Is college for girls?

Because Christian families are concerned with maintaining a biblical perspective on femininity, and because we live in a culture that is blurring all the distinctions, this is an important question to ask. Should we assume all Christian girls should head off to college? Is keeping them in the parental home after high school a wise option? Should they grow up with the notion that they should have an engagement ring when they graduate from high school? Good questions.

So I’m giving my motherly, grandmotherly thoughts and suggestions here, and I have to say from the get-go that each and every situation calls for wisdom. So with that qualifier in place, I will proceed.

An education is a wonderful thing. But what is it exactly? Is it just teaching reading and writing and arithmetic? Yes, that is where it begins.  But it is more than that. Education is training the mind to think, and a Christian education is the process of teaching the mind to think Christianly about everything. An education is not a piece of paper. So, do daughters need to be trained to think? Of course they do. Why? Because women are called to be wives and mothers, and what do mothers do? They must train up the next generation, which is no mean thing.

So I believe, in the best of all worlds, women should be educated so that they will be able to think with wisdom, to live with insight,  and to make a dent in the world (in a very good way, of course). Now not all families have the resources to provide a good Christian education for their children. This is how it has always been. But the cream always rises to the top. Those daughters who have received the best education, who have been given the best opportunities to grow in wisdom, will rise to the top.

For women, this kind of education includes all things domestic, but it is not limited to that. So as far as you are able as parents, given your resources, opportunities, as well as her desires and abilities, provide the best education you can for your daughters. If high school is as far as you are able to go, then do so with all your might, remembering that the best education will be a godly education. If you are able to send your daughter (or son) to college, then look for a solid, God-fearing college to attend. Why should you pay money (and lots of it) for the God-haters to teach your children lies about the world and the God who made it and them? Especially after you have labored for eighteen years to teach them otherwise. It seems to me, by the time they have graduated from high school, they are just ready to tackle the really important (and interesting) stuff. So all the more reason for them to be sitting under God-fearing instructors.

And of course, there are many more things to address on this subject. But I’ll save those for another time.

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24 thoughts on “Is college for girls?

  1. Our oldest daughter graduated from our homeschool in June, turned 19 in July, and married in August. We tried to give her a rigorous education with an eye to her going to college, but her plans were different, and we are more glad than ever that we kept the standards high since it is likely that her formal education is over. No matter what a girl does after high school, a thorough Christian education will stand her in good stead. That goes for boys too. :-)

    womanofthehouse

  2. My children are still very young – but we are already thinking ahead…we have looked into a program called College Plus, have you heard of it?
    You can actually start the program with your child as a junior in high school, if they are ready. We are considering tailoring their education to lead up to that point, but have not figured out all of the quirks!
    A brick and mortar college is so over-rated and just drowns families in debt that takes half their lives to pay back. Depending on the field of study – distance learning seems to be the efficient plan for the future.
    My eight yr old daughter talks about all the things she can be when she grows up – she will be a Mother and Keeper at Home! She says that when you are a mother, you can be EVERYTHING..a baker, a seamstress, a musician, a construction worker (building her children a block fort) etc.
    She says the only thing she CAN’T be is a King! But I told her that she will marry one and that is close enough:) She also thinks she will wash her clothes in a stream and not have electricity – I think Little House on the Prairie has influenced this little mind WAY too much!!!

  3. I so appreciate the balance you brought to this topic. I was actually kicked off a Christian subscriber list once when I spoke of how the Lord blessed me through a Christian college and tried to discuss it, not knowing they didn’t believe in girls going to college.

    I don’t believe every girl is called to go to college, but I don’t believe that a Christian girl is never called to go to college, either. But for those who do go, as you said, they need to seek the Lord’s guidance in finding one that will encourage their growth in the Lord rather than undermine it.

  4. Thank you for a balanced perspective, as always! I neither believe that every young lady belongs in college nor that college is off-limits for young ladies. I am particularly disheartened though, by parents who make these decisions FOR their daughters rather then WITH their daughters. Each and every situation calls for wisdom, indeed.

  5. Mrs. Wilson, thank you so much for responding to my question! I am very grateful for you wisdom and insight.

  6. Here’s another question, if you don’t mind! Although not directly about college, it does relate to girls at the “post-high school graduation stage.” How much should young women still living at home be expected to participate in domestic duties with their mothers? How much freedom should they be given to pursue their own interests? Some would argue that allowing a girl to focus too much of her attention outside the home (college included) does not expose her to the day-to-day realities of being a wife and mother, but rather causes her to get used to being independent and self-focused.

    I know bad attitudes can be cultivated anywhere. And I definitely see the importance of Christian young women being well-educated. I think I’m just confused by all the different views within the Christian community on this subject.

    I’m from a large, Christian, home schooling family where college for girls was (and still is) considered taboo. My husband and I really disagree, but we don’t want to swing to the other end of the pendulum, if you know what I mean. If you have any more thoughts on this issue, I’d love to hear them! Thank you!

  7. Good question Charis. I’d like to know this too! We struggle in NZ to find any decent Christian school/high school/university – like you said that teach children to think (the national curriculum stifles this) and so the easy option seems to keep the young woman at home safely away from temptation and focus on house-keeping. But I have here a very bright young lady and really would like her to continue her education.

  8. I think that a college education is one appropriate path for Christian women. I don’t at all think it is the only path, though, any more than I think that going without college is the only path. I think they can both be God-honoring choices for different people.

    I myself went to college for two semesters, and then I got married. We decided that it wouldn’t be terribly wise to continue getting my degree, so instead I worked part-time until our first kiddo was born. If I’d continued in college, I would have graduated shortly before his birth, so I’m glad we made the decision we did.

    Charis, I lived at home while attending college, and I still did help. I baked, did chores, and helped with the dishes, and I had no trouble at all adjusting to having my own home when I got married.

  9. Mrs. Wilson – thanks for the insight. I am particularly exhorted by the statement, “to do so with all our might”. What a grand job we have in front of us.

  10. Ladies,
    Thanks for all the good commenting. When our oldest was a junior or senior in high-school she started receiving all those glossy brochures about colleges, and most, if not all, of them were appalling. Our local secular state school was not appealing to her at all (she took a class there her senior year in high school and she couldn’t stand the low level of interaction, or the boys following her out of class to invite her to the frat parties). God very kindly enabled a group of men (including my husband) to start New St. Andrews College in time for her freshman year. It was very small her first year (if 4 students is small) but now it is flourishing with a hundred sixty or so students, most if not all from home-schooling and private Christian school backgrounds. Of course we had an ideal set up because our daughters could live at home. But we opened our home to out-of-state daughters who were attending NSA, and we had a very happy nine years or so hosting several girls while they were away from home and attending college. So, if you can’t find a college nearby, you might consider NSA or you might consider getting to work to start your own college. I have a post on NSA under family stuff if you’d like to read more.

  11. I believe college is a must for my girls. I will not allow them to marry right out of college because I believe they need at least a couple years to correctly understand their strengths and weaknesses and to mature. I also have no problem with them taking time to know God and understand Him in a more personal way.
    I believe this is done by allowing some independence.
    There is no guarantee that they will ever marry and if they do how long will it last? No, I’m not assuming divorce. But there is the reality that a death may occur or even a job loss of a husband. A solid education allows for a “plan B” so to speak. College is the perfect place to gain practical experience, understand the realities of finances, gain independence in a practical way, and lean more on God’s grace, truth and love instead of leaning on a parent or a husband.
    I also fully admit that I can’t stand most of what is domestic and I so thank God for parents who told me I was going to college. I grew up fast (and still am at 38!) :o). We are now in a situation that I need to work and my job has not only allowed for financial sanity but God has given me incredible opportunities to witness and even lead others to the Lord. I would not have had these opportunities if I had skipped college and gone the “girl” route.
    Yes, every situation is different and I agree that Godly wisdom is a must. I also believe we do our girls a great disservice if do not allow them to nurture the talents, strengths and gifts God has given them.

  12. A reoccuring theme in my family is that of stewardship. My father believes that he has a responsibility to educate each of his children to their level of intelligence. Or to put it another way, his goal has been to give us the education so we can make the best use of our gifts and turn our three talents into six. Originally the plan was to have me go to the community college and stay at home. Over the years the community college began to look less and less desirable and so here I am at NSA and loving it. I’ve been raised to value a Christian education and I think I would be miserable at a secular college, even if it be close to home and church.

  13. It’s an interesting question. I decided to attend a secular university because tuition at a Christian university was not really feasible on our bank balance, and in our small isolated rural town jobs were scarce enough that I needed some kind of qualification if I wanted to make any money, for example to get a car to have any kind of social life!

    I’ve now finished third year law. I’m grateful for the opportunity to know more about my country works (and I’m hoping to eventually write a textbook for homeschoolers about constitutional law, which is a pretty important subject).

    I think it can be a good thing (depending on the circs) to go to a secular university. If you steer clear of arts subjects into ‘harder’ things like law or science, there is less swooning over Marxism and feminism and more focus on practical knowledge. But I have to say the main thing that made it possible for me to attend a secular university was the distance education option which enables me to study from my home and be continually discussing what I read about with my parents. I do have to sift things, but the education they gave me enables me to do that.

    But most of all, I value it because with a law degree, I’ll be able to get a job. And with a job, I can save money. And with money, who knows? One day–if I don’t find something better to do *wink*–I could even make the trip to NSA to study something worthwhile!

  14. As a graduate student at a state university in an arts program I just have to say: there is very little swooning over Marxism and Feminism going on here. Some but very little. Right now the swoon is over eco-criticism and the public intellectual; the latter of which is a legitimate and admirable focus for a Christian scholar…

  15. I appreciate that you phrased this as “what can parents provide for their children.” It seems to me that the most lasting damage done to girls by college is the accumulation of massive debt. I don’t know the statistics, but I get the impression that paying cash for tuition and living expenses is a rare exception. Mountains of student debt are the norm. I know many girls who survived all sorts of education (medical school included) with a thriving faith. I know far fewer who emerged with the financial freedom. Student loans have enslaved many to the workforce. A young woman graduating college with a fabulous education is at a great advantage….if it’s paid for. Young women must fight to preserve their freedom to marry a starving artist or church planter and stay home with babies if they choose. Student loans can infringe on that freedom.

  16. Nancy,
    After discussing your post with my college sophomore daughter, she said something that was immediately clear to her – “God gave us a mind and we should be a good steward of it. Regardless of our gender, our minds are meant to be developed.” Good point! Yes, they should be developed so we can live lives that are discerning, full of wisdom, and ultimately bring glory to God in our specific gender and calling. Yes, college education is a good thing when guided by wisdom. Most young women will become mothers of children and helpers of husbands. I surely don’t want my daughters being ignorant trainers of their children or ignorant helpers to their husbands.

    Thanks for your post, Nancy!

  17. Um…it’s me again! :) Mrs. Wilson, you mentioned a post you’d written on the NSA website, and I’ve been unable to find it. Could you provide the link for it? Thanks again!

  18. This is interesting. I only wonder what happens to an uneducated young woman whose husband is killed in an accident or is unable to work in some way? What then? What if the burden of providing for the family falls to her and she has no degree to help her get a good job? Until I stumbled on your blog (through Google Reader recommendation) I had never heard of any Christian church or belief advocating that girls possibly would not attend college. I am LDS, where getting an education is most important, even for “girls.” After reading this I am more proud of that than ever. I think it’s true that college isn’t for everyone, but as a default position I think it’s better to assume all girls should go except for those who truly don’t feel it’s for them, instead of the other way around.

  19. Wow, what a great post on this topic! I know I’m a bit late commenting on something placed last week, but i just stumbled across your blog, and i love it!

    First I’ll tell you: I’m a full-time homemaker, and in the midst of that am raising my one-year-old daughter. I love my job. But before I was blessed with a daughter, I spent some time as a doctor! I’m continually grateful for my B.A., my B.S., and my MD! A lot of people from both camps don’t understand me: they either think I’m wasting my talents and brain by choosing to forgo practicing medicine at this time, or they think I wasted my time and money getting such an advanced education and then becoming a homemaker! Trust me, I hear it all. But, I do not believe in God of waste, rather, one of redemption! I read an indian proverb once that said: “Educate a man, and you educate an individual, but educate a woman, and you educate a family.” This rings especially true for me in the way I have been equipped uniquely to teach my child and future children. I’m also more equipped as a wife in understanding how to love my husband, who incidently, is a physician in the field of oncology. He has one of the hardest jobs on earth, though he states he believe pasters have harder jobs. I’m thankful every day that I know what he is facing better than i would if I hadn’t served as a doctor once!

    All that being said, this path certainly isn’t for everyone! The calling He placed on my life and those of my friends who are Christian women doctors is unique, but none-the-less feminine. Thank you for the balanced way you approached the issue of education of the Christian woman.

  20. Just my two cents:

    It is my opinion that college for boys or girls is not ideal. It breaks up the family unit. So there you have it: I am against college for girls, not because girls are girls, but because college in the sense of going away from home is not the best idea for boys or girls.

    Christian College is not evil, my parents met at a Christian college. But here is a thought I will throw out there: apprenticeship.
    Apprenticeship with distance education if you must have a degree. Work. Good hard work. Learning through work (and in addition to work) is the best way (and I think you will find it very Biblical.)

    Another great idea: Family business.

    Obviously these are not always possible for everyone. We have been blessed to have these options for ourselves and our children. I just wanted to throw it out there because I believe it is a good goal for Christians to keep in mind.

    Thank you, as always, for the posts, Mrs. Wilson!

  21. This question should be asked regarding males as well. Really, what is the primary purpose of higher education anyway? While that question might have had different answers in the past, today higher education primarily prepares one for certain career opportunities. Some you cannot enter without higher education at all (i.e. licensed professional occupations and trades like medicine, nursing, pharmacy, architecture, accounting, education) where others do not require higher education in theory but do so in practice.

    Well, it is possible, indeed perhaps preferable, to receive the training that a male needs for his career without going to college, or more specifically a comprehensive liberal arts university. Doing so saddles the recipient of such training with an incredible amount of debt. The responsibility to pay off that debt requires the person to work at whatever high income job that he can find, and put up with however the company behaves. For instance, if your employer chooses to work you 13-14 hours a day, if you have to pay off that student loan, you have no choice but to do so and in the process neglect your Christian duty to your wife, children and church. Or if your employer chooses to promote and sponsor abortion and homosexuality and alternate religions through its health plan, philanthropy, and other activities, you have no choice but to go along. The best example of this is probably medical doctors, who have long had to go along with all sorts of things in order to pay off their exhorbitant student loans, but as the cost of higher education is rising, the same is becoming true for other professions as well.

    So, where this debate in the past may have been limited to the proper roles of women and men in the home and the church as laid out by scripture, current and future economic and social trends may actually transcend the issue of roles. We may be entering an economic future where being a Bible-believing Christian may practically mean avoiding certain occupations, or avoiding white collar professional occupations for blue collar work and trades entirely, because getting the MBA may require a six figure debt that requires sacrificing practically everything to work at a pervasively immoral company to pay off.

    And that is just the economic side of the issue. What about the instruction at some of these colleges? I myself turned down the opportunity to attend various leading universities in favor of a non-elite college for various reasons that I won’t get into. For years I wondered if I had cost myself a lot of opportunities and earning potential. But after finding out what you are REQUIRED to learn at the universities that I passed up (gender studies, deconstructionism, Marxists and atheists who run the history, humanities and literature departments and you have to take their required courses regardless of major) it became obvious that the path that I chose – or rather the path that God placed me on without my knowing (for I was then an unbeliever) – was the right one.

    Parents of Christian boys AND girls really need to consider alternative avenues of postsecondary instruction for their children where their children A) won’t be saddled with monstrous debt (and we know what the wisdom Proverbs and Psalms say about wracking up debt) and also B) where they won’t be exposed to the pagan God-hating brainwashing that passes for instruction, which used to be limited to the liberal arts and “soft sciences” but are now creeping into the hard sciences and more technical disciplines. If learning a trade gives a Christian male OR female economic mobility and liberty (including the ability to become a licensed independent contractor) and allows them to complete their education at a fraction of the cost and thereby drastically reducing or practically eliminating student loans, then we need to ask ourselves if advising our sons and daughters to emulate the career path of Jesus Christ, who was a carpenter, is what constitutes Biblical wisdom in the America and world that is soon to come.

  22. I went to a Christian School (and there are not many of those in N. Ireland) and then from there to a secular university – as far as I am aware there are no Christian Universities in the UK. I was at Cambridge which meant living across the Irish Sea from my family for 8 week blocks at a time but it didn’t pose a problem to my faith. If anything it made it stronger as I had the chance to discuss and debate with everyone from my non-Christian housemates to my aetheist supervisor! (My subject was classics which included philosophy so these could get heated).

    Most valuable of all though for a stay at home wife and mum is that my education has allowed me to be of help to my husband in his thinking, and be company for him if he wants to talk about something other than what our toddler has been up to. In addition if it comes to it I will have the confidence to homeschool our kids or supplement their education (they will be either home schooled or at a christian school).

    I only have a son at the moment and I’m not sure whether I will encourage any future girls to pursue a university education. Thanks for your thoughts on this.

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