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):
- College does not provide an education, it provides training to be a professional.
- Homemaking is not oppression and should not be denigrated.
- Degrees trap young women into a career making motherhood an impossibility.
- Homeschooling is the best use of a woman’s God-given talents.
- 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):
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The cost of a degree is becoming difficult to recoup.
- You don’t have to prove anything to the world. The price of parents pushes kids, proving they did a good job.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.