Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary
Catholic Culture Trusted Commentary

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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