The language of “vocational discernment” is finding a foothold in higher ed these days, but occasionally some critics have asked whether this is just a fancy way of talking about “deciding what to do in life.” Institutions may have adopted new language, but aren’t they simply doing what they’ve always done—namely, helping students to choose a major and to embark on a career? Or does “vocational reflection and discernment” really point to a genuinely different way of helping students think about their future lives? I believe that it does, and that one way to understand this difference is to think about playing catch.
I don’t usually find myself turning to sports for metaphors, but I think this one works. For most sports, there are certain things that one can do alone: learning about the game, undergoing physical conditioning, and watching the techniques of the greats. In some cases, one can even practice a sport alone: go for a run, hit tennis balls against a wall, or throw softballs and baseballs into one of those “pitch-back” nets. But all athletes know that these experiences are not the same as Continue reading