanding graduates.  

When I asked Jimmy about whether he was concerned about studying in a cocoon of religiosity or not being exposed to dysfunctional people, he responded that Franciscan Univ. was active in working with the hundreds of struggling people in Steubenville, many of them literally right across University Boulevard.   

In addition to being “passionately Catholic,” Franciscan University is also “academically excellent,” and Jimmy seems to have bought into that, too.  I remember making that same transition my freshman year in college – going from a high-school student who studied a course simply because it was on my schedule to someone who studied because he wanted to learn that subject. 

Jimmy and I talked briefly about something called “the gentleman’s C,” which used to predominate private schools until admission to professional schools became so competitive.  Although I suspect that the gentleman’s C still exists in religious schools like Franciscan, Jimmy is still too new here to know.   Personally, I don’t know how to reconcile the practical need for exemplary grades against the ideal of learning for the sake of learning, and maybe these idealistic kids can school me on that.  

My initial impression of Franciscan reminds me of the creepy brother-in-law in Field of Dreams who initially wanted to sell the ballfield, but eventually was converted to believe the field was magical, and that is when he told Kevin Costner to hold onto the field at all costs.  I’ve come to believe that Franciscan is the spiritually right place for Jimmy.

Because I’ve enjoyed this time with Jimmy so much, I extended my Steubenville stay to a second night and then a third night and won’t get to Columbus until Monday morning.  Then I hope to be able to blog about the groundswell of support for Romney. 

Keeping my fingers crossed.


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