When men say stuff that makes us really mad, it is always a good idea to stop, breathe, and consider the following questions:
1. is he trying to make me really mad for the fun of making me mad?
2. is he trotting out an argument just to hear it out loud and tinker with it?
3. is he trying to get me into bed in a particularly lame-brained fashion?
4. does he honestly believe what he is saying will help me and the rest of womenkind?
If the answer to 1 or 3 is Yes, then walk away. He is not worth your time. Don't waste the pretty.
If the answer to 2 is Yes, then ask yourself if you want to continue standing there watching him tinker. Would you stand around watching him tinker with your car? If yes, hang around. If no, off you go.
But if the answer to 4 is Yes, then just thank him for his interesting ideas and say you are glad he cares so much about you and your fellow women. You may have noticed pro-ch*icers answering all pro-life arguments with screams of "you just wanna control wimmin!" Don't be like them.
So when I read this article advising the Catholic parents of the USA not to send their darling daughters to college, I assumed that the man honestly believes what he says will help--well, not me--but the all Catholic womankind currently under 18 years of age.
This does not mean I don't think he is wrong. I think he is wrong.
Regarding his common objections:
He states that college and education have little to do with each other. That is very wrong indeed. Public libraries no longer have great collections; some hold little more than paperbacks and DVDs. In Edinburgh parents drop children off in public libraries, making the librarians de facto babysitters and the libraries noisier than pubs. In the local slum, kids play earsplitting games on the computers. The only really decent browsing libraries are college libraries. Oh, Kelly Library, how I miss you! Incidentally, Catholic colleges, if even marginally faithful, have amazing catechetical resources. They also provide living models for philosophical argumentation and apologetics. Peter Kreeft is at Boston College. Holy cow: I think we could make a bumper sticker out of that. Only Nixon could go to China. Peter Kreeft is at Boston College.
He states that women don't need degrees because they don't need jobs. Well, personally I hate jobs. He's kind of right about the day-to-day grind. That is why women need professions, professions we enjoy. Most professions, the kind with professional associations, demand a university education. However, there are also trades. If women are terrified of getting stuck in pink-collar-ghetto office jobs but don't to go to college, to trade school, to trade school! Tailoring sounds cool.
He states that women will feel obligated by their degrees to earn money. Thousands of middle-class housewives holding degrees granted from the 1920s to 2013 might object, if they felt like taking time away from their children's or grandchildren's Latin or math homework to write the email. So might quite a few nuns, including two brilliant Benedictines I know down at St Cecilia's in Ryde. Meanwhile, earning money can be fun. I wrote an article this morning that will make me money. Spending money is also fun. I spend a good chunk of mine on Polish lessons at, wait for it, a college.
He states that women of the past two generations have used their talents in the workforce. Obviously he didn't do a degree in history. My great-great-whatever-great-grandmother operated a ferryboat during the American Civil War. Most women in history have worked for pay!
He states that the way to prevent being left destitute upon the man leaving is to buy insurance and to marry a trustworthy man. Hmm. Great. If BA buys the farm, I get £40,000. How far would £40,000 get me, I wonder? I'll tell you--right back to Toronto where I blow the dust off my MDiv and beg friends for jobs. And how the heck does a 17 year old girl know what a trustworthy man looks like anyway?
Okay. I am starting to get angry, so I will breathe deeply and remember that this man really does want to help the Catholic women of America be happy. Also, I want to have a clear head when I look at his official reasons why Catholic girls shouldn't go to college.
1.She'll attract the wrong types of man. Well, that's a new take on the MRS. Hello, men in university are the men who get the jobs that go to university grads. Admittedly that is not saying much unless he is in Engineering, Pharmacy, Pre-Med, Comp Sci or Law. Anyway, women attract the wrong types of men wherever we go. Have I already mentioned the Bangladeshi chef who hit on me last week? My church friends are sick of hearing about the Bangladeshi chef. But maybe I wouldn't need BA's insurance money after all, heh heh heh.
In all my life, I have never heard of some lazy guy going after a woman just because she went to college. Lazy guys by definition don't go after women. They sulk because women don't go after them.
2. She will be in a near-occasion for sin. Okay, I lived at home and commuted to my Catholic university. If parents are that worked up about it, there is always State. And men couldn't get into Catholic women's residences at my Catholic university without alarms going off and mass hysteria.
3. She will not learn to be a wife and mother. She will learn her heritage as a member of Western Civilization. She will meet large numbers of interesting people. She will learn what it is to be an adult human being and (if applicable) American citizen. Yes, she may regret leaving that world behind if she becomes a stay-at-home mother. Perhaps she should be careful, then, not to leave it too soon.
4. The cost of a degree is becoming difficult to recoup. True. This is his first good argument. And he mentions schoolteachers--but that makes sense only in the USA, by the way. Schoolteachers elsewhere make a lot. The truth is that students today MUST be practical and consider how much they or their parents can afford and what professions are currently in demand. Unless you get a full scholarship, Harvard is a rich kids' club. I'm sorry, but there it is. The top-ranked British and Canadian universities are state-funded and their foreign student fees are less than the fees for many private American colleges. If you don't want to go State and can't afford Catholic, go to McGill. Bienvenue au Canada.
5. You don't have to prove anything to the world. "So how come you're not married yet, huh? Pretty girl like you. And no job? Huh. Hope you're helping your parents around the house, then. Dear, dear. How old are you now? Well, well. Met any nice boys yet? How about Fred? Nice boy, if a little slow. Stocks the shelves at Costco. You met him? A nice boy. Listen, marriage is for having kids and working out your salvation. You toddle along and get to know Fred."
6. Near occasion of sin for parents who may be tempted to contracept so as to be able to afford college for daughters. Oh my goodness. That is a stretch. State. State. State. Scholarship. Scholarship.
7. She will regret it. Statistics, please? I, for one, do not regret my undergraduate education. However, I very much regret the pressure to be engaged by graduation. I very much regret the pressure on Catholic girls to attract Catholic boyfriends from age 13. I very much regret the lack of emphasis on future employment and a college-centred career advice office at my college.
(Off-topic:Incidentally, one of the people who remembered me at my old college when I returned there as a chaplaincy intern was a chief custodian [aka janitor]. Is it just me, or are some of the absolute best, most caring, most interesting and most interested officials in schools and colleges the chief caretakers? Indeed, the only person on staff at my Canadian theology school whom I knew for a fact read my column religiously--not that my former profs aren't great; they are--was Karl the custodian [RIP].)
8. It might interfere with a religious vocation. There are orders, even very old-fashioned orders, who prefer educated women with academic interests and talents for teaching, thinking, writing and music. It is, however, true about the student debt. Everyone should, as much as they are able, minimize their student debt. BA paid off the last of his this month. Whoo-hoo!
So there you go. I really do not believe there are good reasons not to send a daughter to college simply because she is female. The only argument that, for me, holds any water at all, is the economic argument. Go only to that post-secondary institution you can afford, and make sure your post-secondary education is likely to pay off. This goes for men as well as women.
However, I appreciate that the writer of the column wants all the Catholic women of America to live in homemaking bliss with their kids while their husbands make enough money to keep them all in relative comfort. That's a nice thought. Wouldn't it be lovely if all the mothers who wanted to stay home could stay home? I wish they could. But meanwhile not all Catholic women feel called to that, and many are delighted they can serve God with their minds and in the wider community.