Get Smart

7:30 AM

You need a career to be happy. By "career," what is usually implied is a high paid job with prestige and a degree to back it. (Plumbers need not apply.) The idea goes that by being well-paid, well-respected and fully secure, one can buy happiness and success. As a young woman, a relatively smart one at that, I am told to find my potential in a job that rewards my talents with money and a career.

Never mind that I may find better fulfillment in serving - free of charge and fame - with those gifts that just might turn me into a millionaire. Never mind that I may be merely a "stay-at-home mom," a homemaker, a girl submitted to the service of her family. To make that choice, a choice of service and thanklessness, is to commit happiness suicide.

Frankly, a Christian should never find fulfillment in wealth, honor or recognition, but in the work he has been called to do. All honest work is honorable, regardless of the paycheck. But even the busyness of a job will not fully make any girl exhaustively happy: embracing her Lord's design for womanhood and her particular expression of womanhood will.

College is the only way to a legitimate education. There's something quite traditional in America, strangely, and that is the blind endorsement of institutional education. Anything other than that smells suspiciously of unprofessionalism and quality failure. It's not just the public-schooled graduates and liberal professors: even we homeschoolers buy into this lie. Not only must we get a degree, but also we must go to a brick-and-mortar college to get it.

We homeschooled girls ought to know better. How have we amassed such knowledge the past twelve years? Classroom lectures? Peer groups? A specialized building with desks nailed to the floor? No - our learning style is centered on personal motivation, a sound work ethic and the skills and resources to pursue knowledge. With a framework of Christian principles, we gained more than knowledge: we found wisdom.

These still hold true for our early twenties as they did in the kindergarten years. Study at home - whether through an online college or mere personal education - is the key to a well-educated mind. We kid ourselves if we actually think that attending a four-year degree program will wrap-up our education, or even necessarily further it. The only thing that will ensure a quality education is one's personal motivation and desire...not a college campus.

College is just the next step to do. Everyone expects us to go to college. Not that they hold it over our heads, but the question is just inevitable: "Where are you going to college?" No ifs or buts there. And how many of us have heard graduates say, "Well, I'm not sure where I'm going to college" or "I'm not really sure what I want to major in"? Thousands of dollars later they find out - maybe.

It's just the next thing to do. As Christians, we ought to be better stewards of our time, energy and money. We seriously - both women and men - need to reconsider what our motives for attending college are. Do we need to - really? Is it just expected? Do we honestly need this degree? Is this the only way to get it? Undoubtedly, there are many excellent reasons to attend college. "Just because" is not one of them.

College is the place to get husbands. I think every pastor's wife I've been privileged to know met their husband at seminary. I won't doubt that many Christian young men, passionate and visionary, wind up on Christian college campuses. That might, come to think of it, be the easiest way to find a husband. "That's the place to get 'em," I was told.

Yet I think - if she is to be married at all - a girl should feel totally secure in following God's leading should it wind somewhere else besides college. Forfeiting college is not the same thing as forfeiting marriage (though to some desperate Christian young ladies, it certainly appears to be). And honestly, who wants to spend $20,000+ a year to scour out Mr. Right? We can do better than that, sisters.

A degree is necessary in case something happens to your family. This has to be the most frustrating and frightening lie. I first encountered it in the fourth or fifth grade, when I quietly mentioned I was not going to college. "But what if you get divorced?" a Sunday school teacher was quick to ask. Um? "It's a good idea to have a degree in case you get divorced. It's something to fall back on."

It's a fallacy that a degree - a brick-and-mortar-earned degree - is absolutely necessary to get a good job. It helps, certainly, especially if you want to go into nursing or physics. It's a lie that a girl ought to live in fear of divorce, abandonment or the decease of her spouse. Cultivating natural talents, a willingness to learn and work, frugality and, most importantly, a total trust in God is a better security than a degree. God will provide for widows and abandoned women; they hold a special place in His heart. Those who obey Him through keeping a home and raising children are obedient disciples and certainly are under His protection.

Basic Christian doctrine shows us that God will provide in every situation. The degree = impregnable security program is not necessary.

College is the place to test your wings. College is an ivory tower: it's "real life" in the sense that one's parents aren't there to wake him up when his alarm clock doesn't, or pay for his gas, or make his decisions, or things like that. In that sense, it is a good forger of responsibility. But a campus full of twenty-somethings is not fully in touch with reality. If one winds up on a party campus (Wisconsin, anybody?), all touch with reality is lost. Most graduates - the ones who go "just because" - are there to have fun, make friends and maybe get a degree. With no accountability, there's no motivation to become responsible. Independent, yes - responsible, no.

Better to stay home, get a job at McDonald's and move out when financially and maturely able.

You're not smart if you don't go to college. I admit that this lie scares me the most. I hate being thought stupid. I won't like it one bit to be labelled a brainless fundie, functioning as a doormat, languishing in her kitchen, ambitionless and stupid. I'm not, thank you - I am rather smart, I adore learning, I'm not shackled by fundamentalist presuppositions and brainwashing and I have so many dreams that I don't know what to do with them.

Who defines "smart"? The liberals? The professors? The culture at large? I'm a follower of Christ Jesus. I don't listen to the world's definitions; I define myself in my Savior. He calls them wise who do not walk in the counsel of the ungodly (Psalm 1), who lose their lives to gain Christ (Matthew 10:39). When I end up before Jehovah God, those professors who said I had potential and those people who said I was a smart person won't be able to life their voices in His presence. The One speaking will be Christ alone, and He will say, "She was lost, she was ridiculous, she ran when she needed Me most, but she is Mine, and I have made her righteous."

Let the world call us fools who are wise in Christ. And let us embrace education, with the Lord's blessing.

That's the theological, inspirational answer. The smartypants answer is this: Most everyone in America is college-educated. Would you say we're a smarter nation for it?

The ones who are smart are that way because either have amazing mental faculties that don't need much cultivating or they are diligent, hard-working and desirous of knowledge. You get out only what you put in. Many great leaders in American history studied their way to college through personal study - sometimes right out of the backwoods.

No matter how many colleges one attends, no matter how many degree programs one finishes, if he does not desire education, he will not get it.

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16 impressions

  1. May I post this and link to you on my blog this week?! I would be so honored to be able to share your words with my readers.

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  2. This is really great! I agree 100% with everything you said, and have experience the same ludicrous questions when asked why I'm not pursuing higher education in college. I have never said that I wasn't pursuing higher education, just that I wasn't going to college for it! The sentences in bold print were awesome, especially the last few. So thanks for writing! If it's okay with you, I'd like to share this on my facebook page.

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  3. (*gag* I'm trying to think while the smell of rolls baking is suffacating me!!)

    Well, that was a new story - didn't hear the one about the Sunday school teacher asking you that. (Was it was same teacher who called you "Bayleaf" *wink*)

    I've been asked the same question of "What collage?", although, why they would expect a girl not even in ninth grade to have that all planned out, I'll never know. Although your answers are probably more intellegent then mine. ;D

    Now hold it there, humble m'dear...you must be careful saying you're rather smart when it comes to chemistry (Lol, I'm kidding, why you say you do terrible at chemistry and get A's on your test...)

    *hugs*

    ~Bethany

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  4. Of course, Mrs. Howard! Thank you for even considering. :o)

    Sure, Sara, go right ahead! I really think that most people just don't get the reasoning behind anybody not going to college. It's going to take a bunch of smart kids and a lot of guts to show the world that college does not equal education and that education does not equal college. I'm glad we can unite on that!

    Now, see here, Floppeth...I wasn't writing about collages, though I'm sure that is an equally hot topic too.

    Teasin'.

    I wrote this before the Great Chemistry Death. You'll understand. Oh, and I'm still amazed that you haven't heard some of my most cherished stories. I touted that Sunday school one as a badge of woe for several years now. Were you just not listening...? *HUG*

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  5. Dear Maiden for Jesus,

    I really wish one of my high school guidance counselors would have had the courage to tell me I would be perfectly suited to be a keeper at home. Instead, I was encouraged to pursue a career in the medical field. In my opinion, I wasted valuable time and money pursuing higher education. During these so-called years of higher education,I drifted further and further from the heart of God. He intervened and used some difficult circumstances to bring me to a place of repentance. Praise God, He's still working on me to renew my mind and conform me to the image of His Son. I pray I can be as patient and longsuffering with others as He was, and, is with me!! I just didn't know His will for me at that time, but speaking the truth and educating others in the spirit of meekness will,Lord- willing, spare others from making decisions based upon the world's standards. For those misguided young ladies...I pray they will know that the Lord can and will restore to them the years that the locust has eaten. I am living proof of that!! God bless you for posting this. Love & Hugs, Mrs.Reinke

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  6. I really wish more high school counselors and teachers would consider this worldview as they guide young ladies who are nearing graduation. What's a young lady to think, with all the "career days" beginning in middle school--unless she has some alternative wise counsel from parents and church mentors? (and certain blog writers) :)

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  7. Oh, Bailey...how I love you. Methinks college would be a waste of your time. You're *too* smart for it. And if you ever need some income of your very own, then write a book. I'll buy several copies--as long as you sign them for me.

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  8. Ladies -- your encouragement means so much to me. Almost every homeschool mama has told me that she wishes she could have prepared more for real life than a college education and career.

    Mrs. Reinke, you certainly have made up for those lost years -- tenfold! Your advice garnered from your experiences has helped me in my decisions, and I'm sure many other young ladies will benefit from your wisdom.

    Mama, I know. I guess the school counselors are stuck on this equation: smart = career = success. I think the happiest, most successful bunch of women are the ones with their hearts at home.

    Mrs. Green -- LOL! I don't know if I'd be too smart for college, but I would certainly drive every single smart person crazy with my rapid-fire questions.

    If I need income, it'd be faster to babysit...it's almost a monopoly. ;o)

    Love you all SO much!

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  9. Alot of good points...its good to know specific reasons why you believe something, other than saying I don't want to go to college. Did I ever tell you your a great writer?

    LOVE! Stacy

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  10. I just found your blog today and was reading what you've posted. I really like this post. I would not be at college right now if my parents didn't practically force me to come. I don't really want a degree and I already have a lot of loans and this is only my second semester! My parents told me I could study whatever I want, so long as I get a degree. I decided on Theology as I find those classes the most interesting. My parents ask what I'm going to be able to do with a Theology degree and how I am going to be able to pay off my college loans. I just tell them I want to be a homemaker and homeschool my children so my degree isn't important. I really admire you for your choice!
    With God,
    CatalinaMarie

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  11. Diploma mills are scam operations literally crank out fake paper diplomas to anyone who pays the requested "tuition.” Diploma Mills almost always promise a fast college degree based on life experience.Buy a Degree

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  12. Paul, diploma mills are completely the wrong way to go...but that doesn't really have anything to do with whether one should get a degree or not. ;o)

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  13. Do you believe that there are any young Christian women for whom college actually IS the right choice?

    I've struggled rather intensively for the past several years, trying to decide whether I should go to college. Becoming interested in computer science has encouraged me to think that I really could benefit from college [incidentally, my most successful and enjoyable studies of math and science have occurred at high schools, both public and private. Apparently I do not enjoy studying 'hard' subjects on my own].

    I have often heard the argument that we should not base our life decisions based on fear [of losing our family or husband]. Said argument pales when I consider our family situation: my dad makes an income that only a little above minimum wage [teaching at a Christian school]. There have been financial worries in my house for as long as I can remember. I do NOT want to go through that with my future family.

    There is another comment floating out there about college: that college graduates make substantially more income than non-college-graduates. I'm not sure that that can be refuted as a myth.


    Home businesses are widely touted as the solution. I am perhaps prejudiced, but I am not enthused about the prospect of scraping away for a few years at a home-based endeavor only to have it fold. My family has gone through numerous self-employment plans over the years and none has succeeded. Selfishly, I am also reluctant to invest a large amount of effort in a theoretical home-based business; it would probably be different if there was a business-idea I were truly passionate about.

    What about if one's husband feels called to a career that does not initially make enough money to support a wife and family? Should one require that a man give up his dreams [that he may believe God has given him] in order to allow his wife to follow traditional gender-roles? Maybe a man shouldn't get married until he can support a family financially.
    A wife could be perfectly fitted to be her husband's 'help meet' by making enough temporary income to allow him to get started as an artist or writer [or missionary..do they make any money? Erm?]. Most complementarians, however, would think that would be outside of God's specific design for the sexes though....

    [I'm sorry, I seem to be trotting out my gender-debate arguments in a college-debate arena...]

    On the other hand, even a degree in an area like engineering or computer science might not seem useful, if one were to marry right out of college and stay home to raise kids.

    My mom keeps encouraging me to get at least a two-year degree, with the rather strong personal experience of being almost 30 before she married [she taught kindergarten previously].


    I'm not really sure what point I'm trying to make. I'm not arguing that everyone should go to college, and certainly not that college is best for everyone.
    This probably more an emotional response than anything, because I have been more exposed to the no-college viewpoint than not, it seems like, and I am tired of it. I've heard it all before and it has given me some rather unpleasant decisions. Decisions that I've sometimes fancied that I'd put behind me: but the issues never go away.

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  14. Hey, Bethany - I wrote a super long post about "yeah, there are exceptions BUT"...and then I realized that's not your point.

    From what I know of you (which is admittedly little), you are smart and know both sides of the argument inside and out. And it sounds like there's been a burden placed on your shoulders - just a lot of rules and arguments but nothing of the vision behind it.

    And that's not fair. I know "we" (those who embrace complementarianism or especially patriarchy) have a tendency to say, "Oh, we don't believe in a God of boxes - we're not saying everyone should be the same" - and then, well, everyone ends up looking sort of the same.

    It frustrates me to no end, yet that's what I was going to tell you. But for all my Bible thumping, I don't know. I don't know about worrying about finances through childhood. I don't know about making college decisions based out of real pragmatism and not theory. So I'm not going to pretend that I can "counsel" and "correct," because you've heard the arguments before.

    Since you asked my opinion, I will say that yes, there are some girls who college would be good for. You seem to be one of them. Did I ever mention I'm taking online college? Didn't think so. Strange. But yeah, I'm planning on getting a bachelor's in Christian studies or English. Degrees and college aren't the problem for me, and I think that if you can find a way to get a degree in a way that doesn't break the bank, then it would be a helpful tool in the future. Because people do look at degrees, and sometimes they're necessary.

    I'm not into science and technology, but I can see how easy it would be for some to dismiss your passions and talents and tell you to take up sewing.

    Or something.

    But from what I know of God (and it is, again, decidedly little), He gives us talents and passion for a reason. So I just pray that you will be able to find the connection between principle and passion. And don't listen to anyone's personal opinion. Be convicted by the Word if it is indeed of the Word, but ignore the "Here's how I interpreted Scripture and hint-hint - you might want to join the bandwagon." Just listen to God.

    You've got tough decisions that I will never have to make in the college/finance department. I wish you all the very best...and may God reveal His will for you.

    ((hugs))

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  15. Nicely written, interesting post. You certainly have your position well thought out. Don't you think it is good to achieve balance in this whole thing though? What jobs would you suggest to men and women who have not attended college or earned a degree? What practical steps do you suggest they take in order to have a comfortable lifestyle? Simply saying "rely on God" or "trust in God" is not the answer. God will take care of your needs regardless of your schooling, but in this world, college degrees are what impress *humans*. I don't think everyone needs to go to college either. Some people have got the talent and skill to produce as much outcome as they would have without a degree such as bakers, cooks, artists, musicians, actors, writers. I think it would overall be best to get a degree because once you invest money you earn from your job and of course pay tithes, you will have enough to retire early. I'm not sure what denomination you are, but I'm mostly a Word of Faith person and agree with the teachings of Kenneth and Gloria Copeland, Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, Charles Capps, and Sid Roth (the supernatural aspects).

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