At this moment, in my family and extended family, there are just three females born Botkin who still remain Botkin: me, and <a href=”http://visionarydaughters.com/”>Anna and Elizabeth</a>. These two girls are more or less leaders in a Christian movement encouraging daughters to stay at home until marriage. They quote scripture to support this idea; Proverbs 7:11, for example, describing a harlot: “She is boisterous and rebellious; her feet do not remain at home.” This ideal of not straying from under a father’s roof means not going to college, and not going abroad alone, not even to translate the Bible.
I can understand why, for these two girls, this seems like a feasible option. Their father is my uncle Geoff, who is intelligent, loving, and considerate. Their family has made a business producing films and going on speaking circuits; the girls help do research, write, and act on occasion. Their brother Ben creates the music; other brothers and their father direct, film, edit, or also act. They are good at it. Isaac, the oldest, and my best childhood friend, trained in New Zealand; at the ripe age of 14 he was already, by himself, constructing animation for the U.S. Navy. The family gets along, loves each other, even when working so closely. They are good people and I miss them.
However, I do not think their proposed model is the best for all, or even most, families, and I think any movement that requires this lacks understanding and charity. I have certainly not stayed home my whole life, and this was not because I don’t respect my father or love my family. My father is a physician who worked chiefly in the emergency room; a family business is a little out of the question, especially if one is not allowed to go to school to get one’s credentials. I left my father’s house at 18, with his blessing, and, while he is the wisest, most multi-talented and loving man I have probably ever met, and while I have sought his good council for every major decision since then, I have learned a lot in the interim, away from home; things I wouldn’t have come across trying to keep the peace in Bonners Ferry, Idaho. My father has rejoiced with me in my journeys, which often led me back to his doorstep with something new; spices from North Africa, understanding of truly restrictive government from China, books from Europe and the ability to read them; intelligent people, future additions to the family.
I went to college; state-run college. The sisters’ major objection to college is its worldview: a Statist, “Marxist” worldview. They claim that “modern universities serve the State and teach their students to serve the State” (So Much More 133), warning that college curriculum would thus inevitably “do more harm than good.” The sisters have not been to college, by the way; I have been to four of them in the last 8 years. I encountered a lot of idiocy, but zero passionate loyalty to the State. Teachers typically dislike the government, for varying reasons; if anything, colleges promote an anarchist “down with the man” attitude. State colleges are paid for, in part, by the state, but so are roads, fire departments, 911 response units, and jails. The state gave me more money to attend college than I gave to it — no strings attached.
What I learned from college undergrad classes is somewhat limited, but I did learn French, some Anglo-Saxon, philosophy, semantic theory, linguistics, and First Amendment law standards, all from teachers who were good enough and interesting enough to spark love for, and understanding of, the subjects. I looked at my own cells under a microscope, acted in a children’s play, wrote for the school paper, became an editor of the school paper, and learned how to get along with the kinds of people who fundamentally disagreed with me. I learned how to speak, and write, in public, and this aided my understanding of a whisper. I learned how to travel, how to save money, how to cook, how to weigh each word for meaning, how to balance health with study and friendship with introversion. I did this without becoming promiscuous, without becoming a drunkard, without bending to the attitude that in order to live you need to give everything under the sun a try.
And this, I think, is the real objection to college: the fact that by attending it, many children have succumbed to this assumption. Thus, say the most careful, we must not even look the temptation in the eye; we must keep our beloved families close, where we can watch them, where we will be sure to never stumble. But this, my dears, is a great fallacy. People do not do stupid things away from home because everywhere away from home is stupid, but because people are stupid. If you <em>require</em> the security of a family’s rules to be good, your goodness is definitively based only on environment, and, likely, there’s a lot of error boiling already under your skin. Pride, for example, or lack of love for your enemy; two cherished Christian sins, damned in scripture more than drunkenness or sleeping around.
I am now teaching at this Statist institution, and I hope I am not doing more harm than good. I am trying to do the opposite, as I have been given the opportunity to try. As I type, I am holding conferences with my students. I am asking them why. I am saying: this is idea is a good start, but have you thought further? I am asking them to formulate clear suppositions, unmuddied by cultural clichés. I am not even doing this as a rebel: the composition courses here, in this Statist institution, are based on Aristotelian rhetoric, a triumvate of ethos, pathos, and logos.
And in the beginning was Logos. The word, logic; the expression of Being. Try it on for size sometime.