Female Education (Weekend Poll)

by: wheatmeister

September 28, 2013

Enter to learn. Go forth to wipe tiny butts.

Studies show very clearly that the higher the education level for women, the fewer children they have.  Yet women in the church are encouraged to focus on motherhood while also getting as much education as possible.  A recent Catholic article outlined six reasons women should not be sent to college.

By contrast, why does the Mormon church encourage women to get an education?  To what end?

What is the point of female education in the church? (choose all that apply)

  • So they can achieve their full potential as human beings and have an enriched life. (87%, 67 Votes)
  • So they can support themselves or a family financially in whatever way is needed. (86%, 66 Votes)
  • So their minds can be broadened and develop a love of learning that will serve them throughout life. (84%, 65 Votes)
  • So they can contribute to society outside the home and have a sense of accomplishment. (69%, 53 Votes)
  • The exact same reasons male education is important. (64%, 49 Votes)
  • So they will have ideas to make the world a better place. (62%, 48 Votes)
  • So they can become Goddesses and Priestesses, able to co-create worlds. (48%, 37 Votes)
  • So they can get married by attending a church school. MRS degree. (25%, 19 Votes)
  • So they can teach their children. Degrees not related to child-rearing are a waste for women. (21%, 16 Votes)
  • Different reasons than why male education is important. (18%, 14 Votes)
  • So they can make interesting conversation for their husbands. (9%, 7 Votes)

Total Voters: 77

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If women actually start completing their education as the church encourages, will women delay marriage and have fewer children as studies indicate is to be expected?  Are there some degrees women should be more or less encouraged to pursue?  Should women & men both incur debt to complete a degree?


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14 Responses to Female Education (Weekend Poll)

  1. NewlyHousewife on September 28, 2013 at 7:44 AM

    “We found that children born to cohabiting parents, on average, exhibit a small deficit in cognitive development at ages 3, 5 and 7 compared with children born to married parents. However, we show that this deficit is almost entirely accounted for by the fact that cohabiting parents tend to have lower educational qualifications than married parents, and is not a consequence of parental marital status itself.” (http://www.ifs.org.uk/pr/marriage_outcomes.pdf)

    I think at least as far as the church is involved, any degree–relating to childcare or not–leads to children more likely to remain in the church, and also decreases the likelihood of a single mother living on church aid. However, the education is not deemed as something worthwhile for the person getting it but rather the people that person can affect.

    Now as far as church culture is considered, it’s mommy-tracking all the way.

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  2. Mel on September 28, 2013 at 8:41 AM

    I have a degree in computer engineering. I went on a date with a guy (at BYU) and he asked me condescendingly how a degree like that was going to help at all prepare to be “a mother in Israel.” *shudder*

    I loved the first part of the response: “So they can teach their children. Degrees not related to child-rearing are a waste for women, ” but when I read the second part it totally reminded me of this guy. I think education for women (and men!!) is also so they can teach their children, but that doesn’t mean it has to be one of the more traditional majors for child rearing. Although the Elem. Ed major may have better delivery and the Home and Family Living major may know child development better than I do, I’ll be able to teach my children something that is actually useful in todays world: computer programming.

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  3. Jen on September 28, 2013 at 8:50 AM

    Wow–surprised to see myself writing this after being raised a feminist and ( having a few angry):

    I am a recent convert mother with a college degree who had first kid at 34.

    Statistically, women are more likely then men to study liberal arts. those are the classes that like to view everything as a social injustice and imply that fairness is easy to create through legislation. Ivevtaken them all. Colleges and universities are retirement homes for liberal fanatic professors.

    The happiness I created through college was ego based. So was my career a social worker. I worked in a female dominated field and my coworkers snickered at traditional values. I saw the massive waste and inefficiency.

    I will be careful about what I encourage my daughters to study and where they will attend. College has nothing to do with intelligence in the age of information. They were wonderful years for me and I enjoyed them but u also wish I could have had more kids.

    I didn’t think I’d be happier married young because I was surrounded the boys I noticed were not attractive –had I met LDS boys at that age I may have felt differently. They certainly impress me now. I wouldn’t raise boys anywhere else (plan to adopt some). LDS deepened my marriage (which was great beforehand) increased my renewed sense if identity, allowed for more fulfillment in motherhood and gave me a much better plan for the future (I’m not even talking about the afterlife).

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  4. Angie on September 28, 2013 at 11:15 AM

    I am a high school counselor, specializing in college counseling. In my opinion, college serves two purposes: 1) learning for the sake of learning and 2) job training. There are many jobs that do not require a four-year bachelors degree, and there are so many ways to learn that do not require a formal structure or traditional classroom. Because of this, I think that a woman should attend college for two reasons: 1) her intellectual interests and abilities match the tasks that college students are required to do and 2) she is preparing to do a job that requires a college degree. My opinion is the same for men.

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  5. Jack Hughes on September 28, 2013 at 3:35 PM

    Sadly, in my life I haven’t seen LDS women pursue advanced education to a similar extent that women outside the Church do. The Church has more than its fair share of dentists, physicians and attorneys, and plenty of scientists, academics, business leaders and other professionals–but the vast majority of them are men. The Church likes to make a point about women pursuing education, but how many female LDS doctors do you know? Probably not many, if any at all. And proportional to how many male LDS doctors you happen to know? Women account for nearly half of all medical degrees awarded in the U.S. in the last five years; when speaking of LDS medical graduates only, however, the ratio is probably significantly more lopsided in favor of men. My evidence is only anecdotal, and if anyone has other information to support or repudiate this claim, I welcome it.

    In terms of education, I don’t think LDS women are progressing to a rate of gender equality that is even close to that of mainstream society. The “BYU MRS degree” is a tired trope, but still happens frequently enough to confirm its own existence. This indicates something is still broken in our culture.

    I would like my daughter to grow up in a church where she is free to pursue advanced degrees in medicine or science or engineering or whatever else without feeling like she is going against “the way things are supposed to be”.

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  6. hawkgrrrl on September 28, 2013 at 4:29 PM

    I had an interesting conversation with a friend who is a prof of life sciences at BYU about why women bail out of science and math. One of the points he made is that even when girls and boys have equal aptitude, these disciplines are very solitary, and girls prefer to learn in groups and have discussions. Obviously that’s not true for everyone, but the very next week after he observed that, my 10 year old daughter who was selected for honors math and reading said she didn’t want to do the math one because her friends were not in honors.

    Another interesting observation from BYU. Those majoring in Elementary Education are taught to defend the Proclamation on the Family as part of their course of study. Since the PoF implies that women are not responsible for financially supporting their families, this probably makes it pretty easy to quit if marriage happens early.

    In Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, she talks about the need for women to Lean In at work and for men to Lean In at home so that women can. She also likens a career to a race in which men are cheered on and told they can do it, but women are told they don’t have to finish if they don’t want to, and why don’t they just take a break because they don’t have anything to prove. This kind of encouragement to quit really does take a toll. I believe it applies as much to going on missions and women finishing education in the church.

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  7. Jettboy on September 28, 2013 at 9:38 PM

    “This indicates something is still broken in our culture.” Broken, or simply you disagree with? I think women should get an education, and even a degree or two. However, not at the expense of family. Actually, that is my belief about men too. Modern education in colleges and universities are, except for the hard sciences and computer technology and math, essentially of no practical worth. The argument that women should get an education so they can support themselves and their families starts to break down with liberal arts, unless you want some kind of teaching position. Education is highly over rated at the expense of work experience.

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  8. Naismith on September 28, 2013 at 9:54 PM

    The second question was kind of bizarre. What degrees are not related to some aspect of child-rearing? It is a very broad-ranging area. When we lived in South America, I had to homeschool the kids in Algebra II. If I didn’t have some basic quantitative skills, we would have been in trouble.

    Encouraging women NOT to quit also takes a toll. Why can’t we all just trust women to decide what is best for them?

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  9. Naismith on September 28, 2013 at 10:01 PM

    In my ward, the RS president is a dentist. We have at least one female physician. But we also have at least two female Physician Assistants, which is a great profession. These women have lived all over the world, present at medical conferences, are very well paid and don’t have the loans that so many physicians do.

    In many cases, it is difficult for a physician to be employed less than full-time because of malpractice insurance and student loan debt, which may present a challenge to biological motherhood.

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  10. Hedgehog on September 29, 2013 at 1:43 AM

    #6 hawkgrrrl, not sure I would agree with your professor friend…
    I didn’t find study of science/engineering solitary, but perhaps its all relative. I tend to enjoy solitary, and compared to that they weren’t solitary at all, what with undergrads forming revision groups, and postgrads having research groups etc., so enough people to bounce ideas around.
    And back at school there were far more girls than boys in our elective physics class.

    Still trying to process that Jettboy approves my education choices… :-).

    Jack #5, I know precisely 1 male and 1 female medical Dr, and 2 male dentists who are members, not a large enough sample size though.

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  11. hawkgrrrl on September 29, 2013 at 5:45 PM

    We have a female physician in our ward also. I tend to agree that work experience is often valued higher than education by employers, although it depends on the field.

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  12. NewlyHousewife on September 29, 2013 at 7:20 PM


    Jack, not sure how accurate the source is but this link says for Utah it’s roughly 74 males, 32 females out of 106 medical graduates in 2011. That’s a pretty large gender disparity in my book.

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  13. JaJay on September 29, 2013 at 9:40 PM

    “If women actually start completing their education as the church encourages. . . ”

    Not sure what you mean by this. I graduated BYU in 2004. All of the women I knew graduated too, whether they were married during college or not. The numbers show that more women go to college and get more degrees. Now if you mean advanced degrees, it is possible that fewer LDS women obtain those, but I’m not sure.

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  14. hawkgrrrl on September 29, 2013 at 11:33 PM

    JaJay, fewer women than men finish their degrees in the church. More women in the church finish their degrees than in many other faiths. There’s still some room for improvement.

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