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6 reasons girls should not go to college

In a recent column, a religious blogger asserted that daughters should be shunned from going to college. We dissect his points and offer counterpoints.

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Parents should not encourage girls to go to college

Recently, a religious blogger penned a thoughtful piece about the role of a university education on the formation of families. Raylan Alleman and fellow Catholic writers at Fix The Family are not official representatives of the Catholic church, rather concerned married couples seeking to remind their readers through written word of the pillars that create a strong family.

In a piece entitled “6 reasons not to send your daughter to college,” Alleman outlined several reasons he believes young girls should not be encouraged to go to college, and even tackles common objections to his thesis.

Alleman responds to five common objections to his position (I’m summarizing, not quoting):

  1. College does not provide an education, it provides training to be a professional.
  2. Homemaking is not oppression and should not be denigrated.
  3. Degrees trap young women into a career making motherhood an impossibility.
  4. Homeschooling is the best use of a woman’s God-given talents.
  5. Life insurance is something responsible families have in the event the provider (man) dies.

Further, he offers eight (originally six) reasons girls should not go to college (words in bold are Alleman’s words, otherwise, my summary):

  1. She’ll attract the wrong types of men. She’ll attract lazy men looking for mother figures who want to rely on her income so they don’t have to work.
  2. She’ll be in a near occasion of sin. She’ll be in a sexually charged, unsupervised situation, and when sexually active, she chemically cannot see faults in men.
  3. She will not learn to be a wife and mother. Homemaking skills are not taught in college, and college trains for the masculine role of a profession leading to an inner conflict later when a woman considers motherhood.
  4. The cost of a degree is becoming difficult to recoup.
  5. You don’t have to prove anything to the world. The price of parents pushes kids, proving they did a good job.
  6. It could be a near occasion of sin for the parents. The cost of college leads parents to use contraception to avoid having more children.
  7. She will regret it. Juggling a career and parenthood leads women to experience regret, having bypassed a meaningful life to gain the approval of feminists.
  8. It could interfere with a religious vocation. Candidates for the vocation that have substantial unpaid debt are rejected.

In comments, Alleman revealed that the bloggers believe girls should stay at home and be supported by their parents financially until they meet their future husband whose responsibility it is to then care for the wife and future children.

Foreword to an opposing view

Most people, in reading Alleman’s controversial piece, jump to the comments to tell him how ignorant he is or that he’s a misogynist. I don’t find that to be the case, necessarily, but Alleman did say in his piece, “after looking at the issue we raise, we would challenge anyone to convince us that college for girls is not a near occasion of sin.”

Challenge accepted. Respectfully, I will respond to each of Alleman’s points. The caveat is that I have a college degree, and I am a married conservative Catholic mother who most would not consider a feminist. Like Alleman, I am not an official representative of the Church.

For those unfamiliar, Catholics refer to the Catechism and the Vatican’s word. Alleman’s position is partially in line with the teachings of the Church. Christ does teach three things that are at the root of this position: (1) motherhood is the holiest of jobs, even above priests, and (2) that in a marriage, the male is the leadership figure (but the modern Church asserts that husbands and wives are partners, equally yoked, but ultimately the man is responsible for the wellbeing of the family unit). (3) Lastly, giving up worldly things and focusing on Christ’s teachings, even when a secular culture rejects them, is honorable and what Catholics are called to do.

Some will disagree with these tenets, but understanding those three teachings can help you to fully understand Alleman’s position, along with my rebuttal.

Contradicting from a point of common background

I’d like to take this point by point to clarify why I believe that based on the core teachings of the Catholic faith and the three core tenets outlined above, women that want to go to college should.

Pertaining to the objections Alleman attempts to overcome, I have to point out that either he has not been to college himself, he had a bad experience, or it’s been 100 years, because claiming that college does not provide an education rather trains you for the masculine task of being a professional is ludicrous – trust me, there is little professional development there, as no one is teaching you interview skills, rather theories you may or may not end up using in the real world.

This editorial is written from the point of view of sadness, not anger, as I trust in the Lord as the Church teaches Alleman and I to do. I understand and trust that He has a plan for us, predetermined before birth, as do our daughters, no matter our views.

1,000,001 reasons girls should go to college

While I completely agree that homemaking is not oppression, in fact, some of the most amazing people I know are stay at home moms (and dads, hello!), degrees do not trap women into a career – millions of women have hit the pause button and gone back when it was right for the family. The majority of studies I’m familiar with support the idea that women going back to work does not harm children, and in my view, it teaches them to persevere and to be independent thinkers, making mom a true leader.

Also, I assure you that the Catechism and Bible do not assert that it is irresponsible to not have life insurance because your uneducated wife can’t fend for herself should you die. This is one of the more offensive points Alleman makes. Lastly, he says homeschooling is the best use of a woman’s God-given talents, but if a woman is not as educated as possible, how does that make her a quality educator? Homeschooling is a fantastic route for some people, but honestly, most people are simply not equipped, nor do they desire to keep their children separate and unsocial. Denying a possible career, to me, is denying the talents God has bestowed upon you. These objections are not taught in the Church, rather are just his opinion.

1. She’ll attract the wrong kind of men.
Next spring, I will celebrate 10 years of happy marriage with my husband and 12 years as inseparable love birds. I happened to meet him while I was in college, and he’s not a lazy man looking for my income, so I take exception to the overarching allegation that not only was I incapable of discerning the right kind of guy from the wrong because I was pursuing higher education, but that my husband, or any man who married an educated girl, is a user whose only wish is to play video games and suck on the teat of a woman’s welfare.

College students are, by nature, competitive achievers, so the assumption that college guys are looking for a mother figure and that college girls are too dumb to see it is not a theory I can get on board with.

Alleman also quotes a doctor who notes that when a girl becomes sexually active, the chemicals in her brain make it to where she can’t see faults in men. I most certainly don’t agree, and if this was the only point I disagreed with, I’d seek out dozens of doctors that disagree, so I will agree to disagree with the lone doc.

Finally, the idea that all women are going to college in search of their “MRS” degree is insanely offensive. Higher education is intended to educate, not make love connections. Sometimes it happens, but in today’s world, it is increasingly less likely, and keeping women sheltered in daddy’s home isn’t going to improve that statistic, rather nurturing our children and teaching them values will preserve the family.

2. She’ll be in a near occasion of sin.
Alleman is right – college is a sexually charged and highly unsupervised environment, as is any high school party where adults aren’t present, as is the treehouse behind any parent’s house, as is the basement of the church, and so on.

It is my belief that if you’ve taught your children to respect themselves and follow the teachings of Christ, they will make the right decisions regardless of the level of supervision or sexual tension. Believing that your child will be in a near occasion of sin equates to their giving in to that sin speaks more to your own lack of faith in your parenting than anything. Teach your kids right from wrong, trust them, and if they make a mistake, that’s between them and the Church (which has absolved billions of Catholics for infractions like college trists, by the way).

3. She will not learn to be a wife and mother.
First, I would note that keeping your daughter in your house until they move in with their spouse is more handicapping than sending a child off into the world. When I went to college, I had to figure out how to pay the bills, how to put together a grocery list, how to clean when no one was holding me accountable, how to get enough sleep to keep my body running (even when no one told me to turn off the lights), how to take care of a broken down car, how to sew on a button when it fell off because Dad wasn’t there to do it and I couldn’t afford a new shirt, I learned how to take care of an ill best friend who may not have been a toddler, but sure acted like one when she had alcohol poisoning several times. Learning independence didn’t make me a defiant wife, it made me capable of making decisions while at home alone with our children or when doing general wifely and motherly duties.

I took classes that taught me endlessly about becoming a wife and a mother, but it was hidden in textbooks for me to uncover myself as I learned to think critically. In sociology, I learned about the social norms of different family models so I could pick and choose the best model for my own future family rather than only knowing how to mirror my own parents. In economics, I learned about earning power and how global financial systems work, which makes keeping a family’s books in order a breeze. In dozens of English classes, I read so much that my very identity was formed as I incorporated a bit of each writer into my heart. In geology, I learned rock formation types, which I now point out to my own children in an effort to help their own intellectual development. I can go on, but you get the point.

Girls’ identities are still forming into their 20s, so keeping them trapped in a house without a job or education holds them back from becoming powerful and critical thinkers, obtaining a more advanced world view, and making the best possible decisions for themselves and their families.

If it were the Church’s mission to shun girls from going to college, there would be no co-ed Catholic universities, higher education institutes wouldn’t have educated women as Fellows, and Jesuits like Pope Francis would refuse to teach women. Nowhere in Christ’s teachings does it say women should not be educated. Nowhere.

4. The cost of a degree is becoming difficult to recoup.
In the modern American world, living on a single income has become an unrealistic proposition for most families, and many things have become extremely expensive.

Millions of homeowners remain underwater, but that does not mean homeownership should be abolished.

Cars have become expensive and financing tight, but that doesn’t mean families are more responsible for riding the bus from the suburbs into town, especially a father who misses out on hours a day with the family Alleman is seeking to protect.

Alleman is right – a college education is expensive and there is no guarantee that many students will ever even end up in the field in which they studied, but that’s an illogical reason to bypass higher education. More people argue today that college is a rip off, a joke, but not based on perversions of religious teachings, rather the persistently high unemployment rates and competitiveness of the workforce wherein without a college education, even for menial jobs, your resume is never even considered.

5. You don’t have to prove anything to the world.
This is one of the only points I can find common ground with Alleman on. Many parents do push their children towards college so they can have bragging rights. This is just as ridiculous as pushing them away so you can call yourself humble and worldly for clinging to a fringe view of God’s will.

6. It could be a near occasion of sin for the parents.
Alleman makes the claim that parents are driven to using contraceptives to avoid having more children, because college is too expensive. Not only is no evidence offered to back this wild notion up, I just don’t believe it. Yes, the use of contraceptives is against Catholic teachings, and many families fall into sin by using them, but this is just reaching that college costs are the reason.

Additionally, if this thesis were true, you should shun sons from attending college as well. Seriously, this one is out of the park inaccurate. Some may be tempted to sin, but this is not the norm, and Alleman cannot offer any anecdotes to support this line of thinking.

My family helped me through the first half of college, but then due to unforeseen circumstances, no longer could, so I had to put myself through the second half. We’ve taught our daughter to be independent and as a junior, she is already becoming aware of financial aid options and scholarships so she doesn’t have to rely on anyone, rather come to us when she is in a pickle, or when we help her it is the icing on top or she can pay back those cumbersome loans early.

Rather than assume the cost of college is prohibitive, educate yourself (unless you’re the lady of the house, of course) on options for your children, and encourage them to do the same. Then, let them make the decision based on their own cost analysis.

No one pops pills because they’re scared of their daughter costing them an arm and a leg, because let’s face it – supporting her financially until maybe her 30s without her getting a job will cost more.

7. She will regret it.
Alleman alleges that juggling a career and parenthood leads women to experience regret, having bypassed a meaningful life to gain the approval of feminists.

Poppycock. I can assure you that I wasn’t considering the feelings of the feminists at age 10 when I decided I wanted to go to the University of Texas, worked my tail off for my entire life to get there, then walked across the stage at graduation with thousands of bright men and women, with a family (and future husband) supporting me in that endeavor.

The truth is that I believe the Church’s teachings, including that motherhood is the holiest of professions. I believe strongly that being a stay at home mom is just as challenging and rewarding as a career. Alleman, what you have failed to acknowledge (besides the obvious fact that some women are gay and not husband hunting) is that some women cannot physically have children – this does not make them sinners, nor does it make them less valuable. God does not intend for all women to be mothers or even wives.

I have two stepchildren and a stillborn son, and on top of that, I am educated. No part of me regrets my college years, I’ve had an extremely meaningful life filled with more than just the joys of motherhood, but of charity and educating others. I never even considered what bra burning extremists thought of me; I learned how to think critically in college, and to be independent – values every child should possess.

8. It could interfere with a religious vocation.
Candidates for the vocation that have substantial unpaid debt are rejected. I agree with Alleman on this one, but must also assert that if you’ve taught your children financial responsibility, even if they have no support, they should be able to manage debt better than a girl who graduated high school and never got a job, rather cleaned Dad’s house until she accidentally bumped into Mr. Right at church (who was super impressed with her ability to hold an adult conversation, think on his level, and show ambition and passion, I’m sure… no wait, that doesn’t sound right).

The bottom line

God’s greatest gift (and challenge) of all is that we have free will. If our daughters want to graduate high school, marry their high school sweetheart and get pregnant by 18, so be it. But if they want to go to college, none of the aforementioned reasons carry enough weight to dissuade them from doing so, and the workforce should not be limited to men – every study supports diversity in the workplace, especially gender diversity. If your daughter is an amazing designer, why hide that under a bushel?

Fear of change and fear of your children growing up is not reason enough to handicap them and keep them at home, and not trusting your own parenting to have given them the skills and moral compass they need speaks more about your own shortcomings than the higher education system’s. The family is not threatened by college, it is enhanced by the beauty of education and asserting that only daughters have challenges in adulthood alienates your sons’ realities.

Alleman, I hope you pray on these concepts and ideas, as I’ve respectfully taken your challenge to try to convince you that our daughters should go to college. But only if that is their calling. Otherwise, may they be the most amazing homemakers this world has ever seen. May we trust in His plan, not ours.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Tinu

    September 24, 2013 at 11:09 am

    This is just brilliant. Just. Brilliant. I especially appreciate that you decided not to try to do one of those “fake objectivity” type of rebuttals that tried to squeeze religion out of the discussion.

    It’s so much better to hear from someone who most people would think is the choir they are preaching to – just because some of us are Christian or Catholic or conservative doesn’t mean we agree with everything our peers say.

  2. Eric Proulx

    September 24, 2013 at 6:04 pm

    As I said on my post on Facebook, it’s one thing to get riled up over something you read on the internet and it’s a totally different thing to break down everything that was wrong with his argument. Easily one of the most enjoyable things I have read in a long time.

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Opinion Editorials

7 ways to carve out me time while working from home

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) It can be easy to forget about self-care when you’re working from home, but it’s critical for your mental health, and your work quality.

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Woman in hijab sitting on couch, working from home on a laptop

We are all familiar with the syndrome, getting caught up in work, chores, and taking care of others, and neglecting to take care of ourselves in the meantime. This has always been the case, but now, with more people working from home and a seemingly endless lineup of chores, thanks to the pandemic. There is simply so much to do.

The line is thinly drawn between personal and professional time already, with emails, cell phones, and devices relentlessly reaching out around the clock, pulling at us like zombie arms reaching up from the grave. Working from home makes this tendency to always be “on” worse, as living and working take place in such close proximity. We have to turn it off, though.

Our brains and bodies need down time, me-time, self-care. Carving out this time is one of the kindest and most important things you can do for yourself. If we can begin to honor ourselves like this, the outcome with not only our mental and physical health, but also our productivity at work, will be beneficial. When we make the time to do things we love, our body untenses, our mind’s gears slow down that constant grinding. Burnout behooves nobody.

Our work will also benefit. Healthier, happier, more well rested, and well treated minds and bodies can work wonders! Our immune systems also need this, and we need our immune systems to be at their peak performance this intense season.

I wanted to write this article, because I have such a struggle with this in my own life. I need to print it out and put it in my workspace. Last week, I posted something on my social media pages that so many people shared. It is clear we all need these reminders, so I am paying it forward here. The graphic was a quote from Devyn W.

“If you are reading this, release your shoulders away from your ears, unclench your jaw, and drop your tongue from the roof of your mouth.”

There now, isn’t that remarkable? It is a great first step. Let go of the tension in your body, and check out these ways to make yourself some healing me-time.

  1. Set aside strict no-work times. This could be any time of day, but set the times and adhere to them strictly. This may look like taking a full hour for lunch, not checking email after a certain hour, or committing to spending that time outdoors, reading, exercising, or enjoying the company of your loved ones. Make this a daily routine, because we need these boundaries. Every. Single. Day.
  2. Remember not to apologize to anyone for taking this me-time. Mentally and physically you need this, and everyone will be better off if you do. It is nothing to apologize for! Building these work-free hours into your daily schedule will feel more normal as time goes on. This giving of time and space to your joy, health, and even basic human needs is what should be the norm, not the other way around.
  3. Give yourself a device-free hour or two every day, especially before bedtime. The pinging, dinging, and blinging keeps us on edge. Restful sleep is one of the wonderful ways our bodies and brains heal, and putting devices away before bedtime is one of the quick tips for getting better sleep.
  4. Of course, make time for the things you absolutely love. If this is a hot bath, getting a massage, reading books, working out, cooking or eating an extravagant meal, or talking and laughing with a loved one, you have to find a way to get this serotonin boost!
  5. Use the sunshine shortcut. It isn’t a cure-all, but sunlight and Vitamin D are mood boosters. At least when it’s not 107 degrees, like in a Texas summer. But as a general rule, taking in at least a good 10-15 minutes of that sweet, sweet Vitamin D provided by the sun is good for us.
  6. Spend time with animals! Walk your dog, shake that feathery thing at your cat, or snuggle either one. Whatever animals make you smile, spend time with them. If you don’t have pets of your own, you could volunteer to walk them at a local shelter or even watch a cute animal video online. They are shown to reduce stress. Best case scenario is in person if you are able, but thankfully the internet is bursting with adorable animal videos, as a backup.
  7. Give in to a bit of planning or daydreaming about a big future trip. Spending time looking at all the places you will go in the future and even plotting out an itinerary are usually excellent mood-boosters. It’s a bit different in 2020, as most of us aren’t sure when we will be able to go, but even deciding where you want to go when we are free to travel again can put a positive spin on things.

I hope we can all improve our lives while working from home by making time for regenerating, healing, and having fun! Gotta run—the sun is out, and my dog is begging for a walk.

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Opinion Editorials

Why robots freak us out, and what it means for the future of AI

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Robots and humans have a long way to go before the social divide disappears, but research is giving us insight on how to cross the uncanny valley.

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Close of R2D2 toy, an example of robots that we root for, but why?

We hate robots. Ok, wait, back up. We at least think they are more evil than good. Try it yourself – “are robots” in Google nets you evil before good. Megatron has higher SEO than Optimus Prime, and it’s not just because he’s so much cooler. It cuz he evil, cuz. It do be like that.

It’s not even a compliment to call someone robotic; society connotes this to emotionless preprogrammed shells of hideous nothing, empty clankbags that walk and talk and not much else. So, me at a party. Or if you’re a nerd, you’re a robot. (Me at a party once again.)

Let’s start by assuming robots as human-like bipedal machines that are designed with some amount of artificial intelligence, generally designed to fulfill a job to free up humanity from drudgery. All sounds good so far. So why do they creep us out?

There’s a litany of reasons why, best summed up with the concept of the uncanny valley, first coined by roboticist Masahiro Mori (Wow he’s still alive! The robots have not yet won) in 1970. Essentially, we know what a human is and how it looks and behaves against the greater backdrop of life and physics. When this is translated to a synthetic being, we are ok with making a robot look and act like us to a point, where we then notice all the irregularities and differences.

Most of these are minor – unnaturally smooth or rigid movements, light not scattering properly on a surface, eyes that don’t sync up quite right when they blink, and several other tiny details. Lots of theories take over at this point about why this creeps us out. But a blanket way to think about it is that our expectation doesn’t match what we are seeing; the reality we’re presented with is off just enough and this makes us uncomfortable .

Ever stream a show and the audio is a half second off? Makes you really annoyed. Magnify that feeling by a thousand and you’re smack in the middle of the uncanny valley. It’s that unnerving. One possible term for this is abjection, which is what happens the moment before we begin to fear something. Our minds – sensing incompatibility with robots – know this is something else, something other , and faced with no way to categorize this, we crash.

This is why they make good villains in movies – something we don’t understand and given free will and autonomy, potentially imbued with the bias of a creator or capable of forming terrifying conclusions all on its own (humans are a virus). But they also make good heroes, especially if they are cute or funny. Who doesn’t love C3PO? That surprise that they are good delights us. Build in enough appeal to a robot, and we root for them and feel empathy when they are faced with hardships. Do robots dream of electric sheep? Do robots have binary souls? Bits and zeros and ones?

Professor Jaime Banks (Texas Tech University’s College of Media & Communication) spends a lot of time thinking about how we perceive robots. It’s a complex and multifaceted topic that covers anthropomorphism, artificial intelligence, robot roles within society, trust, inherently measuring virtue versus evil, preconceived notions from entertainment, and numerous topics that cover human-robot interactions.

The world is approaching a future where robots may become commonplace; there are already robot bears in Japan working in the healthcare field. Dressing them up with cute faces and smiles may help, but one jerky movement later and we’ve dropped all suspension.

At some point, we have to make peace with the idea that they will be all over the place. Skynet, GLaDOS in Portal, the trope of your evil twin being a robot that your significant will have to shoot in the middle of your fight, that episode of Futurama where everything was a robot and they rose up against their human masters with wargod washing machines and killer greeting cards, the other Futurama episode where they go to a planet full of human hating murderous robots… We’ve all got some good reasons to fear robots and their coded minds.

But as technology advances, it makes sense to have robots take over menial tasks, perform duties for the needy and sick, and otherwise benefit humanity at large. And so the question we face is how to build that relationship now to help us in the future.

There’s a fine line between making them too humanlike versus too mechanical. Pixar solved the issue of unnerving humanoids in their movies by designing them stylistically – we know they are human and accept that the figure would look odd in real life. We can do the same with robots – enough familiarity to develop an appeal, but not enough to erase the divide between humanity and robot. It may just be a question of time and new generations growing up with robots becoming fixtures of everyday life. I’m down for cyborgs too.

Fearing them might not even be bad, as Banks points out: “…a certain amount of fear can be a useful thing. Fear can make us think critically and carefully and be thoughtful about our interactions, and that would likely help us productively engage a world where robots are key players.”

Also, check out Robot Carnival if you get the chance – specifically the Presence episode of the anthology.

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Opinion Editorials

4 simple tips to ease friction with your boss while working remotely

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Find it challenging to get along with your boss while working from home? Here are a few things you can try to ease the tension.

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Woman stressed over laptop in remote work.

Most people probably feel like their relationship with their boss is fine. If you’re encountering friction with your boss for any reason, though, remote work will often exacerbate it—this is one instance where distance doesn’t necessarily make the heart grow fonder. Here are a few ways to remove some of that friction without adding to your boss’ overflowing plate.

According to CNN, determining the problem that exists between you and your boss should be your first step. There’s one caveat to consider, however: Your boss’ boundaries. Problem-solving on your own time is fine, but demanding more of your boss’ time—especially when you’re supposed to be working—may compound the issue.

An easy way around this is a low-impact communique—e.g., an email—sent at the beginning or end of the workday. Since that’s a more passive communication style that takes only a minute or two out of your day, it’s less likely to frustrate your boss further.

If ironing out the issue isn’t your prerogative for now, examining your boss’ parameters for success is another place to start. Does your boss prefer to receive multiple updates throughout the day, or do they want one summative report each morning? Do you respect your boss’ preferred communication styles? These are important questions to ask during remote work. If you find yourself reaching out more than necessary, for example, it may be time to cut back.

It can also be difficult to satiate your boss if you don’t know their expectations. If you’re able to speak to them about the expectations regarding a project or task, do it; clarifying the parameters around your work will always help both of you. It is worth noting that some supervisors may expect that you know your way around some types of responsibilities, though, so err on the side of complementing that knowledge rather than asking for comprehensive instructions.

Finally, keep in mind that some bosses simply don’t communicate the same way you do. I’ve personally been blessed with a bevy of nurturing, enthusiastic supervisors, but we’ve all had superiors who refuse to acknowledge our successes and instead focus on our failures. That can be a really tough mentality to work with during remote periods, but knowing that they have a specific communication style that hampers their sociability can help dampen the effects.

As always, communication is key—even if that means doing it a little bit less than you’d like.

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