Is it wrong to send our daughters to college?

Last month, a blog article on reasons NOT to send your daughters to college was making the rounds. One of my friends forwarded it to me after a discussion we had had on the Biblical Patriarchy movement‘s views of higher education for women. It may be surprising to some, but there is considerable debate within certain homeschooling and other Christian groups about whether or not to send young women to college.

The arguments against sending women to college generally include some combination of the following. Since good Christian women will be primarily wives and mothers, it’s a waste of money and time to send them to college. Young women will not be learning the most important skills they’ll need, instead they’ll be trained for a career. This will only lead to heartache because they’ll either be dissatisfied with life by not following their career path, or they’ll be neglectful of their families by working outside the home. The college environment is filled with temptations, and why would we want to put our daughters through that?

The most recent article, by a Catholic group, included a couple of reasons that I hadn’t heard elsewhere. One is that young women will meet the wrong kind of men at college:

She will attract the wrong types of men.  I share the common concern addressed to us, again mainly by angry women, that there are so many lazy men in our society.  But what mystifies me is why girls continue to marry them and then live to complain about them, along with their parents.  So what normally happens with this setup is that those lazy men who are looking for a mother-figure in a wife are very attracted to this responsible, organized, smart woman who has it all together along with a steady paying job with benefits.  So if he wants to go to work he can, but if not he can always fall back on her income.  Or if he “doesn’t want to have to answer to anyone” he can start his own business, and it doesn’t matter if it fails or succeeds or makes enough income because again she’s there to help. The bottom line, HE is only supplementing HER income, but he’s supposed to be the provider. These are very strong stresses on families that I have observed to consistently repeat themselves over and over.  What she did that was looked upon to be the “responsible thing ‘just in case’” ends up being a self-fulfilling prophecy because of the type of man she married.

Along with this, the group explains that getting an education in order to be prepared for the future, i.e. something happens to your husband, is not a valid reason:

A woman needs to have something to provide income in case her husband dies, becomes disabled or leaves her. True. The first 2 issues can and should be resolved with insurance, which is very affordable for young couples who may be vulnerable to these VERY remote possibilities, which is why it is so affordable. A responsible family will have such coverage in place. As for the husband leaving her, the possibility of being left in such a state would make a woman MUCH more careful about the man she decides to marry. Think about it. If you know you’re throwing your COMPLETE trust and future on a man, you’ll want one you can certainly rely on.

I find the last part of their reasoning incredibly heartless. Basically if your husband leaves you, it’s your own fault for not choosing better. Nice.

Now, to be clear, I do not believe that everyone has to have a college education. There are many people who have no need of higher education. Apprenticeships can be an excellent option. However, I do believe that everyone should have the opportunity to go to college.

I believe that there is a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose of college at work here. College is not simply, or even primarily, preparation for a career. A college education should teach people to reason, to understand history and the world around them, to think logically, and to communicate effectively. College should be about becoming a well-rounded person and about learning to be an adult. (I do realize that these are ideals and that not all colleges and universities do this well.) For these reasons, among others, I think it can be very wise to send our daughters to college.

Here are some reasons I believe that young women should go to college, in no particular order:

1. A college education trains your mind to think and reason. Women, especially if they are going to be wives, mothers, and home educators, need a good education. This is not to say that women without college educations won’t be well-equipped, but that a college education can serve to prepare women for their future roles in the home.

2. College can be an excellent place to meet the right man. While not universally true, most men who are serious about providing for their families and preparing for future needs will be attending college. Also, men who are well-educated may very well be looking for wives who share their interests and who can discuss issues with intelligence. Again, one doesn’t have to have a college education to be well-read, but it can be a great help.

3. College is like the real world with training wheels. One of the goals as parents is to raise our children to be godly, independent, self-sufficient adults capable of making their own decisions. Having given our children a good foundation and trained them well in their faith, we can send them to college to learn how to make decisions on their own in a somewhat safe environment. Obviously, our children are not completely on their own at this point, but they are moving in that direction.

4. College can strengthen your faith. While it’s certainly true that there will be many challenges to your faith in college, it’s equally true that these challenges exist in the world regardless of whether you go to college or not. Learning how to respond when your beliefs are questioned is important in strengthening your faith. Many children are sent to college or out into the world without a strong foundation in the faith. As parents, we should be diligent in raising our children to understand and to be able to give a defense for what they believe. We have to trust that God will work in them whenever they face challenges.

5. College is good preparation for the future. Despite what the group quoted above thinks, there are many reasons that a woman might find herself needing to work outside the home. A husband may be injured, have significant illness, die, or abandon his family. Also, many godly women may never marry or may marry later in life. In all these cases a college education would provide greater opportunities for a women to provide for herself or her family.

I’m sure that there are other good reasons for sending our daughters to college. These are simply some of my thoughts on the matter. I realize that some may not agree with me, and that college isn’t for everyone, but I do think it’s important to consider the benefits of a college education.