More thoughts on educating my children

Education. I think about it nearly every single day. Before I taught my first official lesson as a home school mom, I set goals for what I want my children to know and be able to do by the time they leave our home. I know where we’re going and I have a good idea of the tools that are going to help us get there. But where do I send them after high school? I’m not the home school mom who believes that girls should stay home and care for their parents until Mr. Wonderful comes along; I want my daughters to continue learning, work hard for their degrees, and contribute to society in whatever way the Lord leads. But the problem is that I don’t want to just “send them to college.” With as much thought and intentionality that I’m putting into teaching/raising them NOW, there’s no way I’m sending them to any university. And will the diploma be worth more than the paper on which it’s printed? I read the following on Douglas Wilson’s blog today, and he sums up my sentiments exactly.  Not only that, but his point is a fine accompaniment to the previously posted video, “Do Schools Kill Creativity?”.  From Douglas Wilson, Fours Years to Go:

I have recently posted on the revolutionary nature of industrialized education. The modern university system was born in the revolutionary era, and was a function of people abandoning the historic Christian forms of higher education, and trading them in for a style more in keeping with what they thought was promised by the Industrial Revolution. But now that said Industrial Society is coming apart at the seams, the Factories of Knowledge that we built to match that society don’t know what to do. There are only two places where these universities, falsely so-called, are still functional and effective. One is in the realm of research, where the results of that research are fed to industry, and the other is in the recruitment of wide receivers. But when it comes to teaching the next generation how to live a civilized life, the universities are either impotent or corrupt, and frequently both.

In what follows, I am dependent on the spadework done by my colleague Roy Atwood. But, as is customary to say in the acknowledgement section of books, the crazy conclusions, outlandish applications, and polemical accusations remain my own.

One reasonable question that can be raised about all this is whether the genetic fallacy is being committed — the fact that certain institutions were born in the revolutionary era, or were even caused by it, does not mean that they are revolutionary now. After all, counter-examples spring to mind. Graham crackers were invented by a health food nut case who was three miles around the bend, and you can now buy them with cinnamon sugar all over them — a clear triumph of orthodox Christianity over heterodox faddism. The music of Chopin and Liszt was revolutionary in the extreme — one reviewer said about Liszt that his music was “cannons buried in flowers” — but now that is the music that we rarely hear unless it is being played by homeschooled girls at their senior piano recital. And of course, the music of revolution from the sixties is today used in commercials for luxury automobiles. So maybe a few whackadoodles back in the day wrote some funny things about their ideas for higher ed, but perhaps it signifies nothing anymore?

Well, in this case, no. The older form of Christian and classical higher ed was in fact displaced. And it was in fact replaced by a smorgasbord of electives, a perfect cultural jumble.

Horace Greeley was the publisher of the New York Tribune, which had the largest circulation of any newspaper in the English language. You can tell I am writing about real history here, because I am talking about a time when newspapers had readers. After Marx and Engels had published their Manifesto in 1848, Charles Dana, who was the managing editor for the Tribune, visited Marx in London. He told the uber-commie how impressed he was, and recruited him to write for the Tribune, which he did for the next ten years — a critical period in our nation’s history. That was the time when we joined up with the revolution. Marx approved of the revolutionary agenda that Lincoln represented, and he supported the work of Justin Smith Morrill in Congress. That work culminated in the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862, a bill that Greeley also promoted and pushed. There are many interesting connections between Marx and Greeley and Morrill. As Dr. Atwood puts it, “this is genesis,” not the “genetic fallacy.” You can read more here.

America rose to take its place as an industrial power in the 19th century, and the shape of our university system that was built at this same time was not an accident. Is everything about it bad? Not at all — it would be hypocritical for me to type my complaints about all this on a computer that was undreamed of when I was a boy, and the current university system is in fact responsible for many of the blessings that I enjoy on a daily basis. I do give thanks. And some of the wide receivers are delightful to watch. But Jesus raised a question that I think is relevant here — what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul? The same thing might be said of a university that can no longer answer the basic question — what is a university anyway?

And further, Christian parents who send their children to such institutions thoughtlessly are sinning — not in the sending, but in the thoughtlessness. In the education battles, which are in fact battles for the future of our culture, we have in fact made great headway with regard to K-12. But we still have four years to go.


6 thoughts on “More thoughts on educating my children

  1. The best case to be made for a university degree is that of the job market. In my experience, having a degree is a qualifier for consideration – especially when there are lots of candidates for a job. It almost doesn't matter where you get the degree or what you study, which probably says a lot about the worth of a college education. However, there is no doubt that not having one is a lifelong ticket to second-class opportunities.


  2. You're proving his point. The questions that universities need to answer are What is education? What does it mean to be an educated individual? What difference does it make if one has a job but is uneducated? An educated person, one who knows how to learn, can be employed almost anywhere. And I think you prove this, as you've explained to me previously, when in your interview process you ask questions like How many ping pong balls would it take to fill a 747? One who merely earned a degree will not know the answer and will be paralyzed by such a question. But an educated person will, at the very least, know how to go about finding the answer.The second point to be made is that there are millions with college degrees and, as a result, good jobs, but our culture is in absolute shambles because they are UNeducated. Take your parents, for example. They do not own college degrees, yet they are two of the most educated individuals I've ever had the privilege of knowing. Sure, they may have second class jobs, however, they do more to positively impact the culture than most people with a 4-year degree. Which is more important? To be educated or to get a good paying job so that one can slave after the dying American dream?


  3. As you say, the problem has become that colleges have really become vocational schools rather than institutions of higher learning. Higher learning (arts, literature, etc.), however, is not valued by American society as a whole any more, mainly because it can't be subverted into a money-making enterprise. But I think another factor is that the availability and pervasiveness of college educations cheapens them as well. Not to mention the quality of the pool of educators.The broader goal, in my opinion, is that those who wish to be "educated" must then pursue that education on two fronts – one, more or less mandated by society, is the college education. While it may be watered down significantly, there is still some residual value to it. The other front, however, is pursuing personal educational accomplishments – whether it is reading classic literature, learning art or music, studying theology, exploring nature, following politics, etc. In my opinion, one cannot be truly educated today unless he has the experience and knowledge that comes from this pursuit.


  4. Some good fodder for thought here…how then, if a person should choose to get an education outside of regular university attendance, could they prove they have the knowledge (without the university degree) and gain admittance into law school or medical school or as Karl pointed out, credibility in the job market?Wilson is right…we have four more years to go! But since more and more homeschooled kids are being accepted into universities without official high school diplomas I'm hopeful the tides will change with higher education also.


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