Guest Post: That Strange God Education

10 November 2012

I have always been of a quixotic disposition.  I wonder if that will at all temper with time.  I am about to tackle a touchy subject, the prevailing view on which is so deeply entrenched in our minds I have little hope that my little guest post here will have much effect to topple it.  But one can always try.

The landscape is college.  By this time it is pretty well assumed that a student exiting highschool will immediately enrol in a college.  What for, no one always knows.  They just do it because that is what is expected of them.  When I was in grade school, for some time I operated under the misconception that school was instituted to help you learn.  Of course, that is wrong.  School is all about getting good grades; college is all about getting a degree so that you can get a job.  To a large extent this truth is sad but unavoidable.  But people don’t like you pointing out this sad truth, neither do they like you pointing out the fallacy of going to college “because everyone does.”  Quite apart from being a blind move on a student’s part, it is an unjustifiable waste of money!  So, first off: if you are going to college, know why before you go.  Don’t waste your time nor someone else’s money.  College is not mandatory.

Yes, I just said it.  College is not mandatory.  For a lot of jobs that otherwise inconsequential slip of paper that says you graduated college is necessary.  I don’t know why.  I suppose it gives some credence to your claims that you actually learned something in those four years that you were institutionalized…  If you need it, by all means, get it.  My sister is considering getting a degree so that, if she at some point feels inclined to write biographies and histories, she will have that educational weight behind her name.  My sister-in-law and I, on the other hand, have no such need, neither did either of us go to college.  My sister-in-law is a highly intelligent woman, juggling a home with a husband and two kids (she’s a brilliant cook, too) and a demanding role in the family company.  She never needed to go to college; in fact, she tells the story of my father telling her point-blank, “You don’t have to go to college,” and that moment being one of the most freeing moments of her life.  She is amazing, she continues to learn, she is articulate and educated.  And she never went to college.

I am poorly suited to the institution.  I do not like being cramped or forced to swallow indigestible material.  It only makes me angry and people do not like it when I get angry.  I much prefer a free-range style of education which, having graduated highschool, I am capable of pursuing.  I was once asked what I study by one of my husband’s professors, and with my tongue unusually in my cheek I said I wasn’t enrolled in any institution and I am now free to study whatever I like without paying money to anyone.  

Let me be clear: I am not saying that college is evil.  (Actually, I know for certain that college is evil, but what can you do…?)  It is not mandatory that you go, neither is it mandatory that you not go.  But keep your options open and know what you are capable of handling.  College is there as a means to an end and was never meant to be a stagnant pool of purposeless “adolescents” looking for the best means to get a job and earn money.  Do not let the religion of college pull you into its cult.  It is a grim, unloving god anyway and does not often give you back what you deserve.

. . .

Jennifer Freitag writes fantasy and historical fiction from her home in South Carolina, where she lives with her husband and two cats. To learn more about her views, what she is doing, and what inspires her, check out her blog:

4 epistles:

  1. No need to try and convince me! I didn't go to college either, and I'm happy as can be studying and learning independently. As a matter of fact, for the invitations to my high school graduation party I wrote an open letter to family the friends explaining my decision (and telling them not to worry about me), so I wouldn't have to deal with the questions over and over again. :) Even though I've never had second thoughts about my choice, there was a time when I felt rather cowed by the thought of other people's expectations and disapproval. The thing that was really freeing for me was reading Kendall Hailey's The Day I Became an Autodidact—reading about how someone else made a success of independent learning and had fun at it bolstered my confidence and made me realize I didn't have to make excuses for my choice.

  2. I am a senior in high school, and am preparing to go to college next year. I really appreciate your post because you emphasize being purposeful. I am not going to college to get a ticket to a career - my hope is to be a homeschool mom one day - nor am I going just because everyone else does. One of my closest friends isn't. But, after lots of prayer, my parents and I decided that this is what is best for me. Let me make it clear: I am not going to attend an institution where the whole point is to get good grades to get a degree to get a job. I am going to go to a Christian liberal arts institution where the point is to cultivate my relationship with God and my intellectual curiosity. For me, college is a chance to learn about different facets of Creation (the world itself, human history, human thought and ideas (through philosophy and literature), music, etc.)with a solid Biblical foundation. I will learn from wise teachers who, through a lifetime of study, will be able to open my path to a greater understanding than I would otherwise be able to glean from books.

    The reason I'm going to college, rather than using online classes, is the community. I am so excited to be surrounded by other students who love God wholeheartedly and want to approach every area of study knowing that He influences them all.

    Anyway. I appreciate your point that college is not mandatory, and I also have a low opinion of the typical degree-granting college. However, the idea of a Christian liberal arts education has me thrilled. (I highly recommend the book Liberal Arts for the Christian Life, by Jeffry C. Davis and Philip G. Ryken.)

  3. Even though I agree entirely with you post, it's very hard for me not to think in the back of my mind, easy for you to say. God has blessed you richly by giving you a husband and home to care for right out of the gate, if you take my meaning. (I remember reading on your page that you had your husband picked out at an early age ;)
    But for someone like me, rural and nearly done with homeschooling, someone who does not wish to go poaching for husbands nor live forever with my mother, college seems unavoidable.
    I have no idea what I'll do when I get there, having no real interest in a career, but I know almost for a fact that I'm going.
    I feel horribly trapped in that college and a dismal career working at a job I loath seem to be my only option, unless a Prince Charming rides in and saves the day. But even that I hold out little hope for as I gradually lose faith that (with a few exceptions) real love stands a chance in this age where morals are 'relative'.
    The fact that my own father is drifting away after 30 years of marriage, needless to say, does not help.

    I am very glad that you have found your perfect niche in the world, the way you write is evidence of that. And that you have escaped the rat race. For that's all college is anymore, no longer about higher learning, it's more a cog in the system equipping young people for careers they may or may not want.
    All I would ask is that you spare a prayer those of us who are young but feel infinitely old and burnt out on the world.
    Lord, give us options.

  4. And I do, Gi. I deeply regret your situation; had it not been for my husband, I would still be under my father's protection and, again, I would not have had to go to college. But not everyone has that situation, and I really do appreciate that.

    This post was certainly not meant to flaunt my own situation. Where I am is as much in the hand of God - to sustain or crumble in the fire as he wills - as anyone else's situation. It was meant to remind people coming behind me through the social rungs of "growing up" that college is not always a given, that there can be scope, that it isn't always the end-all. No more than that. If you must go, Gi, I hope you can be both courageous (because it is terrifying, to that I will offer no objection) and creative to shape something worthwhile and edifying for yourself. Beyond that I can only say that, in whatever situation he places us, God is strong both for inconsequential people like me, and people who must face what frightens them.


"Gracious words are like a honeycomb; sweetness to the soul and health to the body." —Proverbs 16:24

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