Thursday, October 3, 2013

Why I Went to College

By Catherine S.
Guest Contributor
courtesy Kevin Dooley, flickr

Last week, a friend sent me this article by Raylan Alleman, a conservative father who declares it is better for girls not to go to college. Alleman claims that college these days is expensive, morally dangerous, and academically disappointing, and that women can do better for themselves by avoiding it altogether and preparing themselves for their true purpose in life: marriage. Like any (or at least, many) college-educated woman, I immediately laughed it to scorn. However, as I mentally prepared my biting rebuttal, I came across other online reactions to the article, and I began to question my position. Anonymous snarky comments and my knee-jerk reaction only strengthen Raylan Alleman's original argument. Because I have a degree, I automatically know better than some man online, don’t I? Sadly, I’m the woman with the education, and yet I can't do any better than scream through cyberspace at a stranger. I reacted in an antagonistic, militant, feminist manner. This is why Alleman doesn’t want to send his daughter to college: because she will go to college and get her degree and fly her “educated woman” flag without having the initial decency to consider the opposite side of an argument, without being able to logically distinguish between an incorrect argument and a poorly-made one. Alleman has expressed his opinion with sweeping generalizations and what seems to be little knowledge of many conservative colleges across the country, but as a father, he has every right to express his concern with the dangers that surround a college-bound child.

That said, although I agree with his principles, I disagree with his points.

First of all, all colleges are not created equal. Christendom is not Yale is not Marquette. It is true that many colleges and universities churn out diploma-ed individuals with little knowledge and less wisdom; within their first year in a grey, windowless cubicle in the “real world,” these students are expected to forget any shred of knowledge they might have retained. But the purpose of a college degree is not – should not be – to get a job. It’s to learn how to think, how to interact with others, how to create logical arguments, how to read and critique – did I mention, how to think? Higher education means higher intellectual advancement, a “life skill” sorely lacking in the majority of twenty-somethings (not to mention thirty- and forty-somethings) these days. Unfortunately, there is no way to “homeschool” a higher education, so in this sense, “real college” should be at least a necessary evil to our conservative pro-family circles. Anyone can learn facts online, but a true college education is about more than facts. It’s about thoughts. And no one can learn thoughts from the internet. Countless hours of perusing the internet and reading Wikipedia articles on the Battle of Hastings cannot make up for those few, precious hours of intense, interpersonal, collegiate discussion in a classroom – or, as at my alma mater, on the quad, in the dorms, over dinner, at 3 am on night-long bus rides.

Too many people confuse ignorance and innocence. Keeping your daughter at home may or may not ensure her innocence, but it will absolutely keep her ignorant. It is the parents’ duty to see to their daughter’s early formation, the foundation which is supposed to be stable enough that no one need be afraid of her losing her Faith when – not if! – she goes into the “real” world. It’s going to happen, one way or another. She is going to meet the World. And she must be prepared. Young women must have armor and weapons to fight the dragons of this world, including rampant impurity and feminism and self-aggrandizement. To leave your daughter unarmed is to maroon her, vulnerable and fragile, on an island of ignorance and fear. If the parents have not instilled in their children the principles necessary to keep them pure at college, how are they ever supposed to stay pure once they grow up and move out of the family home?

Which leads to the next point.

If she’s attracting the wrong kinds of men, you (the parents) are doin’ it wrong. Or have done it wrong – and done her wrong – during the past eighteen years. But let’s assume the parents have been responsible, the daughter has been receptive; she arrives at college and suddenly finds herself attracting the attention of bad sorts of men: the Don Johns, the Wormtongues, the Wickhams of the college quad. Well, here is her opportunity to practically apply those virtues she has so dutifully studied under her parents’ guidance. What of “choose your companions carefully” and “don’t hide your light under a bushel”? Alleman specifically mentions lazy men; these, I am afraid to say, exist in all social circles, and not just on college campuses, so let’s hope our dutiful daughter has already learned how best to handle such men: that is, how to ignore them.

But perhaps we are discussing this problem from the wrong side of the coin: what about our young men? Parents should be just as concerned about teaching their sons to avoid occasions of sin, to practice virtue, to man up, to be the right kinds of men to be attracting and attracted to the right kinds of women. If Woman was created as Man’s helpmate and companion, let her be a useful and supportive woman – to a strong and ambitious man.

Life these days is extremely difficult to live, especially for a family, especially on a one-person income. The world has made it purposefully so, but each family member must give and hazard all he has for the good of the entire family. If a young woman is to be a mother, let her be a mother who can give her children an intellectual upbringing. How can she give her children what she does not have herself? If she is to be a homemaker, let her be an intellectual asset to her social circles, a knowledgeable citizen in her community. If, however, she is to live the single life, let her be able to support herself, without having to rely on her parents’ continuous financial support. Let her have the opportunity to grow and mature as an individual.

College is a time of both maturation and preparation. The world we live in is cruel and clever and unkind; it will not be patient with or take pity on ignorance just because it is innocent. Christian women need to be able to think and respond logically to those who attack them. They need to be able to fight the enemy on his own turf, to fight fire with fire. When the feminist demands, “why did you ditch a lucrative career for a life in the kitchen?” and "why do you ruin your body with pregnancies?" the answer "well, cuz God says so" is not enough. Living in this world requires facing it at some point or another, and a woman without the ability to form coherent arguments will be laughed out of court.

No one should send their girls unprepared to college. College is not the time to learn domesticity and religion; college is the time to develop skills already instilled during one’s childhood, to grow in the faith already implanted in one’s soul. With the proper preparation, a young woman will use her college experience as a social and intellectual spring board into life; she will ready herself for the moral combat that attacks her from all sides; her education will be an asset to her in whichever walk of life she may find herself. God helps those who help themselves – and who knows? She may meet her Prince Charming at the next Students for Life meeting.

Catherine S. is a Catholic American Writer (to be) who enjoys reading Chesterton, baking cookies, and analyzing people. She graduated from Hillsdale College in 2012 and has spent her time in cubicles, kitchens, kindergarten classes, and cars. She is currently waiting for God's "This Way" billboard to determine the next step in her life.

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