“You can have an education, I guess, but not one as good as mine…”

Here is Yale alum Leah Libresco responding with vigor to Keli Goff’s recent article entitled “Female Ivy League graduates have a duty to stay in the workforce”:

Goff assumes that women who leave the workforce will cease to use the education that they paid for, but there’s nowhere you can go that learning about beauty and citizenship and character and tradition aren’t relevant. The liberal arts are supposed to have taken up philosophy’s mantle as preparation for death — the study of how we should live.[...] The college grad starting out as a junior staffer or an administrative assistant may not be making much use of the more highfalutin’ skills she picked up, but those ideas and habits aren’t in abeyance until she gets promoted. They shape her choices outside of work and help her decide what organizations and causes she wants to serve, whether in a highly skilled way or not. Someone’s occupation shouldn’t be the only domain they expect to think critically in, and our place of employment isn’t the only space for us to give back.

Modern stay at home mothers might struggle to find ways to connect to their communities, but this isn’t because they’ve withdrawn from the workforce, it’s because the workforce is the only broad bond most people experience. The woman in the workforce and the stay at home mom could both use more Nisbettian communities and opportunities to learn and live well with others.

You’ll want to read all of Leah’s piece, and Goff’s.

The prejudice and resentment against women who get an Ivy-league degree and then choose to stay home and raise their children is not new. The New York Times was writing about it back in 2005, and for that matter, so was I. The insistence that Ivy women are too valuable to be full-time wives and mothers has been setting my teeth on edge for a long time, but the Goff piece was particularly annoying, particularly this bit:


There’s nothing wrong with someone saying that her dream is to become a full-time mother by 30. That is an admirable goal. What is not admirable is for her to take a slot at Yale Law School that could have gone to a young woman whose dream is to be in the Senate by age 40 and in the White House by age 50.

Can you guess what grates, here, besides the condescension inherent in allowing that “there’s nothing wrong with” choosing full-time motherhood? Besides ungenerously suggesting that someone with perceived “simpler” aspirations should be satisfied with a lesser education than they might desire, (which stinks of the same limiting-socialist nonsense Obama shovels when he makes himself “the decider” of what constitutes a “satisfactory” retirement fund for everyone but himself), it is the notion that the only women fit to aspire to leadership are the Ivy grads who put the best of their energies into their careers, which reinforces some elitist thinking, some ignorant stereotypes and problematic assumptions.

Goff is, perhaps all unconsciously, communicating an idea that Ivy grads — preferably Ivy law school grads — are the people who are entitled to power. An inferior degree from a lesser school is fine for most; perhaps even on a state level, someone with a degree from a second or third tier school (like, say, Sarah Palin) might be good enough for a governorship of a flyover or largely rural state, but real power — the kind reserved for federal leadership — belongs to the Ivies, and if you’re not ready to put the scramble for that sort of power before everything else, then you should move aside, go to community college and then state, and then plan out the garden you’ll grow with your kids. There’s a good girl.

That’s one step removed from the kind of crap fathers used to tell their daughters: “you don’t need to go to college; you’re just going to get married and have kids, and waste it!”

Ms. Goff’s argument, aside from too-closely resembling the belittling misogyny of the past, betrays a very troubling, dangerously insular mindset; it assumes that the best people to lead the country are those who have no idea what it’s like to sacrifice some of the niceties of life in order to raise one’s own kids; people who have no idea what it’s like to be the one everyone else relies on to pick up their sick kid from school; no idea of where, exactly our public schools are failing (because their kids go to private schools, of course); people who have no idea of how gas prices or tax increases impact the reality of day-to-day living; people who don’t know what it’s like to weed a garden with a little “helper” and then share the harvest with an elderly neighbor.

Seems to me, we could use some people in federal leadership who, having been educated in the Ivies (or not), also managed to take a decade’s post-graduate work to become educated in Applied Life Realities. In Ms. Goff’s world, though, there would be no room for a woman who raised her kids (and perhaps educated them) while creating a cottage industry to supplement the household income, and give herself a creative outlet, to boot. Such a multi-skilled gal might be the 21st century equivalent of “Harry Truman, Haberdasher”, but we’ll never know about her, thanks to this conceit that only the single-minded and relentless pursuit of worldly power and prestige will earn a woman the right to an office of power.

It takes an odd conceit to suggest that a woman with an Ivy degree has no right to stay home — and that a woman with a State University degree has no business aspiring to much at all — while a man with no degree, like NBC News’ Brian Williams, gets to help shape the national dialogue and sway the populace, every single night. It’s that weirdly masculine way of thinking and measuring that, once again, has “feminist” women becoming the veriest purveyors of everything they used to say they hated.

It seems like women have made an idol of masculine equivalences, and of allowing old masculine paradigms to continue to be definitive, even as relates to women’s issues. That’s as far away from feminine genius as it gets.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • http://backroomcatholic.com/ EpicusMontaigne

    I love those last two paragraphs. Beautifully states.

    I was thinking about law school, but there’s probably some kick-ass future stay-at-home mom in my spot. And by the time her kids get to be teenagers, she’ll need that degree more than me.

  • http://twitter.com/TotusTuus TotusTuus Allison

    Contentedly using my ivy education to homeschool and serve my family. (And my parents are happy in their investment, too.) Praying my daughter makes similar choices.

    I am sure that my “feminist” college would find my choices odd.

  • Mary Wallace

    AND…might I add, that perhaps Ms. Goff is suggesting that these women are the only ones who can be thought of as leaders (politicians, lawyers, etc.). Most women leaders I know are MOMS and WIVES first. Leadership does not equate to job “position.” As a higher education administrator at a large public university, with degrees (all the way through PhD) from public institutions of higher education, I know that my primary example and responsibility is to my husband (helping to bring him to holiness as he brings me to holiness), and my 4 BEAUTIFUL and AMAZING daughters. I pray that I can model for them true leadership, true faith, and true love.

  • Joseph Moore

    I’m married to a woman who could have gone anywhere for college, but chose to do the Great Books Program at St. John’s College. As a mom and as staff at a Sudbury school, she’s using every bit as much of her brains and education as she ever would in a law office or political position. And by raising our children and helping educate other people’s children, she concretely contributes to the perpetuation of our culture and economy.

    One thing an Ivy education seems to go out of its way to miss is that one’s place in the political and economic spheres is of far less importance to who a man or woman truly is than his or her place in family and community. One has not failed or settled when one chooses home and village over politics and money. One has chosen the real and substantial over the illusory and ephemeral.

  • tedseeber

    I’ll say it again here, but I’ll say it better and hopefully avoid the ad hominem attack on my envy that I don’t have.

    Article I Section 9 (h) of the US Constitution needs to be read and understood. And if the graduates of the Ivies are going to act like this, maybe it needs to start being ENFORCED.

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  • Elizabeth Raskob

    Not new at all – my faculty advisor commented (in 1965) that it was a pity to waste an MIT education on a woman who would just get married and raise kids. Which I did – then when they were grown went back to get another Masters, and entered the work force. But the most valuable work I ever did was raising the kids.

  • Suzy Q

    By the time I was graduating from the ‘Tute 20 years ago, it was my supposedly enlightened feminist classmates, asking, “Why did you bother going to college if you’re just going to stay home and raise kids?”

  • Maureen O’Brien

    Is any education rigorous enough to prepare one for raising human beings?

    Yet somehow, all those philosopher guys like Aristotle wasted their education on educating other people….

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Fabio-Paolo-Barbieri/1326821465 Fabio Paolo Barbieri

    It’s not just a matter of women and power. The way Goff spoke suggests that there is something wrong about the self-taught Abraham Lincoln being President of the USA. Sorry, darling, there is nothing written in any law that says that Ivy League law graduates have first call upon political leadership.

  • Norcalo

    That section prohibits affirmative action too, for what is affirmative action but unmerited advantage granted according to an accident of birth, and what is that, but a definition of nobiliy? And you see that Aff.Act. has the same results as nobility; among these being rule by an incompetent, such as we have in this country now.

  • http://www.facebook.com/carolineodessa Caroline Evans Frahm

    The Goff article is both elitist and sexist. But then again, maybe I don’t understand it because I’m just a stay-at-home mom with state university degrees.

    “Perhaps instead of bickering over whether or not colleges and universities should ask us to check boxes declaring our racial identity, the next frontier of the admissions should revolve around asking people to declare what they actually plan to do with their degrees.”

    So in other words, stay-at-home moms need not apply? Nice.

  • Libby_CO

    My sister worked at at Ivy League school (as a fundraiser) for years. Almost every woman she worked with had a nanny as well as some additional assistance for house care and meal prep. Which meant that when she had twins, and was stretched thin trying to juggle the various doctors appointments during their 1st year and day care runs (and time off when 1 or both got sick) her female boss had zero patience. So she left to give her children 100% of her attention.

  • Patti Day

    These rants have been going on since the mid-60′s when women were first able to make multiple choices to attend college, have children, and work outside the home. The castigation of women by women for the role or multiple roles they choose has gotten uglier and more elitist over the years. The “War Against Women” seems sadly to be a Women-Against-Women war.

  • Dagnabbit_42

    Proposed Constitutional Amendment: During the years 2015 to 2065, No person shall be eligible for office of public trust under the United States who shall have obtained most of their education from Ivy League institutions.

    Just, y’know, to flush out the system for a little while, reduce the overall epistemic closure and intellectual inbreeding of government.

  • Illinidiva

    Agreed. This irks me as well. Why is getting an Ivy League education equivalent with being a leader in society? It seems to me that you can contribute to society without going into debt to the tune of 250K+.

    If anything, Ivies tend to mess things up. All those bankers and lawyers with Ivy degrees did a grand job tanking the U.S. banking system in 2008.

  • Illinidiva

    How about womyn’s studies majors as well?

  • http://www.facebook.com/adrienne.barauskaslogan Adrienne Logan

    The arrogance of Goff seems to indicate that one not only needs a college education, but an IVY LEAGUE one for success! Seems to me that folks like Bill Gates, Mary Kay Ash, Michael Dell, Henry Ford, etc. managed quite well without a college degree. Many people forget that the big push for college was partially the result of the Vietnam War, and was a way to avoid the draft. Somehow that turned into a college educated individual being superior to one who did not attend college, and now you need a college degree to be a receptionist these days. Give me a break! To quote Albert Einstein: “Some people are over-educated for their intelligence…”

  • http://www.facebook.com/margaret.stephens.1806 Margaret Stephens

    Well, golly gee, I’m a Harvard grad who’s spent the last 25 years homeschooling my kids in a remote mountain cove in the south, and I didn’t even know that what I’ve been doing all this time is so un-cool. (we’re still not fully connected to the internet world….I will say that even down here the number of at home moms (and kids) is sparse….


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