How Dare you Underestimate the Importance of a Classical Education?
Okay, boomer (it’s a joke!) Let’s get a definition out there:
Classical Education: a form of education based on the traditions of Western culture, with a particular focus on education as understood and taught in Classical antiquity and the Middle Ages.
If you are under the impression that most college students receive a ‘classical education’ learning about Milton, Plato, and Cartesian dualism in college, you’re wrong. If you don’t believe me, go search your favorite University’s Degree Requirements for any degree you prefer.
9 times out of 10 (especially if it is a government-funded school), every degree will feature:
- 55% generic, bologna, required courses in ‘world cultures,’ ‘speech/debate’ and [insert other nonsense here]
- 15% life sciences and government
- 30% courses that actually pertain to the degree field the student is in
Universities worldwide strain their coursework to be diverse, inclusive, leadership-oriented, or any other buzzword topic that will get them funding.
To learn about great philosophers, literary giants, and mathematical whizzes, you’re better off setting up your own coursework or hiring a specialist/tutor to educate you one-on-one. Just think…
- You won’t have to stress over tests, quizzes, and deadlines.
- You can learn about everything you want instead of grand (often useless) summaries of too many topics.
- You’ll save tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.
For example, I looked at my own coursework for a 2019 bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in Performance Studies from Texas A&M. I am a bit horrified. Out of 127 total credit hours…
- 39 credit hours (30.7%) were English
- 24 credit hours (18.9%) were Performance Studies
- 64 credit hours (50.4%) were random classes I was forced to take such as Forensic Investigations, Economics, Political Science & Garden Science.
Sure, I learned some fun tidbits here and there like how to calculate blood/alcohol content and how to plant herbs. But the ‘education’ I received in Calculus for Engineers (I started as an engineering major) was much too expensive for the accessibility of that information online, the 70+ student class size (a small class for a freshman-level A&M course), and the cost of textbook, tuition, and online homework software.
Point is, don’t go assuming a University education will be a worthwhile ‘classical’ education!
Why Does Everybody Feel the Need to Go to College?
This trend can be traced back to the baby boomer generation (folks born between 1946-1964). For the most part, this generation got married in their late teens and early twenties and then the men started working (hard) right out of high school and the women started having babies…boom. 
One of that generation’s biggest dreams was to send their children to college as they were not able to do. Their children and grandchildren—Millennials and Gen Z—live in a world where a clear message is shoved down everybody’s throats: ‘you have to go to college if you want to be successful.’ (As if the baby boomers were not successful when they nurtured a loving family.)
Interestingly enough, though “69.7 percent of 2016 high school graduates enrolled in college in October 2016,” people seem less motivated and less successful than ever .
College graduates often do not know what they want to do after they graduate. In fact, “approximately 53% of college graduates are unemployed or working in a job that doesn’t require a bachelor’s degree” .
A very common conversation right around March every year goes like this:
Boomer: ‘Have you found a sweet engineering job yet?”
Stressed college student: “Nope.”
Boomer: “Well, are you looking?”
Stressed, exhausted college student: “Yep.”
So many people graduate from college and still have no idea where to find work or what to do with their life. The only difference from a recent college graduate and their recent highschool graduate self is their ‘education’ and that they’re drowning in $90,000 worth of student loan debt.
It is crucial to understand that right now, the culture wants you to go to college. Universities make millions of dollars off the perceived necessity of a college education.
Education or Degree Factory
For most colleges, as soon as a student becomes a graduate, they like to send out this message:
‘Remember that scholarship money from former students is what makes it possible for people to come to our school.’
What I think when I see that is: the school could just lower the cost of tuition.
It is really incredible how soon colleges begin to expect you to give them money.
The severity of Western society’s indoctrination into the must-go-to-college mindset is exemplified in the exploding cost of attendance.
According to the U.S. Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics, “Between 2006–07 and 2016–17, prices for undergraduate tuition, fees, room, and board at public institutions rose 31 percent, and prices at private nonprofit institutions rose 24 percent, after adjustment for inflation.”
For the ever-increasing regularity of bogus credit hour requirements (see my too-real breakdown above), that’s a heinous price increase. College students are learning less of what they want and are paying more for it!
The dramatic increase in people believing they must attend college to amount to something coupled with the non-toleration for conservative beliefs (yes, even at Texas A&M University) creates a burgeoning workforce without motivation to pursue beginning a family before making their millions.
Students are turned into lemmings—especially those attending liberal arts programs. Many professors ask what gender pronouns we prefer and do not allow ‘controversial’ speech topics or discussions to be had, yet they still advocate for abortion, supply condoms at the health center, and buy into the message that college is the only way to begin your adult life. 
Why Are You Going to College?
Like many things in life, college is not objectively evil. If you want to become a doctor, the only way to get certified currently is to go to some form of college, post-college, and clinicals.
However, there are very disordered accidental properties of college like excessive drunkenness, an atmosphere encouraging sexual immorality, and lots of exposure to anti-human ideals.
If you feel God is calling you to a profession that needs schooling, go to college.
I think it is important that this article briefly distinguishes the difference between a profession and a vocation. If a man feels called to the vocation of marriage, all he needs is a job that can support him and his family. His career is not his vocation.
His career should actively serve his need to raise his family. He should not follow a career path that takes away from his vocational responsibility!
There are thousands of jobs that do not require college degrees just waiting to be snatched. Some of these jobs will even pay you to go to a trade school to increase your skill in them. Once you have greater skills, they will pay you even more!
As of October 2019, the rate of unemployment was at 3.6%  According to an article by Adecco, “Sixty-two percent of firms are currently struggling to fill skilled trade positions.”  The fact is, boomers are fast approaching (or have reached) the age of retirement. Adecco estimates that there will be 31 million job openings by 2020 due to retirees. 
It’s clear that there are plenty of jobs you can get without a degree and that the demand for those skilled labor-type jobs is increasing and will continue to increase.
So what about the other parts of college like maturing as a person and how it will be ‘the greatest years of your life?’
Contrary to popular opinion, attending college will not magically transform a person into a mature, responsible adult.
Why is it that when a 17-year-old teen does not know what she wants to do with her life, the normal, wise thing to do is encourage her to get into thousands of dollars of debt to gamble on figuring it out! Spoiler alert: it doesn’t work that way.
Since most of college coursework isn’t even applicable to deciding on a career, that girl will have to work hard outside of school in extracurriculars and side projects to figure out what to do!
So many times in college, I felt like my schoolwork was getting in the way of my writing and studying theology (the things I actually wanted to do as a wife after graduating). The majority of the literary knowledge and musical skill I have now was not a result of my college education.
The same goes for Patrick and John! Their total cost of college was approximately $200,000, but John says, “the information that Patrick and I learned at school, about 95% of it, we taught ourselves. Everything that we learned that has anything to do with the jobs that we have right now.”
“Patrick and I could have taken out a loan for $200,000 (in a perfect world where college loans are not free candy versus other loans), and we could have started our own production studio. Knowing what I know now about how to run a business—which my college had no impact on whatsoever—we could change our life” and be able to pay the loan back with that new business!
Businesses are increasingly aware of the diminishing value of college degrees. Hardly anybody in skilled labor, graphic design, writing, or many other fields ask to see your diploma before being hired!
Straight Outta High School: Should You Go to University?
Patrick and John both went to Franciscan University of Steubenville, a private college in Ohio. John was blessed by a board member of Franciscan sponsoring his four years at school. He attended college for free, but would not have attended otherwise.
Remember, God might want you to go to college. I concur with how Patrick describes it: “I didn’t go to Franciscan for the education. I went for the most expensive friends I’ll ever have.” It is true that many people find their lifelong friends and spouses at college. You can also do that in the workplace, however, and you’ll be getting paid for it!
Unite your will with God’s will when deciding where or if to go to college. In John’s case, the financial barrier was removed from his college decision, making it a wiser and more economical gamble.
For women who just want to earn their MRS degree (Mrs. aka find a husband degree), think about the debt you will be in after finding the love of your life. Ponder how lovely it would be to cut the loans you begin your married life off with by a half!
Why not just get a job in a college town and meet boys after the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass or at a football game? It would be way cheaper (and less stressful). Simply support yourself while you still need to, pursue other hobbies, and educate yourself for the specific job you would like to do.
Just as you don’t need a license to drive a sandwich, you also don’t need a computer science degree to code for a business.
Here’s an example. Take a girl straight out of high school. She feels called to the vocation of marriage, but does not yet have a boyfriend. She does not know what she would major in once at college and does not want to take out loans, so she gets a job as a receptionist at a local business.
After a couple of years of working there, the boss’s office assistant retires, he has seen this girl’s initiative and work ethic, and decides to hire her to the executive assistant position. Since “Executive Assistants made a median salary of $59,340 in 2018,” this girl now earns the salary of many college-educated professionals! 
She didn’t get into piles of debt. Even with just the beginning secretary position, there’s a good chance she was making more than minimum wage. She didn’t go to a distant college only to fall in love with a boy who lives states away (in which case, if they got married, one of them would have to live far from their families).
“I cannot stress enough how young 25 is. You could live with your parents until you’re 24, save money, then go live on your own and go to night school at 30. You’d still have about 50 years of your life ahead of you. Those 50 years will be so much better because you had time to figure out what God was asking from you and what you wanted to do.” —Our fearless Catholic Late Night co-host, John.
As Catholics, we must ask ourselves: ‘Just because everybody else is doing it, should I do it?’ This applies to college, dating, drinking, marriage, and many other decisions people begin to be faced with in their late teens…
Alternatives to College
Don’t rush into college!
Do anything. Do anything you want to. You can always go to college if you realize later that you need that schooling to get the job you are called to perform.
If you need to make more than minimum wage immediately, get a job at Texas Roadhouse.  Set saving goals for yourself so you can start your own editing business. Build up a portfolio of websites you have designed for local businesses.
Just start doing something! Pray to God asking Him to open your eyes to the path which He has created you to follow. Don’t wait for God to give you a sign from the sky to show you what to do!
Those who are not going to college can take a gap year. Travel the world. Volunteer on mission trips. Sometimes the decisions you’ll need to make are not comfortable. But if there is a holy and open opportunity that you would like to participate in, go for it!
Work on your relationships. The people you are connected to are the most valuable resource you have. Invest in that resource. The people you know are worth more than any amount of money, education, or material item in the world.
Relationships are genuinely everything. John got his college paid for by working for a priest, that priest introduced John to some wealthy Catholic people. Once John started spending time with those Catholics, they liked him and thought he was a good kid. One of those people paid for his college!
Social networking (in the most caring, human-relational way possible) is critical to thriving in this life. Not only will it help you in self-serving ways (a career, favors from friends) but connections will (more importantly) grant you opportunities to do good for other people.
Ask your dad, god-father, etc. to inquire to his friends at work about what kind of professional help they need. Sometimes, people will pay $200 for a younger person to mow their lawn and feed their dogs. Other times, there are internship opportunities desperately looking for the right person (you) to fill them.
Just offer people what you can do for them.
Colleges and Casinos: A Conclusion
College is meant to be an investment; you invest however much time and money it takes to walk out with a bachelor’s degree, which presumably is redeemable for a lot more in the ‘real world’ than the time and money you invested into earning the degree.
This is how the system began and it is the premise upon which it currently operates.
The key ought to be investing wisely, as one would when purchasing shares in a company. This involves, among other things, watching the market and investing in a company that has relatively inexpensive shares compared to what you stand to gain in the long run by purchasing them.
I don’t believe that this is the case, by-and-large, in American universities today.
Rather than investing, I think that stepping into the American system of “higher education” is akin to walking into a casino. Now, keep in mind that some winners walk out of a casino, but most leave with little more than they walked in with, or with little more than nothing.
One important difference is that, even if one walks in with more cash than they can afford to lose, they cannot gamble with money they do not have, whereas, in college, student loans can extend many years into one’s career and negatively impact their credit. This could potentially leave them worse off than they were the day of high school graduation.
Yet another eerily interesting similarity between casinos and universities is the decline of expectations in the face of failure.
For example, a bright-eyed, ambitious engineering student who fails their first semester of classes and winds up in a major they have no interest in, simply for the sake of getting something out of the institution into which they have already invested their expectations is not much different from an over-eager, amateur gambler who walks in to win millions at the Texas Hold ‘Em tables, only to end the night at the slots machine trying to leave with more than a crisp $10 bill.
What I am saying is that the gambling industry only works because most everyone who walks into a casino thinks they are going to be the exception–one of those lucky few who (literally) played their cards right.
The prospect of success obscures the overwhelming likelihood of failure.
In writing this, I suppose I can be likened to someone who took the gamble, won small-time, and invested my slim profit margin into something more reliable. Now I stand outside the casino with a picket sign like some doomsday prophet. (‘THE END IS NEAR!’)
I do, however, believe that the university system is only trusted and followed because it has been invested in so heavily as a ‘way out’ of the working class, and as the only legitimate means to what some would deem a successful career.
It continues to be profitable for those who run the systems (specifically public institutions of higher learning) because the state lends its legitimacy and funds the institution. Ironically, being a state-run industry where everything (coursework, success, excellence) is allegedly quantifiable, the subtleties of a classical education are trampled and left behind.
In short, if you are looking to invest in something, don’t start by thinking you’ll be buying up Silicon Valley in 3-5 business years. Investing is about starting small, and with something you have a legitimate reason to believe in.
Outside of the metaphor: get a job, earn some capital, and learn what the value of a dollar is before making a huge (often catastrophic) financial decision just because society encourages you to do so.
If you are interested in something that can be learned at a trade school, that’s where you should look to invest some of your hard-earned money and precious time. If gambling is more your style, or you simply have a lot of money at your disposal, maybe the ‘casino’ of a college career is just what you’re after.
Either way, we need to stop treating our four-year stints at a university as simply the next step of 13-16th grade because that is an expensive mistake full of disappointment, confusion, and false hope…besides, most people only go to a casino to drink, meet single people, and watch a football game; doesn’t sound so different from Texas A&M University.
Build your trust in God. Ask Him for guidance daily about whether or not to go to college, stay in college, or where He wants you to go professionally. Don’t wait for Him to send angels to you, if a door is holy, legal, open, and somewhere you want to go, pursue it!
- Why I Shouldn’t Go to College
- How to Become a [insert trade/non-college education required job here (carpenter, electrician, bank teller)]
- Check out: https://jobsforcatholics.com/
🎓 You don’t need to go to college
The One Thing—Gary Keller
What Do You Really Want— Jim Manney
Boomers (generation ranges): https://www.kasasa.com/articles/generations/gen-x-gen-y-gen-z
 A pro-life group on campus at Texas A&M placed hundreds of small crosses to symbolize graves of murdered unborn babies on a lawn (with college approval). I then witnessed multiple people stomping, kicking, and throwing away these graves because they felt it was ‘offensive’ and ‘against female health rights.’ Campuses generously protect and support LGBT rallies and students with resource centers and police presence, yet do not want to be associated with the Catholic side. Check out TFP Student Action on YouTube to witness some of the horrible students on college campuses if you do not believe that campuses have become a very toxic place.
 Texas Roadhouse salaries: https://www.indeed.com/cmp/Texas-Roadhouse/salaries