August 2005


Well, maybe this article explains something.

“Academics in the UK claim their research shows that men are more intelligent than women. A study to be published later this year in the British Journal of Psychology says that men are on average five points ahead on IQ tests.

Paul Irwing and Professor Richard Lynn claim the difference grows when the highest IQ levels are considered. Their research was based on IQ tests given to 80,000 people and a further study of 20,000 students….At scores of 155, associated with genius, there were 5.5 men for every woman.”

Actually, this might be a good reason for sending women to college, since men know so much already it might help to level the playing field. Now if they could just explain why men never stop for directions, we could solve all the problems of the universe!

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So, I read an interesting article in our local newspaper yesterday. It seems that there is a new phenomenon that is being labeled as “helicopter parents” and it is starting to be a major problem in college campuses all across the country. Named such for the “hovering” that they do, these parents cannot allow their children to grow up and take responsibility for their own lives.

The main problems, as I understand them, are that these parents are stepping in and interfacing with college advisors and professors on behalf of their children. They also use cell phones to frequently call their children during the day and the students check in with their parents after every exam to let mom and dad know how they did. They micromanage relationships with roommates, etc.

The universities are taking action by offering seminars for parents of freshman, instructing them on the proper amount of contact they ought to have with their children and letting them know that the school will be establishing guidelines for limiting a parent’s access to teachers, etc.

The reason this is such a problem? This behavior handicaps the students in areas of problem-solving, decision-making, and an overall sense of independence. Administrators acknowledge that a large part of the college experience is learning to develop these skills as one leaves home for the first time and prepares to have employment and establish families of their own.

Of course, as I read this article, I was thinking of this blog and its goal of encouraging young Christian women to consider going to college. The article also confirmed to me, in more clear terms, why there are those who would not want a girl to go to college.

Those who are part of a hyper-patriarchal belief system, those who believe women should not make decisions on their own, but rather, have decisions made for them by their fathers and husbands, and those who believe problem-solving ought to be left up to the menfolk are the ones who, for the most part, are pleading for daughters to stay away from college. Of course, these ideals are couched in terms such as “protection of daughters” and “keeping a girl under her father’s authority” etc.

But I believe in reality these anti-college views are really another way of keeping a woman from becoming her own person. You can use all the fancy terminology you want, but this is really what you get when you boil it all down. Who would have thought that independence is a four letter word?

I laughed out loud. And then I thought of you all.

Thoughts?

Admittedly, I have been watching Mona Lisa Smile.

There is a scene in which Julia Roberts’s character is lecturing her class, challenging them to see that women in the fifties could have more options than being a wife and mother. She closes by saying, “I didn’t realize that by demanding excellence I was ‘challenging the roles you were born to fill.'”

I must start by saying that I honestly believe that mothering and domesticity are very noble, honorable, and difficult careers. Does college challenge that? Does domesticity somehow feel intimidated by college? Will the choice to attend college somehow make one a less apt mother or homemaker? It seems that some believe that if my mind is well-educated, I will not focus on mothering as my primary ministry. If I have devoted part of my life to study and academia, somehow I cannot devote myself fully to being a wife and mother later.

What is it that is intimidating about the demand for excellence? I do not believe that my continued attempt to seek education has harmed my primary focus. I do not believe that by stretching my mind and learning to think in new ways I have somehow deviated from the path that God designed for me. In fact, I believe that by stretching, learning, and educating I am bettering myself for service in His Kingdom. And while I certainly don’t believe that a college degree is what makes a good mother, wife, or woman, I do believe that it can be a VERY significant contribution.

How can a twenty-two year old feel like a Non-Traditional College student? Honestly, I’m barely older than most of the seniors on campus (the freshmen though…..is it just me, or do they keep getting younger?). Unlike most students on campus, though, I am married and have a child who is pushing two years old.

I had my first class of the semester this morning. Literary Criticism is a class in which one would expect to find great diversity among the students, and the one who expected such would be right. I am (thankfully) not the oldest and frumpiest in the class. One of the teachers in the English department is taking the course for graduate credit, so she beats me in age (though I think I’ve got the trump in frump).

Being on campus as a Non-Traditional student is a fascinating experience. There are definitely things that make me feel OLD. I no longer think it’s funny when someone has put laundry detergent in the lily pool to create piles of bubbles for the hundredth time this semester. I find most of the ways that 19-year-old boys entertain themselves extremely annoying. I’m not trying to find loopholes in the dress code (except for flip-flops…..I can’t let them make me change my sandals) nor coming up with creative ways to try to fill my chapel seat so I’m not marked absent (though that could be because I’m no longer required to go to chapel). I’m no longer trying to carve out who I am through self-expression, so I avoid a lot of heartache over deciding which expression would be most “unique”.

The flip side to being old, though, is that a lot of things make me feel wise, mature, and experienced. I don’t worry about how I’m dressed – I’ve grown past that. I’m not driving a brand new Mercedes, and I don’t care. There are more important things in life, and when we get right down to it the grudge work to pay off our old car built a lot of maturity and character. I find more satisfaction and self-worth in knowing that I can do this on my own. There are plenty of students in my classes that would rather take anything else, but are there because it’s a requirement for the major. I have the ability to take the classes I want to take and not grumble about the horrible teacher or boring coursework.

Overall, being a Non-Traditional student is a positive experience. Yes, I’m old. But strangely, these 19 and 20-year-olds respect that. And though I didn’t see it coming, so do I.

It’s no secret that I’m far from a fan of Plato. He’s egoentric, angry, and elitist. He’s anti-rhetorical and anti-Christian. No student leaves my class without knowing that despite those who have wed Chrisianity to this pagan for millenia (thanks, Augustine!), he is not our ally.

But even Plato foregrounds an education for women, and that was a radical idea in ancient Greece. Plato agreed with common Greek thought at the time that women were mere breeders (they bore children but did not beget them) and were really no better than other children or slaves. They are a necessary evil, to be specific, to further the human race and have a nice meal in the meantime. Friendships with men were superior to relationships with women because women were of such a lower caliber. That “platonic love” we’ve heard so much about was Plato’s description of male fellowship or eros.

But even still — Plato commands via Socrates in his Republic that women be educated similarly to men:

“But if it appears that they differ only in just this respect that the female bears and the male begets, we shall say that no proof has yet been produced that the woman differs from the man for our purposes, but we shall continue to think that our guardians and their wives ought to follow the same pursuits.”

 
His point is that when it comes to the good of the Republic, the essential differences between men and women are irrelevant and both should be thoroughly educated.
 
We’re not so persuaded to further the good of the “state” as an Ancient Greek. But the Church is more our focus. Can we pirate Plato’s argument for our own Christian pursuits and say that any difference between a man and a woman is irrelevant when it comes to the larger good that can come from an educated Christian (male or female)?

My son, Ben, has been working on a research paper for college credit for the Summit Worldview Conference he attended last month. His topic is the Christian and the Arts and he and I have had some great discussions on the role that the arts has in the life of the Christian as well as the responsibilities that the Christian artist has within our culture. He has been reading Francis Schaeffer, of course, as well as some others who have expressed, quite well, the various aspects of this topic.

In the midst of this I heard of a church that is starting a fine arts guild for children and another church that plans to begin a school of music. One thing that has always distressed me, probably as far back as the very off-key choir in my church where I grew up, is the idea that “singing a joyful noise unto the Lord” somehow negates any striving for excellence. Christians of all people ought to seek to do things well, to minister “as unto the Lord” in whatever calling they find themselves.

It is my contention that churches would do well to recognize the value of college training for those who are involved in ministry, perhaps even showing their commitment to excellence by contributing to the educations of those who would serve their congregations after graduation. Perhaps there are churches where this is being done. I would like to see the local church show their support for excellence by investing part of their money in the training of young men and women for ministry. I could see a scholarship of, say, $5,000.00 per year being allotted in the form of a grant that would not need to be paid back unless the recipient didn’t come back to serve the local church. For each year they stayed, a portion of the money would be “forgiven.” This could work in the areas of music, counseling, education, or church administration.

I would like to see churches who do not hold to women as ordained elders or pastors, show their commitment to using the spiritual gifts that women have been given by encouraging their young women through these sorts of scholarships. In the end, everyone benefits, everyone can say “I’ve got me a college girl.”

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