We are deep into the college search at our house. Maybe a more accurate statement would be that I am really into the college search. SuzyQ, a high school junior, and I seem to have a difference of opinion about what type of schools should be on the list to consider. And it’s not what you might think. If you refer back to my “About” page, you’ll learn that I’m a faithful Catholic who is trying to raise her family to be counter-cultural. A big part of our decision to homeschool the kids through high school was the desire to keep them away from the indoctrination into the narcissistic and relativist mindsets that have taken over American culture.
So when it comes to searching for the right college for our first-born, why am I the one encouraging SuzyQ to look at more secular schools, rather than only “approved” Catholic institutions? In case you didn’t know, there is a group of colleges and universities that can truly be called Catholic, while the vast majority of schools that call themselves Catholic actually are so in name only. I don’t think there is anything necessarily wrong with these “approved” schools, especially if you are looking for a degree in theology or philosophy. Generally speaking, though, they aren’t terribly strong in the sciences. And that’s where SuzyQ’s interest lies.
My argument: After sheltering her for what will be about 18 years, the time comes when she needs to go into the world and face what it has to offer. Without a doubt, it will not be easy to maintain and defend her faith at a secular school, and it will be even harder at a school that claims to be Catholic while scorning Church teaching in its classrooms and on its campus. Hopefully, after all of these years of religious education and the example Darling Husband and I have set, she will have the tools she needs to find her way and possibly help fellow Catholic students do the same. Maybe she will be the beacon that others are looking for.
Then there’s the question of what college is really for. I think the days of college as a pure learning experience are over. Frankly, it costs too much. If you aren’t going to college with a view to preparing for a career in life, maybe college isn’t for you. I say this as a full-time mom. I truly believe I use my degree in History every day as I help educate my children. Had the internet been available to offer employment from home in my years as a young mom, I likely would have pursued some outside employment that way. The investment in a college education should be an investment in your future, in the contributions you hope to make in society. Like it or not, studying primarily the Great Books and Western Civilization is not going to get you far in today’s world. It might get you into law school, but even that isn’t saying much, according to this article. And a degree in theology likely won’t land you a job that will allow you to repay those college loans in a hurry, not to mention your other bills.
Here’s my other worry about some of these “approved” schools: They might be what some have called “Catholic ghettos.” I don’t necessarily like that terminology, but it could be aptly applied. Spiritually speaking, they may be Catholic utopias, but what about educationally? When you’re shelling out close to $200,000 over 4 years, should you settle for 2nd best in faculty or lab facilities or connections that give your kid a boost in job prospects? This post about this very issue really started me thinking about all this.
Am I less of a good Catholic mom for questioning these colleges as the best fit for SuzyQ? Am I risking her soul by encouraging her to look at institutions I know are filled with unashamedly anti-Catholics? Theoretically, she could end up graduating from an “approved” Catholic college as a fanatic on the conservative end of the spectrum. You know, the super-judgmental, “I’m a better Catholic than you because I read the entire Summa Theologica, and I don’t wear pants” type?
So, chime in. What’s a Catholic parent to do?
Incidentally, Harvard isn’t on my list. But Princeton might be. It has a thriving Catholic campus presence in spite of being Ivy League.