Friday, October 10, 2008

"College" versus "Education"

Slow afternoon at work. Been writing quite a bit on my coffee breaks.

Warning - this post is going to offend someone. (If nothing else, that will keep you reading!)

The TV series about the Duggars (you know, the ones with 18 kids), and a commenter on Red Cardigan's blog got me thinking about things. Joshua Duggar, age 20, is getting married. He is ready to support a family as he already owns a home and a successful used car dealership. Red wrote about how these times may actually take a greater toll on dual income families than on single income families. The commenter wrote about how the current economic crisis is causing some consternation about paying for their children's college education.

I've read some interesting comments from Catholic writers lately about how parents don't "owe" their children a college education. That struck me as odd the first time I heard it. I am still paying off my student loans (maybe I should apply for a government bail-out?…) I always felt that I would not want my children saddled with that burden.

But, I also know several people who did not have to pay their own way, and seem not to appreciate what they've been given. Perhaps the first lesson in college should be simply to work hard and to view your college education as a job and not a birth right.

If you ask me today, I am currently leaning towards junior college for our boys' first two years. Basics are basics. Maybe if we continue to home school through high school, they can do some concurrent enrollment or begin JC early. I want to help my kids more than my parents helped me, but I'm thinking it will come in the form of stronger guidance and help with making good decisions. Unless they are dead set on going away somewhere, and have the means to do so, I would like to be there to help guide them into adulthood a little more easily. I'd have them live at home, work and save their own money, and then complete their degress at a good public university with an active Newman Center to nourish their spiritual lives. Texas A&M is a great example. I also have high hopes for our own North Texas, I've heard the diocese is increasing funding to support a new full-time college chaplain or lay minister.

(Did I mention that our boys will get something of a scholarship for state college as part of our "adoption assistance"? There's a little plug for those of you who may be considering adoption but have reservations about going through "the system". But I digress.)

Now, I don't want to open up a can of worms about whether Catholic/private universities are worth the price of admission. But I do know that we learned a lot about our faith while going to a relatively inexpensive public university, because we spent a lot of time hanging out at the Cathlic Campus Center. Bible study, adoration (we had never been to adoration before at our home parish!), rosaries, apologetics classes, and of course week night and Sunday masses. I am certainly not opposed to Catholic universities. I'm just not convinced that I should have to pay twice as much to attend one.

Maybe the boys will want to study something in the humanities, in which case I would want the education to be rooted in the Faith. (I would like to see them pursue something a bit more practical that will earn a salary that can support a family, but I know the goal is eternal life, not material wealth.) Or if they just want to attend one, say they become huge Notre Dame fans, and they have saved enough to pay a bigger share of the expense, that is also fine. I know that even the basics - history, literature, etc. - should be rooted in the Faith, but again, if we home school through high school, they will probably already have a solid foundation in those topics in regards to the Faith, well before they even go to college.

In a sense, I think that both their faith life and their educations will be taken more seriously and more appreciated if they have to work harder to achieve them.

Some may believe that this is too utilitarian. Education should be about more than getting a job and making money. I agree. But education is life-long. They are free to read and study and learn about anything they like until the day they die. But is college really the same as education any more? Young men, especially, need to be prepared to support their families right out of the gate, and I do not see that getting any easier in the next several years. Take a pottery class at night. Find a book club. Go get a Masters in Theology on the weekends. Join the City Band (we did).

Call me too practical, but St. Joseph was a builder, not a poet. I'm afraid that the days ahead will require careful budgeting and marketable, productive job skills.

1 comment:

nicole said...

Great thoughts. We don't feel like we are obligated to pay for our children's education, in the sense that an inability to do so would not prevent us from having another child (obviously). Of course we don't want our children saddled with debt if it can be avoided. I'm sure you saw more than one student who used their loan money for fun, not thinking about what they would do when it was time to pay the bill. And, you probably saw the students who had to go to school one semester at a time, working full-time in between. I don't assume that all of my children will want to go to college anyway. I realize a degree can be useful, but not essential. I know how much I pay my hairdresser, mechanic, etc. and I would have no problem with a child choosing something like that for a career. College is not the only path upon completing a high school education, wherever a child may do that.