Thursday, May 15, 2008

Wasted Minds

Continuing on the topic of arguments against staying at home, I thought I'd tackle the familiar "wasted mind" concern.  You know the one.  It follows the question, "why bother going to college if all you are going to do is stay home?  What a waste of a degree."  

I guess the response to that question depends on what your view of education is.  If you believe that the purpose of education is to get a job, then I agree that going to college is a waste for housewives.  But if you believe, as I do, that the purpose of an education is to enrich community life, stimulate democracy, nurture culture, and support wellness, then I think there is no such thing as a wasted degree.  

This debate over the purpose of education starts long before we make our decisions about having a career or staying home.  It usually starts when we are eighteen and trying to pick a major in college (or, I suppose, trying to decide whether to go to college at all).  Do you choose liberal arts, which is interesting but probably won't lead to a job?  Or do you choose a technical major, like engineering or accounting, and enter the job force right after tossing your grad cap?  
As for me, I chose the former and studied liberal arts.  And yes, it was interesting, and no, it did not lead me directly into a job.  But it did give me an opportunity to learn many valuable things, like how to critically evaluate statistical evidence, and how to compose my thoughts in an essay, and how to measure the validity of research.  I apply many of these lessons today when I read the news or write for my blogs or operate my etsy business.  

Our culture has a way of suggesting to us that the job force is the only place where our skills and our intellect are needed.  But it occurs to me that our neighborhoods might need them too.  And certainly our children need them.  

I made straight A's in school, and wonder what my professors would think if they saw me now, choosing the life of a housewife.  Would they shake their heads and think, "what a shame.  She could have done so much better."  I suppose that many of them probably would.  And I would agree that an educated mind is a terrible thing to waste.  Good thing I'm not wasting mine.

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