Should Mormon Women Go to College?

By: hawkgrrrl
September 24, 2013

Wow! What a waste of my parents’ money that was!

On September 8, a blog called “Fix the Family” posted a horrific OP about why sending girls to college is a bad idea. When I first read this OP that was circulating among outraged normal people, I thought about writing a post about it, but then I decided “Nah, this is just one crazy non-LDS guy’s not-very-well-written rant on an obscure right wing blog.  What does this have to do with Mormonism?  It’s not even close to mainstream Mormon thought.”

I stand corrected.  For some reason, a week later the Deseret News decided to publish an article about this blog post under the guise of neutrality (we just report the news, er, blog posts).  I concluded long ago that the Deseret News was heavy on deseret, light on news, but this article sinks to a new low.

The blog post lists 6 reasons NOT to send your daughter to college, but amends that to 8 reasons because the author was so delighted with his screed that he just couldn’t stop himself.  To wit, here is my boiled-down summary of his list with a quick excerpt of each:

  1. It turns men into Peter Pans.  “those lazy men who are looking for a mother-figure in a wife are very attracted to this responsible, organized, smart woman who has it all together along with a steady paying job with benefits.  So if he wants to go to work he can, but if not he can always fall back on her income.”
  2. The college environment is a slut-machine.  “Is a degree worth the loss of your daughter’s purity, dignity, and soul?  Catholic OB-GYN Dr. Kim Hardey notes that a woman is naturally very observant of a man’s faults as long as she is in a platonic relationship with him.  Once she becomes sexually active with him, she releases hormones that mask his faults, and she remains in a dreamy state about him.  We can see why God would arrange things in such a way so that when in a proper state of holy matrimony, she would be less sensitive to his faults and thereby less tempted to be critical of him. . . placing her into an environment that will tempt her to lose this barrier is unfair to her.”  Any married folks out there want to refute this nonsensical and completely unscientific claim?  Like, 100% of the married people maybe?  How did this ridiculous assertion pass anyone’s sniff test?
  3. Her uterus doesn’t need a diploma.  “Nothing that is taught in a college curriculum is geared toward domestic homemaking.  On the contrary, it is training in a very masculine role of a professional career. . . These abilities cannot be learned in any college.”
  4. She’s not worth the financial investment.  “it can often be difficult or impossible to get an adequate payoff for the investment.  The most common example of that scenario is the job of a school teacher.  More commonly now we’re seeing situations where not only is the income not enough to support a family, but many are strapped with student loan debt . . . It makes much more sense for a young couple to have a husband with a skill that brings value to the marketplace that has reasonable compensation to go along with it and a wife who is willing to be frugal.”  I grant that tuitions have risen to ridiculous levels in the last ten years, but the author is only asserting it’s not worth it to pay for the girls’ education, not the boys’.
  5. You can stick it in the eye of your “worldly” friends that you reject their worldly sending-girls-to-college ways.  “Often homeschooling parents feel they have to prove that they have done a good job in educating their children and are validated by them going to college.  But the confounding thing is that they went through all this effort to raise and educate their daughters themselves but don’t give their daughters the opportunity to do the same by locking her into a career.”  That last sentence doesn’t even make sense.
  6. Parents of college bound kids should be breeding, not fretting over tuition bills.  “parents may avoid having more children with contraception, sterilization, or illicit use of NFP to bear this cost.  To assume that all of our children will need a college degree is quite a stretch, particularly for girls who will likely be mothers.”
  7. She won’t appreciate it later anyway.  “more and more women are coming forward to tell their stories of regret for having by-passed the more meaningful things in life to opt for the approval of feminists who cared nothing more about them than being statistics to reinforce their agenda.”
  8. Debt is a barrier to religious vocation.  “seminaries and religious orders do not accept candidates who have substantial unpaid debt.”

You go get a job, and I’ll stay home and play video games while eating sugary cereal straight out of the box. OK?

Bear in mind that the church’s pro-education stance puts its money where its mouth is and actually counters most of these ludicrous points.  BYU provides a churchy environment full of suitable returned-missionary males (not horny frat boys hellbent on date rape) where the cost of tuition is low and “slut” is redefined to mean any girl who holds hands on a first date.  Additionally, we aren’t anti-birth control (point 6), and our missions (point 8) are available to all, whether you have debt or not.

Usually when we talk about the two newspapers, it’s the Trib that has the anti-conservative comments while the Deseret News comments sometimes look like Rush Limbaugh acolytes could have written them.  In this case, the comments are pretty well reasoned in demonstrating why serving up these leftovers from a right-wing religious blog is not food meet for a Mormon audience:

“I’m grateful for a wife with a college education. It makes her a better partner, a better parent, and a more fulfilled person in general. Plus, I never would have met her if she hadn’t made the decision to go to college. Based on our experience, we’ll be encouraging our daughters to go to college as well.”  On the Other Hand, Riverdale, MD

“The religious right makes itself seem even more insane posting articles like this. It is painful to read. Not only that, but the logic implies that the person writing isn’t familiar with remedial principles of reasoning. Which only furthers the opposition’s point of why people should attend college…” BYUCOLORADO, Castle Rock, CO

“LDS women have the highest educational achievement rates in the US, surpassed only by Jewish women.”  DistantThunder, Vincetown, NJ

“I am embarrassed to see this article in the Deseret News. Why give any more attention to such a negative, backwards argument?”  SP, Salt Lake City, UT

“President Hinckley told women that the sky is the limit. Ridiculous article. Mature educated women don’t date the wrong type of men.”  NeilT, Clearfield, UT

Which is cheaper? My child’s tuition or birth control to prevent more costly children?

The article differentiates “getting an education” from “going to college,” pointing to the excellent information available on the internet as an alternative to higher education. Ironically, this article (replete with grammatical errors) was found on the internet, pointing to the problem of primarily being self-educated via the internet.

A few questions:

  • Why does the Deseret News think this article is suitable for a Mormon audience without explaining how it contradicts Mormon teaching?  Do you take the DN or the Trib?  Or neither?  Is this typical for Utah newspapers?
  • Is this article being served to Mormons a byproduct of too much uncritical peer alignment with the religious right?  If so, isn’t this a dangerous trend, especially since they think we are a cult and we believe in prophetic counsel, not just mimicking other faiths to blend in?
  • Are Mormons caught up in double speak about female education?  Is female education as important as male education in the church?  Why or why not?
  • To what end do we seek education?  To earn money?  To better ourselves?  To become gods?  Do these reasons apply equally to both sexes?  Why or why not?


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18 Responses to Should Mormon Women Go to College?

  1. E on September 24, 2013 at 7:12 AM

    I was also baffled when I saw this article printed in the D News. Not only does it advocate a position contrary to the church’s, it really is badly written and badly argued. The quality of the content at the D News has become hugely variable since whoever is now running it decided they can use blogs from around the web instead of professional journalists.

    I imagine people behind the scenes there will make sure something promoting education (especially for women) is published in the near future.

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  2. Will on September 24, 2013 at 7:25 AM

    Newspaper? What is that?

    The glory of God is intelligence, which God defines as light and truth. Light and Truth is obtained by living by the spirit and seeking the truth. Most universities these days offer neither light or truth, but trivial knowledge,

    What will really benefit us in this life and the next, man or woman, is light and truth. Higher education is important to provide for our families and should be sought by all.

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  3. Last Lemming on September 24, 2013 at 7:40 AM

    I’d be inclined to cut the DN a break here. They probably figured that the blog post had already penetrated its readership and needed to be acknowledged. Note that all of the quotes in the story that do not come from the blog post itself are critical of it. I also disagree with the notion that the Deseret News (excluding the Church News section) should be in the business of pointing out how things it reports on violate Church standards. That would effectively make it all Deseret and no News (in contrast to your characterization of it as heavy on the former and light on the latter).

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  4. Jeff Spector on September 24, 2013 at 8:05 AM

    The article is a bit baffling in that is just transmits what everyone who read the initial article already knew—it was stupid. For LDS, at some level, it is counter to what we have been hearing for many years. However, in practice, we still have young people, when they do marry, marrying quite young, while in College and then having the wife getting pregnant and then ending her education. While not as common, it still happens.

    Maybe, one of the positive outcomes of the reduction in missionary ages for women is to not rush into marriage.

    Stupid article. no real reason for DN to reprint anything about it.

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  5. Hedgehog on September 24, 2013 at 8:49 AM

    I have read articles online from both papers in the past, though I didn’t see this one.

    Growing up, I found there was a large subsection of church membership that didn’t value education over the age of 16 for either males or females, and leaned heavily towards favouring early marriage. Attitudes I found very alarming.

    For me going away to study was essential, and I am a much better, happier marriage partner and parent because of the experiences I had, and the skills that I learned.

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  6. nate on September 24, 2013 at 10:53 AM

    This blog posting shouldn’t have been on anyone’s radar at Deseret News, as it concerns infighting among Evangelicals about just how upset they want to be at secular education in the US, and how backward they want to be about women’s roles.

    But that’s not a fight we were invited to, nor should we take the slightest interest, as Mormonism has always been a huge champion of higher education, particularly among women. Brigham Young sent his female polygamist progeny back East to be educated.

    The fact that Mormons at Deseret News watch eagerly on the sidelines like lost puppies as Evangelicals bicker about their right-wing crusades is really pathetic.

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  7. Jeff Spector on September 24, 2013 at 11:04 AM

    It was a conservative Catholic blog

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  8. hawkgrrrl on September 24, 2013 at 11:36 AM

    nate: “The fact that Mormons at Deseret News watch eagerly on the sidelines like lost puppies as Evangelicals bicker about their right-wing crusades is really pathetic.” Although Jeff’s right that it is a Catholic blog, rather than an evangelical one, the point nate makes lines up well with a point made at patheos about why the church will not ordain women. Their well written (if at times depressing) analysis points out something I’ve been baffled about since the 1980s: the church’s reliance on its self-designated peers in the culture wars. As I recall, these so-called peers don’t have living prophets or claim ongoing revelation, and they consider us a cult. Here’s the link:

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  9. Hedgehog on September 24, 2013 at 2:20 PM

    Hawkgrrrl, Yes. It’s baffled me too. Particularly on the evangelical front. Those guys accuse the more liberal congregation of the same denomination down the road (in addition to the Catholics) as not being Christian, so why would we ever think we could get them to count LDS as being under the Christian umbrella. I don’t like the route we seem to have gone down to try and cosy up to them.

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  10. Martin on September 24, 2013 at 7:32 PM

    My stay-at-home wife has never used her degree to earn money, and given her lack of interest in politics and scholarly topics, one could argue her investment was a waste of money. But that would be wrong.

    College educations teach a lot of soft skills, such as self-discipline, goal-setting, navigation of power structures, prioritization of time, different ways of thinking, proper and effective ways to disagree, ability to organize and analyze data, and the list goes on and on. I believe these skills correlate to success in life far more than the “knowledge” gained, and that success in life is not measured primarily in income. I would suggest that from the perspective of someone who prefers the male wage-earner/female nurturer model, it might be more important to educate women than men because of the effect they have on their children.

    While there are alternative routes, my daughters (and sons) take it as a given they’ve got to get a university education.

    Honestly, the only reason I bothered to comment on such a dumb argument was that it irritated me so much.

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  11. hawkgrrrl on September 24, 2013 at 10:17 PM

    It’s a slippery slope argument, too. At what point does female education become unnecessary according to this author? Is a high school diploma even necessary? The Amish only educate up to 8th grade because they deem that sufficient to become a no-tech farmer.

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  12. Jeff Spector on September 25, 2013 at 6:34 AM

    Well, the same argument can apply to men as well. Frat boys and athletes behaving badly do not need the luxury of higher education either. Especially those destined to become abusive alcoholics and drug users.

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  13. h_nu on September 25, 2013 at 10:56 AM

    I thought you were intelligent enough to know that “slippery slope” are considered logical fallacies? At least, I hoped you were.

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  14. Thoreau on September 25, 2013 at 7:20 PM

    Why the personal attack?

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  15. Jane on September 26, 2013 at 8:46 AM

    Wow, so many angry comments on the article.

    I would never send a daughter to college but then a college or university is the last place I would want any of my children, male or female, “educated”. Of course that is their choice to make when they are 18 but if I have done my job they will be educated far beyond most college graduates by that time and won’t be interested in becoming slaves to government regulated occupations. (Is there anything that’s not government regulated these days?) My 13 and 15 year olds are already beyond my own college degree. I try to keep up with them but with 6 children to raise I am getting a different kind of education at this stage of my life. :-)

    I do think it’s almost more important for a women raising children to be educated than it is for a man that “only” needs to earn a living but not really because a child’s father should be intimately involved in their education as well. If I had to choose to only educate one though it would be my daughter. Thankfully I don’t have to choose because books are cheap and hard work is free.

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  16. Heber13 on September 26, 2013 at 5:33 PM

    “Once she becomes sexually active with him, she releases hormones that mask his faults, and she remains in a dreamy state about him. We can see why God would arrange things in such a way so that when in a proper state of holy matrimony, she would be less sensitive to his faults and thereby less tempted to be critical of him.”

    So God’s plan is to use sex as a tool to drug his daughters with hormones so they can put up with the stupid sons He made?

    I’m guessing the author of those comments doesn’t value education. A wordly education just makes a person much more stupider. All we need to know is in the bible, which by the way, was all written by guys who know what they’re talkin about. We don’t need to be better guys…we just need women to be blinded to our faults.

    Somehow…my ex-wife stopped releasing those magic fault-finding-masking hormones and wasn’t in much of a dreamy state when she served me divorce papers. And because she has no education…she can’t support herself. Bummer that God wouldn’t keep her blind to my faults all the way through our marriage in a proper state of uneducated hypnotic holy matrimony.

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  17. hawkgrrrl on September 26, 2013 at 5:50 PM

    h_nu: “I thought you were intelligent enough to know that “slippery slope” are considered logical fallacies?” Hence why I am calling this stupid anti-education blogger’s viewpoint a slippery slope argument. His reasoning is fallacious.

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  18. jill on September 27, 2013 at 12:58 AM

    The Glory of God is Intelligence. That means if women aspire to be like Him, they get educated. College is the place because there are people there called professors. They are ‘doctor’s which means they have mastered a certain level of expertise that others haven’t. They are worth listening to.

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