The Education of Our Daughters
Here’s a popular syllogism running around in some homeschool circles.
Major Premise: The purpose of education is to prepare the student for their career.
Minor Premise: Women should not work outside the home.
Conclusion: There’s no reason to educate our daughters about anything other than the domestic arts.
Rather than kick off a controversial debate about the minor premise, I’d like to engage my gentle readers on the major premise. I believe the one stated above to be seriously flawed. And correcting it will have major implications for the kind of education we give both our sons and our daughters.
A Look at the Standing Major Premise
Preparing America’s Students for College & Career
The twenty-first century education establishment has lost any vision for education other than vocational training. There are occasional nods to “making good citizens,” but even that has proved too controversial for our overly politicized society. And so, the secular, government schools are now left with the following motto: “Preparing America’s Students for College & Career.” And just to clarify, by “college” they mean simply slightly more advanced career training. That, by the way, is the official motto of the Common Core State Standards Initiative.
And that motto completely misses the point of education. It is an impoverished, absurd, simplistic, and debauched view of education. If education is only about career training, then what’s the point of Shakespeare? Or English lit? Or history? And if you’re only going to be flipping burgers or spending your days changing the oil in cars at the Jiffy Lube, why do we have you in school for twelve years in the first place?
An Alternative Proposition
Let me propose a radically different purpose for education:
The purpose of an education is to help our children to know God and to be prepared to serve him.
And how do we know God? We know and understand God through a study of both the Scriptures and the universe he has created.
2 Timothy 3:16-17: “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”
Romans 1:19-20: “For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”
Psalm 19:1 “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”
So, even if it had no possible practical application in the job we might hold, there is still a compelling reason to study chemistry, biology, mathematics, literature, history, and art. Because in doing each of those things, guided by a wise and godly parent or teacher, we learn about God and we become better prepared to serve him. No matter what kind of work we take to supply our basic needs, the far higher task is to know God and to serve him.
Implications of a Reconsidered Purpose
And should we limit the scope of our daughters’ education because we don’t think they’ll ever be called to work outside the home (or we hope they won’t)? Only if we have the secular world’s impoverished view of the purpose of education.
But if we want our daughters to grow up to be godly women, then we want them introduced and guided in ALL ways in which they can know and understand God and be better prepared to serve him.
Rethinking the purpose of education should alter the way we approach every subject, and every child, not just our daughters. The goal is not to help them achieve higher scores on the standardized tests. The goal is not to help them get rich. The goal is to prepare them to know God and to understand him and to be equipped to serve him.
As Francis Schaeffer observed (and by his life, demonstrated), “All truth is God’s truth.”
This is why we have given our children a rich education in all the disciplines. Beginning, above all, with a foundation in the Scriptures, we want our children to understand who God is and how He has acted in history. And how His power and glory and intricate creativity are displayed in nature. We teach our children about Egypt and Greece and Rome not because we’re hoping to turn out classical scholars, but because we are convinced that a knowledge of those cultures will help them to understand God and how He acted in history.
Now, beyond giving a scriptural justification for giving our daughters the same academic education as our sons, let me suggest that there are at least two other pragmatic reasons why limiting the education of our daughters would be foolish.
1. Our daughters are going to help raise and, I fervently hope, are going to be providing an education for our grandchildren. Do I have to spell this out? If our daughters have no background in the sciences and mathematics, in literature and history and art, what kind of an education will they be able to give our grandchildren? I want them to understand God through His creation deeply — for themselves, and for the benefit of their children.
2. I do not know the future course for any of my daughters. They may have to work outside the home. They may remain single. They may be widowed. They might be divorced. They may have to help provide for my grandchildren. I wish them to be confident and prepared for whatever the world might throw at them.
Implications on the Minor Premise
As to the minor premise of the popular syllogism? Well, I am absolutely convinced that children thrive best when we give them the gift of our attention, encouragement, praise, and correction. It’s harder (but not impossible) to do that if both parents work outside the home and have few hours to spend with their children. But I pronounce no universal rules about prohibiting this or allowing that. Seek to know God and to serve Him. He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. I will observe, however, that although we may spend a significant portion of our lives raising our children, we won’t be doing it forever. As our children have gotten older, we have both been able to spend more time in teaching and writing. When they have all left the nest, we will both fill our days with other ways of serving God.
Our daughters’ lives will surely involve more tasks than just birthing and raising babies. We need to educate and equip them, not just for what we imagine their lives will be like, but for whatever God may choose to call them to. And it would be foolish to have a too-limited view of what God might call them to.