The Cons of College

There was a great disturbance on Facebook last week when thousands of feminists suddenly cried out in terror, but were anything but silent. They were responding to a blog post (originally) called 6 Reasons to NOT Send Your Daughter to College. The charges were predictable (“misogynistic,” “barefoot and pregnant,” “oppression,” etc.) and unfortunately, it seems that most people were too busy freaking out to actually consider anything it said. Accordingly, I’d like to do so here.

A few notes before we begin:

First, college is too often assumed to be essential to life—that it’s part of the way to become a good American or a even good human being. Too many people fail to ask whether they should attend, and simply go to rack up a debt they can never pay or discharge with nothing to show for it but a piece of paper, some fond memories, and rudimentary knowledge of a subject that seemed interesting to them when they started. Before embarking on any endeavor that could end that way, it would be wise to figure out the pros and cons. Middle-class Americans have been all about listing the pros of college for the last 50 years, but it seems most people are shocked by even the prospect that cons worth considering might exist. If one were to take “6 Reasons” as a list of reasons that a woman should never attend college, it would be rather dubious. However, if one takes them as entries in a much-needed list of cons, one is on much better footing. Whatever the author might have intended, that’s how I intend to take them.

Second, it’s a shame that this needs to be pointed out so often, but men and women are different in important ways. It is entirely appropriate and helpful for a young man and a young woman to have differences on their lists of pros and cons. There are certain vocations for which college is not all that helpful (and may even be detrimental at the same time). The two that top this list are wife and mother. While not all women are called to these responsibilities, very many are and exactly zero men are. These vocations have been looked own on quite a bit (especially wife) but they are among the few that are absolutely essential to the continuation of civilized humanity. Women who are not certain that they are not called to these vocations would do well to carefully consider the costs and benefits of college, and their list will look different than any man’s. Accordingly, it is pure foolishness to condemn the blog post as misogynistic and exclude it from conversation simply because it addressed daughters.

Now onto the list itself:

  1. She will attract the wrong types of men.”
    I thought I knew where this one was going when I read the title; never have I been so wrong. Rather than warn against the various alpha-male bad boys that are likely to use and discard her, the author warns against gamma-male nice guys looking for a new mother figure to mooch off of. While it’s true that this too is the wrong type of man, I can’t agree that this is a significant concern. She may attract their attention, but it seems unlikely that they’ll attract hers unless they’re artists or musicians.Still, there are wrong types of men that will attract her attention in college, and she would need to be wary of them. This can be mitigated to a certain degree by deliberately distancing oneself from the wider campus culture, but it is a con worth addressing.

  2. She will be in a near occasion of sin”
    We should flee temptation even if it alters our career-path? While the world may consider this to be madness, to the Christian, this should be an incredibly important point. Christians talk a good game about purity, but at the same time, we tend to think it legalistic to take precautions against it. We tell our kids not to have sex outside of marriage but think it’s A-OK for them to spend copious amounts of time secluded with an attractive member of the opposite sex in order to explore their mutual romantic feelings. This is no less true for college.College culture is incredibly unchaste and must be approached with extreme caution. Again, deliberately distancing oneself from the wider campus culture can be helpful (e.g., living off-campus with parents or relatives, maintaining regular involvement in church and family activities, etc.) But proximity is always dangerous, some level of it is unavoidable if she chooses to attend, and she will be told by nearly everyone she meets there (students, professors, and administrators alike) that she’s crippling herself by not diving right in.

  3. She will not learn to be a wife and mother”
    This is certainly true, but the way its framed, it’s not terribly compelling. That’s not what anyone goes to college for. It’s true that career-preparation does have the side-effect of devaluing homemaking, but I think it’s an error to see college primarily as career-prep in the first place.I think the more pertinent questions on this subject are 1) to what extent going to college will interfere with the ordinary ways of learning how to be a wife and mother (i.e., instruction from trustworthy wives and mothers) and 2) whether a future wife and mother would gain enough from however many years of college to justify the cost—not just money, but also losing the most fertile years of her life.

  4. The cost of a degree is becoming more difficult to recoup”
    This is a good thing for everyone considering college to know, and we don’t normally hear it. To the contrary, a few years back, I actually had a professor who argued that going into debt for a philosophy PhD was economically advantageous. It’s a good thing he didn’t teach economics. Year-by-year, the price of college is going up and the benefits are plummeting. But this is especially true for prospective wives and mothers. Student loan debt is entirely capable of forcing women away from their children and into jobs they hate.

  5. You don’t have anything to prove to the world”
    Another good point on this one. Feminists stuck in an anti-1950’s mentality see college education as a kind of merit badge. A friend of mine who grew up in that generation but never attended college occasionally indicates that she sees herself as stupid because of it. To the contrary, however, she has been in adult Sunday School classes that I’ve taught, and she is definitely among the sharpest students I’ve had. It just goes to show that being well-educated is far more valuable than being well-degreed. Ironically enough, college is not always the best way to become educated.

  6. It could be a near occasion of sin for the parents”
    This one mostly has to do with the cost of college encouraging contraception as a way to save money. Now, I’m not part of the Church of Rome, and I do not see contraception as inherently sinful. Nevertheless, I do think that most of the use to which contraception is put is sinful. To put it briefly, if we think that our daughters would be better off having her college education than having her brothers and sisters… what does that say about our priorities?

  7. She will regret it”
    I think this is more of a summary of the rest, but it’s quite true that some women are becoming more comfortable with admitting that college was a mistake despite the stigma of doing so. It’s hard for modern youth to think of themselves as adults and horrifying to think of themselves as middle-aged or older (a side-effect of sequestering them with people their own age for decades on end). But these times do come, and contrary to popular belief, they do not signal that life is no longer worth living. It can’t hurt to remind them to think further ahead than a few years.

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