Monday, 7 October 2013

The Catholic Daughters in College Debate

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.


c'est la vie said...

While I don't agree with the conclusion "Women should not go to college," I do think that it is worth considering where he is coming from. I think that many men, faced with the moral upset of modern times, are frantically grabbing for something that stands for order and the upholding of moral ideals(of course sin has been around forever, our modern social legitimization of it is what is new/different). They are looking into the past to see what worked before to maintain social order and moral standards, and they find the family. And the unifying heart of the family is the mother (see Casti Conubii), which is the reason for the anxiety to keep women in the home. I do not defend his conclusions, but I think that those who hold these views are legitimately concerned by the moral and social instability of our times, and deserve to have their conclusions seriously discussed, not because they are true but because their defenders want the truth.

Anonymous said...

Tuition fees are cruel things. The practical side of me understands the reasons for learning a trade/engineering/pharmacy. I also understand that studying the Classics, getting a BA (degree not husband! :-D), studying philosophy is not the most practical thing to do with your 4 years and £40 grand. I wouldn't want to see the latter departments shrink and defunded though. They are too important for Civilisation.

If I had a child and 40 grand to fund them through university I'd not be thrilled if they wanted to go the Arts route. I know I know, I'm a hypocrite. Education has changed so much. Scholarships are not part of the Irish/UK scene at all so I suspect I see it differently.

I do think that if a woman wants to be a stay at home mother then it's smart to think of getting qualifications that you can use while the kiddos are young. I know a nurse who makes a bomb baking cakes for weddings in her spare time and another who makes serious pocket money as a make-up artist for weddings/special occasions.

No matter how well you rear your child it's highly unlikely she'll go from home to husband aged 19. At some stage she will have to make a decision as to what she wants to do with a man. No dad can put a chastity belt on his daughter. Acknowledging free will, common sense and a bit of trust would go far here.


Rose said...

I never wanted to go to college. I did go straight out of high school though, because I didn't know what else to do with myself and hoped to meet my future husband. However, I had the sense to start at a community college, since I didn't have a clue what degree to get. Thirteen years, three schools and several breaks later, I have a masters degree that allows me to do something I love and support myself, which is good, since there's still no husband in sight. Also, because of the approach I took, I'll have my loans paid off in just a few months.

Was I supposed to just stay at home and let my parents support me? What if I never get married? My parents won't be around forever, what's my retirement plan supposed to be?

That being said, I do think you need to be smart about how you go about getting your degree. I'm a strong opponent of going into debt just for the sake of saying you went to college. However, if you know what you want to do with your life then there's no sense in waiting around in case a man shows up to support you instead.

If I am blessed with a husband and children at some point in the future then I would like to stay home with my kids, but I will not regret my decision to go to college. How could I? It will help me to raise well educated children, guide them in their higher education choices, and enable me to help support my family should it be needed.

Stellamaris said...

I think there is no question that the article is total bupkus, so I won't add anything that no one else here will already know about that.
I'm actually mostly annoyed at this guy for making Catholics look like misogynistic, illogical, stupid people. He holds the kind of opinions for which non-Christians think we must be completely deranged. And it's ONLINE! Where ANYONE can see it! With a CHI RO IN THE TOP CORNER! Gah.

Iota said...

What I always find weird about those arguments is a flaw inherent in their impersonality.

They smooth over practical reasons for both parents to at least consider having a good job, because "this has a low probability", "you will select a man to marry who will be reliable." (and apparently always employed) and so on.

AFAIK there is a reason why the two symbols of the poor in the Old Testament are the orphan and the widow (but not the widower). And reading a bit of social history shows what happens when women without a profession (which implies an education of the right sort) are left alone with their kids, for whatever reason (including e.g. the male provider's illness). They are relatively very likely to fall down into poverty.

And there are, of course, the women who won't marry for whatever reasons. Who are still human and need both food and clothes on their back, till the day they die.

Now, I could maybe sorta buy this argument if the people who made it always demonstrated, to the extent it's possible in an argument, that their community supports such unfortunates - that as a principle, no woman (with or without children) that can't get a good enough job, because she closed that option for herself on principle, goes hungry or with unpaid medical bills.

What is suggested instead is that this fate is simply unlikely. "Don't worry, you won't need a job because, obviously, your husband will always be healthy, faithful, long-lived AND well employed".

And that looks like magical thinking.

Nzie said...

Thanks. This is great. I saw this article a few weeks ago - when someone shared it who, while linked to a Christian denomination, seems to me to be getting further and further from the faith of her family. She found it, and I don't think that website's even that popular in the Catholic blogosphere, and all it did was make it easier to look at faithful people as backwards (she does know me and presumably other educated Catholic ladies and I did comment to say it was ridiculous and not representative of the faith, but it's hard to undo that damage all the way).

I think it's great if someone can stay home, but I know that it is a challenge, especially for people who are more interested in intellectual pursuits (which is not to say "smart people" - smart people can be interested in any number of things, including non-academic-type-things). I appreciate that my mom did it, but it wasn't so easy to spend whole days in baby talk. I am glad she found some side work (mainly at churches) outside the house and I think I would also need some sort of non-child-activity to keep myself happy and sane.

I really appreciate your balance here, Seraphic. I'm not a mom, but the mommy blog wars really get me down.

Katy said...

I'm still squelching the hate in my heart brought on by your fictional conversation with Trad Composite the other day.

As the Baltimore catechism reminds us, we are on this earth to know, love and serve God and to be happy with Him in heaven forever. God is goodness, truth and beauty (and many other things). We find Him and know Him and love Him by finding, knowing and loving goodness, truth and beauty. The purpose of education is to expose our souls and minds to the greatest pursuits and to also give us the skill to subsequently and independently pursue the good, true and beautiful. That much of what is referred to as education today fails to do this is not the point. One must search diligently for good education, particularly if one will be paying for it.

I am seething too much for further comment.

Jackie said...

Why does it seem that these kind of articles are never written by women? It always seems to be the men advocating that women should not (X). Am I the only one who has noticed this?

I mean, if women forgoing college was such a great choice, wouldn't there be scores of women stepping up to speak about it first? I'd be seriously interested in seeing this man debate any of the nuns I know on this topic. ;-)

More questions: Why is it a "near occasion" of sin for the girls but not the boys? Will it no longer be a "near occasion" of sin for the parents of boys?

Most offensively: Why does he divorce work in the home from work for which you receive remuneration?!

He doesn't want women "to work" so they can raise a large family (on a single income). Has this man ever done 24/7 childcare and housework?! Plus pinching pennies until the squeak on the grocery bill and household expenses?

Running a large family household has got to be massive (and interesting!) work. Believe me, if his wife wasn't working to do everything that needs to be done, it would cost a pretty penny to outsource!

The worst part of it is, this gets picked up in the media as a representation of "Catholic" instead of "extremist" when Catholicism and education have been synonymous for a long, long time. (Jesuit schools represent!)

truthfinder said...

I can't remember if it's in the article explicitly, but I do seem to think that it was encouraging early marriage of women. This is historically unrealistic, particularly in times of economic and political insecurity (especially if the woman is not going to work - and this is really a ridiculous notion to impose on women (I'm definitely not opposed to stay-at-home moms, please don't get that idea.) In France and Britain of the mid to late 1700s, the average marriage age was around 26, however this meant that women were sometimes marrying men a decade older than themselves, but this still doesn't lower the marriage age that much. So, how many men today are marrying women a decade younger than themselves and who are without the maturity and other issues that we've come to associate with that sort of age difference? And it still does not solve problems of financial insecurity.
Sorry for the long blurtings, they wanted out.

Leah said...

Here's another great response to that article:

Heather in Toronto said...

Unfortunately, it just takes one fringe nut to make the rest of us look just as nutty. This applies to any group, not just Catholics, Christians, theists, etc.

Fringe nuttery drowning out the sensible majority seems a particular danger among Catholics of a more traditional persuasion. Not that there is a higher percentage of nuttery among traddie types, but the nuttery is more remarked upon since it is nuttery in the opposite direction of the "let's make the Church conform to The World" nuttery (which of course seems only right and proper to The World).

Anonymous said...

I'm still paying the price of this rhetoric. I'm 27, struggling to pay my health insurance and car insurance, and retirement contributions, clothing, food, gasoline, and everything else that adulthood entails and had I not been so sweetly set on marraige and motherhood I would have worked much harder and started university sooner and been finished by now. This didn't happen so I work long hours at minimum wage jobs to pay for classes as I am able. I live at home and cannot be hospitable or entertain or join my friends out and about anymore until I've acquired the proper education to legally teach, or hold any other living wage job with less crazy hours.
I wish this "college is uneccessary" idea had been far away from me as a teen.
I'm sorry, i have to be anonymous... I don't have any of those accounts from which to sign in. :-/

Anonymous said...

Also, I'm not a bit tempted towards the non-religious young men I see around campus. Near occasion of sin? Not really. Not for me anyway. As far as developing dreams of a career, it's less like losing ambitions toward homemaking and more like finding a glimmer of hope that maybe one day, even if no one ever marries me, I will be able to work a job I enjoy and have money to buy a warm coat and cook for my friends in my own apartment without wondering how I'll pay the light bill later on.

Seraphic said...

Anonymous, that's terrible. But you don't have to be anonymous. You can just make something up; no account needed.

Woodbine said...

Bless his little heart.

Francesca said...

College is where I became Catholic -- and I remind myself that every month when I pay down my loan. Even if it takes me the rest of my life, it was worth every penny. In fact, I'm 100% certain I wouldn't be Catholic if it were not for my experience at uni.

Heather in Toronto said...


Me too!

Which brings me to another point: university may be one of your best chances to get into the habit of going to daily mass on a regular basis. In fact it may be one of the only chances you have to do so until you retire,!

Having a regular schedule that put me in close and convenient proximity to the noon masses at my university's Catholic college during the year I converted was a HUGE blessing. Nowadays my day job and >1hr each way bus commute make it impossible to catch more than the occasional weekday mass, and I miss it!

Sheila said...

Most of those arguments are things I intend to tell my sons. Because I can't imagine being able send them to college on my own dime -- they are going to have to think seriously about whether college is going to be a good investment for them.

See, it's not the 50's anymore. Being employed just because you're a hard worker, being able to support a family on one income, or being able to make a good living just because you went to college, aren't realities anymore. Each child of mine is going to have to have some kind of career plan. It may mean working from high school till their twenties until they can afford to pay for college. It may mean trade school. It may be some form of apprenticeship. I'd advise them never EVER to go into debt for college unless the degree will actually increase their expected wages significantly ... i.e. no going into debt for the liberal arts, something no one at my Catholic liberal arts college, especially not the administration, ever mentioned. It was a rude awakening when that first $400 loan payment came due, after all that talk about how learning to think was a good in itself. It is, but so is a mink coat ... doesn't mean you should put it on the credit card.

At any rate, the last thing I would ever want to happen to my daughter (if I ever have one) is for her to rush into marriage with someone she wasn't crazy about for financial reasons, just to get out of my basement, or if something had happened to her father and me. If she gets married, I want it to be exclusively because she wants to, not because she has to.

I totally second the idea of a stay-at-home mother having some way to pull in income. Most mothers I know do, at least something they can pull out in emergencies. I have an Etsy store (sadly not flourishing), for awhile I taught part-time with the baby with me, for awhile I took dictation from home, one friend bakes cakes AND tutors, one changed her full-time job to part-time and from home, one grades papers, lots sell Mary Kay or Arbonne. SOMEthing. So if a girl, graduating from high school, feels a strong call to the married life, something she can do from home would be an excellent thing to add to her skill set. Translation is another good one, early childhood education to run a home daycare (you don't need a degree for this, but it will help business if you do), computer programming if she's got any interest in it at all, web design, graphic art, whatever. And that way when/if her husband dies, becomes disabled, or leaves her, or when her kids are grown, she doesn't have eighteen years of blank resume. She's got something she can market back into a fulltime career.

In this economy, you just can't assume your family will survive on one income. It's hard enough now, and will likely continue to get harder. Most women throughout history have worked.

Iota said...

Just a quick note on translation as a job:

Please remember that translation requires professional training. This may involve getting a degree, but it's not strictly necessary (I know great self-taught translators). It does, however, mean more than just being communicative in your source and target languages.

This is somewhat of a problem because the quality of a translation is harder to asses than the quality of a cake.

The client came to you because they, probably, don't know the language at all. The translator, on the other hand, below a certain threshold of competence, is likely to think they know what they are doing even if they actually don't. And it's not even their fault - it's a normal part of learning a foreign language.

The intended audience can usually tell you if a translation is grammatically correct. Sometimes they can also tell you if the style's right. But they don't know the source language, so they can't really tell you if you missed anything important. Basically, the only person competent enough to tell you if you're doing a good job on all fronts is another good translator.

Anyone planning to go into translation shroud keep that in mind.

Aquinas' Goose said...

A late-reading American Academic writes:

The purpose of going to college is not to get a good paying job: it is to learn things that do not aid in money-making (i.e. the study of a free man aka 'liberal arts') and / or become a more humane person (i.e. the humanities). A good paying job is a happy accident of that learning. The purpose of going to a trade school is to master a skill / craft / techne and becoming a master craftsman whose work is honored by good pay. Law and medicine are trades, not educations. When education and trade are conflated and confused they both loose honor and they both fall short of their ends.

Marriage is a sacrament that points to the fidelity and love of God for humanity. It's not a financial safety net.

To those ends:
a) the writer of that article misrepresents the Sacrament of Marriage.
b) learning for learning's sake should be cherished and encouraged in one's children, regardless of their sex, for it reveals them to be free and not slaves.
c) learning for the sake of becoming more humane benefits both sexes and aids them in being saints in the lives of their friends and family.
d) a trade, for either sex, means that the craftsman can show forth the glory of God through work, can support their fellows during times of trial, and may provide for a time when the craftsman can turn away from profane things and to divine things having already seen the reflection of the Creator in His creation.

These have been rendered in more idealistic terms to get the point across. Of course we are all Fallen and fall short of the Glory of Heaven, however, as long as the world follows the American pattern of turning all roads to a means of financial gain we are just moving closer Hobbes' description of life as "short, brutish, and nasty."