A Junia Project Facebook follower brought this article to our attention: “6 (+2) Reasons to NOT Send Your Daughters to College“. The post is from Fix the Family, a Catholic organization which advocates a strictly complementarian—even fundamentalist—view of the family. Our first reaction was to react defensively. Such a post—which lacks supportive evidence to back up its claims, is self-contradictory, and that represents such an admittedly minor opinion—hardly merits a well-thought out response. However, upon reflection, we find that this is an excellent opportunity to celebrate the gifts we women have received from our college educations; gifts that not only benefit us as individuals, but that benefit society as a whole in countless ways.
As individuals, college is one way for women:
- To honor God with their minds.
- To see that women have just as many choices as men.
- To be exposed to new ideas that may challenge or affirm what they have learned.
- To pay homage to the women who fought so hard to ensure their right to a higher education.
- To make friends and fellowship with other women.
- To take feminist theory, gender studies, and women’s studies classes.
- To learn how to manage their own finances, schedules, and day-to-day responsibilities (doctors’ visits, car maintenance, a part-time job).
- To learn how to respectfully disagree with and listen to those who believe differently.
- To explore what they are passionate about.
- To take part in extra-curricular activities provided by a college/university.
- To learn skills that canNOT be taught at home:
- arguing both sides of an issue
- thinking critically
- research methods
- To gain mentors in their professors.
- To receive feedback from peers and professors.
- To be a living example to their current/future children that they can achieve great things.
- To learn to handle failure with grace and humility.
- To prove to themselves their worth.
- To be better voters and more informed citizens.
- To advocate for women’s health issues.
- To gain the courage to be pioneers in areas where women are still not permitted, or where it is much harder for them to succeed.
- To learn about and respect other faiths.
- To advocate for women’s rights.
- To take part in political campaigns.
- To learn to take themselves seriously and have confidence in their abilities.
- To be stretched outside of their comfort zones.
- To take religious studies classes.
- To be forced, through writing, to examine themselves.
- To position themselves for better jobs after college.
- To network with peers and professors.
- To ask questions and challenge the way many view women.
- To challenge the media’s portrayal of women.
- To become better partners for their future husbands.
- To present a point of view that men cannot.
As a society, women in college means:
An Improved Economy
By granting undergraduate degrees as well as higher education degrees to 30% of the population rather than only 15% of the population, we, as a society, benefit from that much more human capital. “Educated women contribute to the quality, size, and productivity of the workforce. They can get better paying jobs, allowing them to provide daily necessities, health care, and education to support the family” (Matsui, 2013). The education of women “is a strategic development investment – evidence shows that countries with greater gender equality are more likely to have higher economic growth” (The World Bank, 2013). Educating women, and therefore lowering poverty rates, greatly reduces the number of children suffering from chronic hunger, high infant mortality, and childhood prostitution, among other unnecessary evils.
Not only are individual couples more likely to be better off financially when both partners have college degrees, they are also more likely to be married (Mann, 2012) and in happier marriages. “Lynn Prince Cooke, a sociology professor at the University of Kent in England, has found that American couples who share employment and housework responsibilities are less likely to divorce compared with couples where the man is the sole breadwinner” (Parker-Pope, 2010).
Solving Society’s Chronic Problems
Educated women will tackle problems that have previously gone unresolved or unnoticed. Examples include: enforcement of sexual harassment laws, bringing breast-cancer research to the forefront, demanding that medical clinical trials include women as well as men, alternatives to abortion (Feminists for Life), and offering unique contributions to international peace negotiations.
Improving the Health of Families
Educated and professional women have advocated for a higher minimum wage, the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993, universal health care, and education reform. Furthermore, research has shown “a strong linkage between child well-being and maternal education levels. On average, a mother with more education is more likely to deliver a baby at term and more likely to have a baby with a healthy birth weight. As they grow up, children with more educated mothers tend to have better cognitive skills and higher academic achievement than others” (Livingston and Cohn, 2013). This means that both daughters and sons benefit from having an educated mother.
Contributions to Science
Women scientists have made invaluable contributions to the scientific world, such as Ruzena Bajcsy’s development of robots that can sense and respond to their environments, Elizabeth Blackburn’s work with DNA which might lead to the development of new drugs to fight cancer, and Rita Colwell’s work which has lead to a simple and inexpensive (free!) way to reduce the cases of cholera by 50% (Svitil, 2002).
This brief sampling of the contributions of educated and professional women should give us all a sense of how indispensible the work of women is and how we must never take this work for granted or allow anyone to make us doubt that the contributions of women are not vital to the wellbeing and continued growth of our society. This is an opportunity to pause and pray for our sisters, in our country and abroad, who do not have access to higher education by law or circumstance.
These are Kingdom-of-God issues
Women are called—just as much as men are called—to participate in the restoration of the whole earth according to the gifts God has given them. Many women’s gifts are particularly suited for college campuses and workplaces. Without the opportunity to attend college, these women would falter, unsure of where to use their gifts. They might even feel pressured to bury their talents in the ground.
There was a time, before women had the vote in this country, when most colleges were not open to women. A time when married women were not allowed to own property. A time when it was legal to not hire a woman based on her sex and legal to pay her less for the same job based on her sex. There was also a time when marital rape was not a prosecutable offense. Let us not allow Fix the Family to cause us to wax nostalgic about those bygone days.
Food for thought: Ariel and Desiree described some benefits of higher education for women and society. What benefits are there in having educated women in our churches? How might education benefit a woman’s own spiritual growth?
This post was co-authored by DESIREE BARTLETT. Desiree holds a B.A. in Social Anthropology from Harvard College and a M. Ed. from University of California, Santa Barbara. She is the happy mother of two beautiful children and enjoys her work as a Senior Associate Editor of professional development books for educators. She is a self-described liberal/leftist Catholic who finds endless joy in the traditions of the Church and the everpresent tangible reality of God in her life.
For examples of Christian women influencing church and society, read Christianity Today’s article 50 Women You Should Know. There are a number of crusaders for biblical equality listed, including Christine Caine, Bethany Hoang, Jo Anne Lyon, Rachel Held Evans, Carolyn Custis James, and Lynne Hybels.