Skip to main content
Classical Christian Movement

Policing or Mentoring? A Tale of Two Colleges

By June 1, 2009January 31st, 2023No Comments

← Back to Resources

The dean of students at a Christian college learned that a group of students planned to visit a popular local bar one Friday night. He and his deputy crafted an ingenious plan to address the problem. They left their homes and families rather late in the evening and set up surveillance outside the bar in order to catch the students as they exited. They indeed snared a fair number of these students and, since drinking was a serious offense at this college, the students were expelled.

Some years later, at another Christian college, a different dean of students learned that a group of students planned to visit a local bar one Friday night. Before going home from work, he headed straight for the bar and greeted the surprised students warmly as they arrived (outside, before they could enter). Through conversation, he helped each to realize that going out to a local bar was not such a good idea, considering the school’s policies on drinking. These students remained in school and enjoyed a great relationship with that dean throughout their college years—and the dean got home in time to spend Friday night with his family.

These stories pretty well summarize the whole culture or ethos of these two colleges. To put a label on the difference, one college believed in policing; the other in mentoring. And these worldviews permeated the institutions. Not only were students policed or mentored; faculty were policed or mentored, according to the institution’s bias. I worked longer at the one than I might have hoped, and I could have enjoyed a much longer stay at the other. Both colleges shaped my career path and my way of thinking about guiding students and leading faculty. But at the second college I learned what to do; at the first, what not to do.

There is a curious irony in Christ’s Golden Rule. “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do you evenso to them” isn’t just good advice. It is a law of human nature, a basic psychological principle. People will treat us similarly to the way that we treat others. This doesn’t only mean that Joe will treat me like I treat him (although that is likely to be the case). It means that, in general, people will treat me similarly to how they observe me treating other people. We have that effect on one another.

In my own experience, I find that I behave differently around some people than I do around others. Around a high energy person, my energy level rises; around a lethargic person, my energy level declines; around a positive person, I am positive; around a negative person, I can more easily give way to negativism.

We humans are very powerful beings. We actually create our own culture by how we treat others. In a school setting, we either create a culture of mutual respect and grace, or we create a culture of suspicion and harshness. Generally speaking, if faculty and staff police, they are more likely to be policed. If they mentor, they will likely be mentored.

When it comes to enforcing rules, both approaches can work (as the tale of two colleges illustrates), but mentoring softens the will, while policing stiffens it. The catch is that mentoring is harder. For mentoring to work, we all have to be mentors. We all have to take responsibility. We all have to act. We all have to care. We can’t just leave it to the police.

Every school has police. Great schools are full of mentors.

SC24 Kick-Off Sale



Summer Conference 2024 - National Harbor, Maryland

Join us for a gathering of classical Christian educators from around the world as we consider what it means to build school communities and welcome the outside through biblical hospitality.


East Coast Symposium

February 23-24, 2024

Atlanta, GA

West Coast Leaders Retreat

March 15-16, 2024

Newberg, OR

As a member, you receive access to all of the most recent summer conference content, including 80+ workshops, plenary speakers, etc., plus access to the full library of past content.

Conference Sessions

Ensure increased visibility for your school by having it listed on the Find a School Map, connecting you with potential students and families seeking a classical Christian learning environment.

Map Feature

Unlock a wealth of exclusive resources, such as research studies and articles, providing valuable insights and knowledge for your school's continuous improvement.


Enable your school to easily post job openings and attract qualified candidates with the Career Center, simplifying the hiring process.

Career Center

Enjoy exclusive discounts on all SCL events and services, empowering you to access valuable resources and opportunities for your school's growth at a more affordable cost.

Exclusive Discounts

Get access to exclusive cohorts and workshops!

Cohorts and Workshops

SCL conducts school-wide surveys to provide relevant information to the classical Christian community as well as access to in-depth research with partner organizations like the Barna Group.


A connected community of classical Christian thought leaders, including heads of school, board members, marketing and admissions directors, development and fundraising directors, academic deans, grammar and upper school heads, and teachers from all grade levels are here to support and encourage one another.


Member-exclusive Coaching Call sessions. 15-20 online sessions each year from key-thought leaders on topics ranging from legal and operational issues to pedagogical and philosophical discussions. Think of it as a mini-conference each month!

Coaching Calls

Gain new insight, knowledge, and skills around best practices in a short, intensive format with workshops or a year-long mentorship experience with cohorts. Designed for administrators, teachers, parents, leaders, and department heads – anyone seeking to learn and grow in their role.

Conference & Workshops

Our network of seasoned professionals is available to navigate your questions and brainstorm solutions with you. Let us know how you want to direct your time and we will pair you with the senior leader that best suits your school’s unique needs.