On daughters, college, and nouveau patriarchy

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.

14 thoughts on “On daughters, college, and nouveau patriarchy

  1. I think I may come across sounding like I think I am really cool for doing all these things. I forgot to add one major thing I learned in college that is impossible to learn being homeschooled: that I am not always the smartest person in the class, and pretending to be won’t get me anywhere. I have to actually learn and proactively apply this stuff.

  2. I like reading your thoughts. I still want to see your paper from Freshman year on homeschoolers. And I still want to read all of your old journals from our childhood.

    BMB, no longer of Botkin Name, alway of Botkin Blood

  3. Bess:

    My childhood journals are in Bonners Ferry. My homeschooling paper is not even that great, but I’ll try to send you a copy from school.

  4. Katie —

    As always, your thoughts are clearly penned. Thank you for sharing on this important subject. If you were to envision yourself someday the mother of 5 children–three being girls–you would know how valuable your input is to this mother.

    Thirteen years ago we met your family. What fun it was to be in the midst of this intellectually hungry, creative, energetic group of children all waiting their opportunity to burst into the world and be all they were made to be.

    Your Friend, Lori Dressel

    PS: Congrats on the official engagement. He’s getting beauty and brains!

  5. “People do not do stupid things away from home because everywhere away from home is stupid, but because people are stupid.” From one previous homeschooler to another, bravo! I might mention that I know plenty o’ kids who did plenty o’ wrong while living under the watchful eye of their parents. Also, I liked what you said about pride and lack of love being more condemned than drunkeness and promiscuity. That does not get said enough!

  6. Your sisters need to get out of the house and go live somewhere before they preach against it. If you havent experienced something(that isnt morally wrong, ie.. murder) you cant effectively preach against it, or maybe credibly.

  7. Hello
    I found your blog from Thatmom. I liked your post, and the gracious tone of it.

    I would question one observation that you made:
    “I forgot to add one major thing I learned in college that is impossible to learn being homeschooled: that I am not always the smartest person in the class, and pretending to be won’t get me anywhere.”

    I don’t think it’s *inevitable* that being home educated means you won’t realise there are other, smarter people out there.

  8. Anthea,

    Thanks! I didn’t mean it to sound like you’re so isolated when you’re homeschooled that you don’t realize there are smarter people out there… but when your class is one person big, and you’re known for being “smart,” you can get kind of pedantic with people sometimes. Even if you’ve got other friends and social groups.

  9. Hello

    You make a good point there. Sometimes the problem is people outside of the family telling you how “bright” your children are. One antidote to that is to remind everyone that “they pick their noses like all the other kids” — can you tell that mine are still little?

    My husband has often wisely observed,”I suppose our two are bright, but no more than most children could be with the right encouragement.”

    What people see, and label as intelligence, is mostly a lust for life and enthusiasm for learning.

    Anyway I wish you all the best with what seems to be an upcoming marriage. Should you be blessed with kiddies, don’t be scared to try home educating them. I was a schoolteacher for 12 years and school’s OK, but it’s not as if our children are missing a whole lot by being out of it. There are some systemic issues that can dull the sharp edges of learning.

    I shall leave you in peace now!

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