When my daughter and son attended Idaho’s government-run schools, they were routinely cajoled to enroll in college. My daughter’s public charter school class was small enough that each student’s post-high school plans were read aloud along with their names at graduation. All but two graduates in a class of about 45 indicated they planned to “go on” to college in compliance with the state government’s marketing efforts.
How does one convince nearly every youngster in a graduating high school class to adopt the same post-high school plans? It’s done by adults committing intellectual fraud against impressionable students. Teenagers are routinely told to not worry about the cost of college, the accumulation of debt, or to have a specific career goal in mind when they enroll. As college is pushed, other paths suffer.
In recent years, young women have been particularly targeted, subjected to endless marketing and targeted scholarship programs intended to bolster their interest in certain degree areas such as science and engineering. For my daughter’s part, she wasted thousands of dollars and two years of her life pursuing a degree in which she was barely interested.
The pressure to choose college and career above everything else causes some young adults to find themselves on a trajectory and pursuing a lifestyle that they neither wanted nor needed. And it can come with cataclysmic results: anger, addiction, suicide, depression, anxiety, listlessness. Negative results for the broad American society abound, too, including the rapidly declining birthrate across the country.
Why is this occurring? The current education system is dominated by “woke” culture, which includes feminism, and gears students toward one path: the pursuit of a professional job that requires advanced education. This imbalance in education discourages many young people from pursuing other fulfilling paths such as trades, apprenticeships, small-business ownership, and even family life. This can especially impact women who want to prioritize motherhood but feel societal pressure to pursue a career. The position of feminism is careerism.
So that there is no misunderstanding here: Women make excellent doctors, lawyers, pilots, electricians, scientists — you name it. No one is arguing that women can't or shouldn't have a job or career. But a key argument of feminist theory is that motherhood is a source of oppression for women and therefore motherhood is not a worthy endeavor instead of or in addition to a career.
This is the problem that Boise State University Professor Scott Yenor attempted to address in his National Conservatism speech “The Family Form.” He critiqued feminism as a cabal of special interests — which includes feminist ideologues, colleges and universities, big businesses, and government bureaucrats — that has placed a premium on post-secondary education. The media, Boise State University faculty, and the Left as a whole have aligned to criticize Yenor for attacking women. Instead of engaging in meaningful dialogue about the value proposition of higher education, these leftists engage in ad hominem attacks because they can’t stand independent thinking, let alone opinions different from theirs.
As the Idaho Freedom Foundation has warned repeatedly, dissenting opinions are met with open hostility at social justice universities. Intellectual diversity is no longer valued on campus.
The members of the cabal pretend their efforts are altruistic. They may even believe they’re doing the right thing. But in reality, they have specific self-interests that motivate their interactions, pressuring students into careerism over other fulfilling life choices.
Feminism seeks to abolish motherhood as a dignified calling for women as well as eliminate other familial, non-career-oriented goals for young girls. For example, feminist icon Simone de Beauvoir argued stay-at-home motherhood should be illegal. Beauvoir said, “No woman should be authorized to stay home to raise her children. Women should not have that choice, because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one.” This devaluation of stay-at-home motherhood has been cited as a cause of the declining mental health of children.
Make no mistake: Strong families are essential to a stable and prosperous society. Marxists across history have understood this well. Stable societies based on family life, parental rights, and child protections tend not to produce radical revolutionaries beholden to a corrupt political cause. So feminists and other post-modern ideologogues disguise careerism as empowerment and promote socialist policies to give the state primary control over children, rather than parents.
And it’s not just women and children who are victims of this radical ideological pressure.
Colleges and universities view all students as a potential source of revenue. The government-run higher education system measures success primarily by the number of kids who enroll. There is precious little concern for what comes next. We have watched for years as this enroll-as-many-students-at-all-costs mentality resulted in fewer than half of college students completing their education, ending up with a ton of debt and not much else to show for it.
In her most recent report, IFF Education Policy Director Anna Miller notes that too many areas of study in Idaho result in no real return on investment. Other states have created similar problems for their young people.
At a larger level, the government pressures students to enroll in college because that’s what is best for the government. In addition to keeping government run schools in business, stay-at-home moms and dads are devalued because dual income households are dual-taxpaying households.
The focus on college degrees comes at the expense of other, still laudable non-degree pursuits including trades, entrepreneurship, and parenting. As a macro-level result, society discounts the mom or dad who puts raising a family ahead of career goals. That’s a fairly new phenomenon in America.
Government run universities should not aim to socially engineer the career and life choices of young people to advance their own self interests and political agendas.
For example, women make up only 15% of engineers but 50% of the population. Feminists claim this is due to sexism. But the reality is men and women often have different preferences and make different choices. The hypocrisy of universities’ discriminatory admissions practices to accept women at the expense of men in fields like engineering is thick. No similar effort is being made to recruit men into female dominated fields such as elementary education.
Even men are victims of an overemphasis on college and career. Many would be happier in a profession that doesn’t require a university education. There’s a well-known shortage of plumbers, electricians, roofers, framers, and mechanics caused by the myopic view that everyone needs a college degree, and failure to get one shows personal weakness.
What’s really needed is for the higher education system, the government, and big businesses to get their fingers off the scale of a young person’s ambitions. There is nothing wrong with young women or men going to college and pursuing a career. There’s also nothing wrong with their decision to learn a trade, start a business, or raise a family. It’s their choice, and it should be unimpeded by government and businesses who have, for years, been getting away with putting their interests above those of young people.
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