Seriously: Save Your Kid from College

By Dr. Jeff Mirus (bio - articles - email) | Dec 02, 2009

I’m moved once again, by the latest dormitory antics on the part of a growing number of colleges and universities, to remind parents not to take their children’s college years for granted. Where your child goes to college is an extremely important issue, quite possibly a salvational issue. It’s also quite often an extremely expensive exercise in futility. Having participated in the founding of a very good college that flows against the tide, I have reason to know what is at stake.

I can’t condemn those who send their kids off to secular (or secularized Catholic) schools; I’ll confine condemnation to those who send them off without a careful evaluation of the pros and cons regarding their faith, morals and intellectual formation, an evaluation which is likely to be somewhat different with respect to the readiness and aptitude of each particular child. To put the matter bluntly, a great many colleges, probably most, are cesspools, both in and out of the classroom. In my experience, most high school graduates are not ready for this, even if they come from very good families, until they’ve had at least a year or two of college-level instruction and formation in a far better atmosphere.

But even if your child is highly counter-cultural and morally strong enough to withstand living in a brothel (which is very close to what many college dormitories have become), and also won’t mind living among peers who take an unholy glee in attacking and subverting any innocence they may detect, the chances are that as a student he or she will be ridiculed in the classroom for any expression of Faith or insistence upon truth, and will be taught a great deal of utter nonsense besides. Even if the English department is not Marxist, the Psychology department not relativist, the Science department not materialist, the History department not anti-Catholic, and the Theology department (if at a Catholic school) not modernist, the chance for a systematic intellectual foundation in serious philosophy, history, literature or even science is a very slim chance indeed.

You pay an awful lot of money to take that chance. Quite apart from the fact that the financial model for modern resident education in a four-year college is badly broken and ultimately untenable (an essay for another day), the idea of spending tens of thousands of dollars (sometimes over a hundred thousand) to learn essentially nothing—or actually to have one’s intellect effectively subverted—ought not to be attractive as an investment proposition. Having the student leave college with a mortgage-sized debt isn’t an attractive investment proposition either.

Oh, it just might be, I suppose, if all you’re doing is calculating increased earning potential against the cost of a degree, but then you’d be wise to factor into the case whether the particular young man or woman in question is really likely to pursue the kind of career, over a considerable span of years, that can make such an investment financially sound. But, in fact, most parents are not interested in a purely financial calculation; what they’re interested in is betting the farm on their children’s future happiness. That’s why I’m talking today not about cents but about sense. What is a student’s mind worth? Or his soul? The wrong college will surely benefit neither, and may possibly destroy both.

We all need to take seriously the fact that the cultural and moral collapse in which we now find ourselves has been generated to a very significant extent by the so-called intelligentsia, and in particular by a very high percentage of professors and administrators in our colleges and universities. This has been going on long enough that, unlike parents in the 1960’s who were often taken by surprise, today’s parents will be culpably answerable at the Judgment. Don’t make a mistake with your own child, or even with your own money; both ought to be busy doing good. Be careful. Pray hard. Above all, act from spiritual, not worldly, motives. That, after all, is where your child’s happiness really lies.

Next in this series: Sending Your Kid to College: My Top Ten Tips

Jeffrey Mirus holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Princeton University. A co-founder of Christendom College, he also pioneered Catholic Internet services. He is the founder of Trinity Communications and See full bio.

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  • Posted by: - Dec. 06, 2009 5:30 PM ET USA

    For those seeking helpful resources, I would strongly recommend The Cardinal Newman Society (" target="_blank"), publishers of "The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College." Across the broad landscape of “Catholic” higher education in America, only 21 colleges meet the Newman requirements for Catholic authenticity, proof indeed of the predicament that Dr. Mirus describes.

  • Posted by: amber3287 - Dec. 05, 2009 12:59 PM ET USA

    This is so true - I went to a large state school (pre conversion to Catholicism) and I am horrified at how we wordly 18 yr olds mocked and harrassed the few among us who were trying to live moral lives. And the quality of education - bah! What a waste of time and money. I sometimes wish I could do it over and go to a good college, but I know my 18 year old self wouldn't have been able to deal with it! Thank God for bringing me into His Church so my children can have something better!

  • Posted by: - Dec. 05, 2009 12:13 PM ET USA

    Then there is the matter of whether you want to SUPPORT an evil institution (through your money and your child's attendance). I think that the kids that do the best at bad schools have a warrior nature. In our own case, one of our kids chose a State school: it turned out that he was not ready for college quite yet. I wondered if he would have blamed the faith for his problems if we had forced a Catholic school?

  • Posted by: jtuturic3013 - Dec. 05, 2009 1:02 AM ET USA

    "most high school graduates are not ready for this, even if they come from very good families, until they’ve had at least a year or two of college-level instruction and formation in a far better atmosphere." Amen, brother. Were it not for my first 2 years of college at a community college while living at home with my practicing Catholic family, I'm not so sure I would have kept the faith during my time at the state university. It helped me be a bit more grounded ... and it was much cheaper!

  • Posted by: benroodhouse9184 - Dec. 04, 2009 2:12 PM ET USA

    The more I read about this the more I am grateful to have attended one of the best places for Catholics to get a higher education. Hillsdale College. No coed dorms, enforced visitation hours, and most importantly a rigorous classical education.

  • Posted by: raschfamily4452 - Dec. 03, 2009 7:35 AM ET USA

    I worked fifteen years in the University of Minnesota Housing system in the residence halls as a facility supervisor so I was there all day, every day. I also attended meetings. I can give examples of what I experienced. Better not to post. But I will say this, when applying for housing, ask about the hall director, review the housing regulations, ask about policy enforcement and penalties. Demand an accountability from housing officials

  • Posted by: Universal - Dec. 02, 2009 6:54 PM ET USA

    SO VERY T-R-U-E. Thank you Jeff. Let's pray for colleges and kids every day!!!