Recently I heard one of our younger daughters chanting:
Girls go to college to get more knowledge,
Boys go to Jupiter to get more stupider!
Well, I told her, at least the boys don’t say more stupider. Girls with such bad grammar obviously need more knowledge. She made a wry face at me and skipped off. Ah, the war of the sexes is so easy at that age, when the opposite sex is cootie-infested, worthy only to be mocked and then avoided at all costs. But the part about girls go to college to get more knowledge is interesting because I am not sure it is entirely accurate.
During my freshman orientation at the University of Michigan, I met a girl who told me she was there to get her MRS degree – to find a young man who would have a good education and high earning potential. “I want all of my children to have their own bedrooms,” she explained to me as we wandered across the diag in the July heat with our group leader, “and definitely wall-to-wall carpet.”
She had it all planned out; she’d grown up in poverty and wanted to escape from it, a sentiment I fully understood, having grown up in similar circumstances. However, while I myself had recently become engaged to a young man from a well-off family (an engagement I later broke, though I did end up finding my husband my senior year), I was startled by this girl who was already thinking in terms of matched furniture sets. I knew I wanted to fall in love and marry young to someone who would ensure that I did not ever again have to be cold or hungry, but I figured I was at college to get a degree and some kind of job for myself as well. She seemed to have no such aspirations; her attendance at U of M was apparently about marrying the boy with the most earning potential as quickly as possible. At least she was honest about her intentions.
However, U of M is a fairly competitive school, with an acceptance rate of roughly 15%. This girl was one of that 15%, which means that another applicant, who may have intended to use that education for a serious career, didn’t get in. As for me…well, after a Bachelor’s and two Master’s degrees, I work about eight to ten hours per week in my field, which means I am basically a housewife. And my undergraduate degree was largely paid for by the state and federal governments, so thank you tax payers for giving me an excellent but largely unused education whereby I was able to find a good husband.
Are university educations, especially at elite schools, a good idea for women who are going to end up as housewives? My knee jerk reaction is no, but I can sort of see why yes is also a possible answer. So when reader 30Words, a married woman, emailed me with the following question, I decided to turn it into a post and open it up for group discussion. Here is her question:
Regularly mentioned on your blog is the concept of a woman’s education in no way contributing to her attractiveness to a man. Today Deti wrote in the comment thread
“3. You have got to get over the idea that your job, your salary, your connections, your friends, or your life experiences make you attractive. THEY DO NOT. The ONLY things that make you sexually attractive are your looks, followed by a feminine personality as a distant, distant second.”
Also you mentioned several days ago that you will encourage your daughters to marry young and not go to college. I married young myself and see a great value in your advice. But I would like to discuss with you the reality that virtually no men with a nice education marry women with a HS diploma only. My evidence for this is purely anecdotal. But I will say this. My husband and I went through school together and on to graduate school. In all the men that we know and everyone that I’ve met I can only think of two instances of women with only a HS diploma marrying a man with higher education.
My explanations are this: Access and selection bias. Women in college have access to the men that are getting the educations in ways that hair dressers or stay at home daughters do not. Also- the kind of women who do not go on to college (in some instances beauty school girls) have other factors like: they are from a broken home and are already single moms and otherwise damaged – that’s why they didn’t go on to college anyway.
Do you think that these two instances explain the whole phenomenon? I heard said once that, “opposites attract, but the things we have in common are like money the bank for a relationship.” When the men of our county are spending 4-8 even 10 years in post secondary education is there a factor of “what is he going to have in common” with a person without that education?
… I agree with you and do find all these years of “education” to be mostly worthless. I’m simply commenting on a situational reality that I see and that is even here in the midwest where there are lots of farm boys (not said in a derogatory way) and nice men wanting to settle down. It would be unusual to find a 30 year old unmarried man here. It seems that if you are a woman with no education you will marry a man with no education and he will be out in the oil patch pushing tools, grueling back breaking work that takes you away from home for 2 or 3 weeks at a time if you are unfamiliar with this, or in the ARMY if she is very lucky. A plumber or a carpenter would be ideal but finding a relatively young skilled tradesman would be like finding a unicorn.
So what is a mother to tell her daughters? It seems there are two choices: “honey, don’t go on to college because it is a ridiculous waste- marry a good but most likely poor man, you will have to work and y’all will struggle all of your lives.” or “Go on a meet a college boy, be a good girl, if you marry an accountant or a doctor you can live in relative luxury and serve God, serve at church and raise your babies!”
I have heard men say they are not attracted to women because of their education or careers, and I believe them. However, when such men decide to marry (if they do), more than attraction must be playing into it because they often marry women with similar levels of education. Perhaps this is because they want their children to come from the same high IQ, well-educated stock.
So what should we be telling our daughters? Even if we aren’t raising our daughters to be careerists, is ensuring that they have access to the best quality men worth the money and effort of sending them to college? Does this trick even work anymore the way it did when I was entering college 25 years ago, given the fact that women now outnumber men on campus? Would most college-educated men be willing to marry non-college educated women or do they only want women with a similar level of education? Are society’s interests best served by leaving those university spots open for men or by admitting women in order to get high IQ couples together?