How Dare you Underestimate the Importance of a Classical Education?

Okay, boomer (it’s a joke!) Let’s get a definition out there:

Classical Education: a form of education based in the traditions of Western culture, with a particular focus on education as understood and taught in Classical antiquity and the Middle Ages.

Thanks, Wikipedia.

If you are under the impression that most college students receive a ‘classical education’ learning about Milton, Plato, and Cartesian dualism in college, you’re wrong. If you don’t believe me, go search your favorite university’s degree requirements for any degree you prefer.

9 times out of 10 (especially if it is a government-funded school), every degree will feature:

  • 55% generic, bologna, required courses in ‘world cultures,’ ‘speech/debate’ and [insert other nonsense here]
  • 15% life sciences and government
  • 30% courses that actually pertain to the degree field the student is in

Universities worldwide strain for their coursework to be diverse, inclusive, leadership-oriented, or any other buzzword topic that will get them funding.

To learn about great philosophers, literary giants, and mathematical whizzes, you’re better off setting up your own coursework

. . . or hiring a specialist/tutor to educate you one-on-one.

  1. Because you won’t have to stress over tests, quizzes, and deadlines
  2. You can learn about everything you want instead of grand summaries of too many topics
  3. You’ll save tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars

For example, I looked at my own coursework for a 2019 bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in Performance Studies from Texas A&M. Aaaand I’m a bit horrified. Out of 127 total credit hours…

  • 39 credit hours (30.7%) were English
  • 24 credit hours (18.9%) were Performance Studies
  • 64 credit hours (50.4%) were random classes I was forced to take such as Forensic Investigations, Economics, Political Science & Garden Science.

Sure, I learned some fun tidbits here and there like how to measure blood/alcohol content and how to plant herbs. But the ‘education’ I received in Calculus for Engineers (I started as an engineering major) was much too expensive for the accessibility of the information online, the 100+ student class size (a small class for a freshman-level A&M course), and the cost of textbook, tuition, and online homework software.

Point is, don’t go assuming a university education will be a worthwhile, ‘classical’ education!

Why Does Everybody Feel the Need to Go to College?

This trend can be traced back to the baby boomer generation (folks born between 1946-1964). For the most part, this generation got married in their late teens and early twenties and then the men started working (hard) right out of high school and the women started having babies . . . boom. [1]

One of that generation’s biggest dreams was to send their children to college. Their children and grandchildren—Millennials and Gen Z—live in a world where a clear message is shoved down everybody’s throats: ‘you have to go to college if you want to be successful.’ (As if the baby boomers were not successful by nurturing a loving family.)

Interestingly enough, though “69.7 percent of 2016 high school graduates enrolled in college in October 2016,” people seem less motivated and less successful than ever [2].

College graduates often do not know what they want to do after they graduate. In fact, “approximately 53% of college graduates are unemployed or working in a job that doesn’t require a bachelor’s degree” [3].

A very common conversation every year right around March goes like this:

Boomer: ‘Have you found a sweet engineering job yet?”

Stressed college student: “Nope.”

Boomer: “Well, are you looking?”

Stressed, exhausted college student: “Yep.”

So many people graduate from college and still have no idea what to do with their life. The only difference from a recent college graduate and their recent high school graduate self is their ‘education’ and they are drowning in $90,000 worth of student loan debt.

It is crucial to understand that right now, the culture wants you to go to college. Universities make millions of dollars off the perceived necessity of a college education.

Education or Degree Factory

For most colleges, as soon as a student becomes a graduate, they like to send out this message:

‘Remember: scholarship money from former students is what makes it possible for people to come to our school.’

…or the school could just lower the tuition.

It’s really incredible how soon colleges begin to expect you to give them money.

The severity of Western society’s indoctrination into the must-go-to-college mindset is exemplified in the exploding cost of attendance.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, “Between 2006–07 and 2016–17, prices for undergraduate tuition, fees, room, and board at public institutions rose 31 percent, and prices at private nonprofit institutions rose 24 percent, after adjustment for inflation.” [4]

For the ever-increasing regularity of bogus credit hour requirements (see above), that’s a ridiculous price increase. College students are learning less of what they want and are paying more for it!

The dramatic increase in people believing they must attend college to amount to something coupled with the increasing intolerance of conservative beliefs (yes, even at Texas A&M University) creates a burgeoning workforce without motivation to pursue their vocation (to marriage or the religious life) before making their millions.

Students are turned into lemmings—especially those attending liberal arts programs. Many professors ask what gender pronouns we prefer and do not allow controversial speech topics or discussions to be had, yet they still advocate for abortion, supply condoms at the health center, and buy into the message that college is the only way to begin your adult life. [5]

Why Are You Going to College?

Like many questionable institutions, college is not objectively evil. If you want to become a doctor, the only way to get certified is to go to school. There are very disordered accidental properties of college like excessive drunkenness, an atmosphere encouraging sexual immorality, and lots of exposure to anti-human ideals. BUT:

if God is calling you to a profession which requires schooling, go to college!

Let’s distinguish the difference between a profession and a vocation. If a man feels called to the vocation of marriage, all he needs is a job that can support him and his family. His career is not his vocation. His career should actively serve his need to raise his family. He should not follow a career path that takes away from his vocational responsibility!

There are thousands of jobs that do not require college degrees just waiting to be snatched. Some of these jobs will even pay you to go to a trade school to increase your skill in them. Once you have greater skills, they will pay you even more!

As of October 2019, the rate of unemployment was at 3.6% [6] According to an article by Adecco, “Sixty-two percent of firms are currently struggling to fill skilled trade positions.” [7] The fact is, boomers are fast approaching (or have reached) the age of retirement. Adecco estimates that there will be 31 million job openings by 2020 due to retirees. [8]

It’s clear that there are plenty of jobs you can get without a degree and that the demand for those skilled labor-type jobs is increasing and will continue to increase.

So what about the other parts of college like maturing as a person and how it will be ‘the greatest years of your life?’

Contrary to popular opinion, attending college will not magically transform a person into a mature, responsible adult.

Why is it that when a 17-year-old teen does not know what she wants to do with her life, the normal thing to do is encourage her to get into thousands of dollars of debt to gamble on figuring it out! Spoiler alert: it doesn’t work that way.

Since most of college coursework isn’t even applicable to deciding on a career, that girl will have to work hard outside of school in extracurriculars and side projects to figure out what to do!

So many times in college, I felt like my schoolwork was getting in the way of my performing, writing, and studying theology (the things I actually wanted to do as a wife after graduating). The majority of the literary knowledge and musical skill I have now was not a result of my college education.

Businesses are increasingly aware of the diminishing value of college degrees. Hardly anybody in skilled labor, graphic design, writing, or many other fields asks to see your diploma before hiring.

College . . . Straight Outta High School

How to know if you should even go to college?

Keep in mind, God might want you to go to college. It is true that many people find their lifelong friends and spouses at college (I did!) But, you can also do that in the workplace and you’ll be getting paid for it!

For women who just want to earn their MRS degree (Mrs. aka find a husband), think about the debt you will be in after finding the love of your life. Think about how lovely it would be to cut the loans you start your married life off with in half.

Why not just get a job in a college town and meet boys after Mass or at a football game? It would be way cheaper (and less stressful). Support yourself while you still need to, pursue other hobbies, and educate yourself for the specific job you would like to do.

Just as you don’t need a license to drive a sandwich, you don’t need a computer science degree to code for a business.

Here’s an example. Take a girl straight out of high school. She feels called to the vocation of marriage but does not yet have a boyfriend. She does not know what she would major in at college and does not want to take out loans, so she gets a job as a receptionist at a local business.

After a couple of years of working there, the boss’s office assistant retires, he has seen this girl’s initiative and work ethic and decides to hire her to the executive assistant position. Since “Executive Assistants made a median salary of $59,340 in 2018,” this girl now earns the salary of many college-educated professions like teachers. [9]

She didn’t get into piles of debt. Even with just the beginning secretary position, there’s a high probability she was making more than minimum wage. She didn’t go to a distant college only to fall in love with a boy who lives states away (in which case, if they got married, one of them would have to live far from their families).

“I cannot stress enough how young 25 is. You could live with your parents until you’re 24, save money, then go live on your own and go to night school at 30. You’d still have about 50 years of your life ahead of you. Those 50 years will be so much better because you had time to figure out what God was asking from you and what you wanted to do.” —John from Catholic Late Night

As Catholics, we must ask ourselves: ‘Just because everybody else is doing it, should I do it?’ This applies to college, dating, drinking, marriage, and many other decisions teens are faced with.

Alternatives to College

Don’t rush into college!

Do anything. Do anything you want to. You can always go to college if you realize later that you need that schooling to get the job you are called to do.

1. Get a Low-stress job

If you need to make more than minimum wage immediately, get a job at Texas Roadhouse. [10] Set saving goals for yourself so you can start your own editing business. Build up a portfolio of websites you have designed for local businesses.

Just start doing something! Pray to God asking Him to open your eyes to the path which He has created you to follow. Don’t wait for God to give you a sign from the sky to show you what to do!

2. Take a Gap Year

Those who are not going to college can take a gap year. Travel the world. Volunteer on mission trips. Sometimes the decisions you’ll need to make are not comfortable. But if there is a holy and open opportunity that you want to be a part of, go for it!

3. Work on your Relationships

The people you are connected to are the most valuable resource you have. Invest in that resource. Grow that support network. Those you know and love are worth more than any amount of money, education, or material item in the world.

Relationships are genuinely everything. Heck! I know someone who got his college paid for by working for a priest, and that priest introduced him to some rich Catholics. Once he started spending time with those Catholics, they liked him and thought he was a good kid. One of those people paid for his college!

Social networking (in the most caring, human-relational way possible) is critical to thriving in this life. Not only will it help you in self-serving ways (a career, favors from friends) but more importantly, connections will grant you opportunities to do good for other people.

4. Volunteer For Others

Ask your dad, godfather, etc. to inquire to his friends at work about what kind of professional help they need. Sometimes, people will pay $200 for a younger person to mow their lawn and feed their dogs. Other times, there are internship opportunities desperately looking for the right person (you) to fill them.

Just offer to people what you can do for them.

Action Item!

Build your trust in God. Ask Him for guidance daily about whether or not to go to college, stay in college, or where He wants you to go professionally. Don’t wait for Him to send a messenger angel to you, if a door is holy, legal, open, and somewhere you want to go, pursue it!

Try Google-ing:

  • Why I Shouldn’t Go to College
  • How to Become a [insert trade/non-college education required job here (carpenter, electrician, bank teller)]
  • Check out:

Further Reading:

“The One Thing”—Gary Keller

“What Do You Really Want”— Jim Manney

Works Cited:

[1] Education

[1.1] Marriage

[1.2] Boomers (generation ranges)

[2] Bureau of Labor Statistics

[3]; What can students do to improve their chances of finding employment after college?

[4] U.S. Department of Education

[5] A pro-life group on campus at Texas A&M placed hundreds of small crosses to symbolize graves of murdered unborn babies on a lawn (with college approval). I then witnessed multiple people stomping, kicking, and throwing away these graves because they felt it was ‘offensive’ and ‘against female health rights.’ Campuses generously protect and support LGBT rallies and students with resource centers and police presence, yet do not want to be associated with the Catholic side. Check out TFP Student Action on YouTube to witness some of the horrible students on college campuses if you do not believe that campuses have become a very toxic place.

[6] Trading Economics; United States Unemployment Rate

[7] Lincoln Tech; As Baby Boomers Retire, Skilled Trades Career Opportunities Grow

[8] Adecco; Vocational skills – skilled trades are in demand as boomers retire

[9] Money US News; Executive Assistant

[10] Texas Roadhouse salaries

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