Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Women and education

This mother's comment helps illuminate the challenge parents are facing with regards to the difference between their children's expectations, particular those of their female children, and current reality.
This is the wall I have just hit with my daughter. She is extremely bright, and for 3 years now, I have told her that I will help finance a degree in any of the STEM fields. She has now decided she wants to go into PR work so she's going for a Communications degree (which I refuse to pay for). The one university that had promise in terms of level of education + no debt is Yale. If she got in, they give grants and don't do student loans. But of course, they don't have communications, so she's looking at UW-Madison AND living there (about 35 min commute from my house). The housing/meal plan/etc is approximately $19K on top of tuition/books. I told her good luck with all that debt. She's lost her damn mind but you know what, I'm of the mind of not letting her come crawling home when she can't find a job and is only eating ramen and pork and beans. We had a blowout last night where I explained that I have been there, done that, and she'd be smart if she learned from me. She tried saying I didn't have a science degree (which is where I'm pushing her) and I explained that STEM stands for science, tech, engineering, and mathematics and she needs to put her shit in reverse right quick.

It has not been pretty and you know what, she's gonna have to take the hard route. It's gonna suck for her.

She is currently paralyzed with indecision because I think she was under the impression that I'd fold and give in on her wishes to go into a squishy field. When I reaffirmed that I would only help finance a STEM field about a month ago, she sort of lost her shit and she's dithering and is considering the local branch of UW a few blocks from our house to get the first 2 years in cheap. Except even then, instead of driving less than a mile from home, she wants to live in the dorms they may be building and blow any grants or scholarships on that crap. I'm having none of it and there were tears and screaming and freaking out last night. The "girl thing" is on my last damn nerve right now. Welcome to the real world. Screaming and crying ain't gonna get you far and just like me, people will judge you as emotionally unstable. Get your act together.
The problem is that young women think they have the same out their predecessors always did: if plan A doesn't work out, you can always get married, right?  Well, in addition to the carousel issue, what man in his right mind is going to take on the debt that tends to go hand-in-hand with an educated woman?  Especially if she's already proven that her expensive education hasn't given her the ability to pay it off on her own!


Peregrine John said...

It's the standing firm against her insistence that really freaked the kid out. The girls, they ain't used to that. Good on ya, Mom.

Anonymous said...

I don't like the "you can't come crawling home" philosophy.

She needs to just be told "No".

If you see your child about to jump off a building, eat something poisonous, or committ complete financial suicide by going into debt for a worthless degree, you have every parental right to deprive them of agency on the matter and do everything in your power to stop it.

If you care at all about her getting married and providing your with grandchildren (and having the financial ability to care for them), you'll put a stop to this nonsense. Nobody is going to marry her with ivy league debt and 4 years of cock carousel.

Student loan debt is the anti-dowry.

Dexter said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dexter said...

The problem is that young women think they have the same out their predecessors always did: if plan A doesn't work out, you can always get married, right?

Back when I was an undergrad, I heard female students laughingly saying in public that "my husband will pay off my student loans" (this from girls who didn't even have boyfriends when they said it).

Should have been an eye-opener for me but I was stuck in the beta mindset back then.

Stg58/Animal Mother said...

My four year old son exhibits similar behavior when he jumps up and down and screams because he can't have five peanut butter sandwiches a day.

2000 Flushes said...

Raising a kid is something you do with kids. 18 year olds aren't kids. It's her life. How would you feel if you wanted to major in _____ and your parents said nope sorry, you're majoring in _____?

Maybe STEM is a wiser choice or maybe it isn't. Maybe she could earn more in STEM but realizes that that would come at the cost of her hating a STEM career. Maybe she sees the writing on the wall with all the continued outsourcing, amnesty, H1B bullshit. At some point, you have to let go and trust your daughter.

Besides, there is an argument to be made for squishy fields. For one, they are a safe bet as long as the klepto-bureaucracy keeps expanding. Being a chick, she will benefit from affirmative action. Why work hard to enrich some asshole CEO who would gladly outsource your job to India if Vishnay could do it 5 cents cheaper? Why not suckle the ripe, engorged teat hanging right in front of your mouth?

With IBR, student loan debt isn't really a concern anymore. Rack it up to infinity, pay a paltry monthly sum based on your income (which may well be $0), and the balance will be forgiven after 30 years. Pretty good deal. Add to that the high probability of dollar hyperinflation in the next 10 years, which will render all USD-denominated debt worthless. Higher ed is a great deal nowadays.

This mom sounds like a fucking buzzkill.

tz said...

Mother knows best (apparently not a feminist, or at least more realistic one).

Also, as I commented in the VP thread, student loan debt becomes an anti-dowry.

Doom said...

No man, or mother, hasn't had to face the sobbing, hating, and childishness. Most of both yield. If the mother does indeed hold her ground she will be giving her daughter the education she has not yet gotten. *Bam* I do pray she holds the line, I doubt it, but there is always hope.

Unknown said...

She doesn't want to go into STEM because she can't do it. Communications is easy. I hope the mother stands her ground.

tz said...

Quibble - A woman who has debt but has sit in classes and may or may not have gotten a sheep skin (what are natural condoms made of?). Some women might be educated, but there isn't much correlation between that and collage.

As I also pointed out, "the brothel"

Rigel Kent said...

@2000 Flushes: You are a moron who lacks in reading comprehension. The mom never said she can't major in a squishy field. Mom just said that she wouldn't pay for the daughter to do it.

It is her (the daughter's) life, and she can do whatever she wants. But if she's really not a kid, then she should be ready to pay for it.

Anonymous said...

I'm not a fucking buzzkill. What you said about her being 18 and making her own choices is absolutely correct. I cannot stop her from going into whichever field she chooses. That does not mean I'm obligated to fund her folly. She has an opportunity at a prestigious college (to which she may or may not be accepted, we both know), and yet because Yale does not offer a degree in communications, she doesn't want to go there (in addition to the fact that it's far away and she doesn't want to go far away). And when you say "Higher ed is a great deal nowadays," that is especially true in STEM where one can go into many fields. One of my sisters has a major in biology, minor in chemistry. She went to graduate school for optometry. The other sister has major in chemistry minor in biology. She's currently a nurse practitioner. Exactly how far do you think a masters or PhD in communications is going to get my child?

In my daughter's defense, she is currently hormonal, she warned me a few days ago, and I think having her PR dreams crushed upon the rocks of reality and my intransigent position on funding of college made her have a meltdown. In the end though, no matter how many tears are shed, again, I am not required to pay for her education and if she wants it badly enough to waste her years paying back thousands of dollars, working just to feed those loan paybacks, that's her choice and her cross to bear, not mine.

And Bob Wallace, she can certainly do STEM. Honors geometry A, honors college trig/algebra A, AP Chemistry A-, honors precalc A, AP biology A, honors physics A. That is in addition to all the other honors and AP courses where she currently holds a 3.95 cumulative and has a 4.0 this first month of her senior year with 4 AP courses. So please, just because she's a girl doesn't mean she's stupid.

tz said...

Perhaps after the melt-down she can grow-up

Anonymous said...

@tz, all we can do is pray at this point. haha

2000 Flushes said...


What's folly about it? You can absolutely pull good money with a communications degree, if that's what you mean by "going far." The eastern seaboard is full of girls like this who do. Keep in mind that it's not a terminal degree and many if not most people at her intellectual level will proceed to a master's or further in something else. It's very common for an 18 year old X major to wind up in Y career. Success is primarily about the person, and their domineering and networking capabilities.

I just do not understand the exalt for STEM. As if nurse practitioner or optometrist is some kind of pinnacle of success. It just sounds like you are imposing your own arbitrary preferences on your daughter. I know it is not a very "alpha" thing to say, but maybe she really does understand what she is doing.

tz said...

@LL Sirach, chapter 26, but also 22 and 42

10 Keep strict watch over a headstrong daughter,
or else, when she finds liberty, she will make use of it.
11 Be on guard against her impudent eye,
and do not be surprised if she sins against you.
12 As a thirsty traveller opens his mouth
and drinks from any water near him,
so she will sit in front of every tent-peg
and open her quiver to the arrow.

Anonymous said...

I could afford to send my kids anywhere they want but I don't see the particular reason to flush good money down the toilet. Besides I would rather invest in them running their own business after they get 5-6 years of relevant experience. Assuming MOOC doesn't revolutionize education between now and when my kids go my kids will get the following options

1) Trade school in promising fields
2) Buying/bribing an apprenticeship in a promising field
3) STEM at a top 10 program
4) 2 years community college plus Instate at flagship university for silly degrees (hell if they are sufficiently dedicated they could make it work).

I am teaching them the difference between good debt and bad debt at least in an age appropriate manner. So hopefully when it comes time to talk about college they will be rational about it.

Ronald McFondle said...

>implying doing well in the fem-dominated baby land of high school indicates future success in STEM

Anonymous said...

I meant to say that is what I am willing to pay for. Their options are whatever doesn't have them living off me obviously. But if they want to live off me past 18, those are their options.

tz said...

@LL - often runs articles supportive of STEMinists. Perhaps something there might be of aid. Lady Ada (Limor Fried) is smart and runs it.

Unknown said...

"And Bob Wallace, she can certainly do STEM. Honors geometry A, honors college trig/algebra A, AP Chemistry A-, honors precalc A, AP biology A, honors physics A. That is in addition to all the other honors and AP courses where she currently holds a 3.95 cumulative and has a 4.0 this first month of her senior year with 4 AP courses. So please, just because she's a girl doesn't mean she's stupid."

Then why does she want to go into a crap field like Communications? I know more than one graduate who went into it and ended up working in a small town for a little more than minimum wage. Everyone I know who went into it left - and none of them got a particularly better job. I've seen them become stockboys and janitors - nothing else was available for them.

I'm astonished that in this day she thinks she'll find a good job with a worthless degree.

Anonymous said...

@2000 Flushes, please check #1 on this article. And nurse practitioners or optometrists are not the pinnacle of success. They are the pinnacle of mothers who make their own schedule because both fields are in high demand. Both of my sisters have kids 4 and under, one husband is working, the other is in residency finishing medical school, and both the sisters can work around their husbands' schedules where the kids are with dad and it's co-parenting without childcare and extra income for good living. A very nice set-up for a woman who wants to be a wife and mother, which my daughter has expressed is her ultimate goal.

@Bob Wallace, most of this is covered over at Vox Popoli. I'm not sure why she decided PR, but that's where the communications thing came from. My brother in law works for a subdivision of Universal Music Group as PR. Part of last night's blowout was pointing out the uselessness of a comm degree unless we lived in a big PR heavy city (NYC, LA, Nashville) and I had to point out that moving is gonna cost a lot of money. She'll settle down, I suspect. Honestly, she's pretty level-headed but this current episode has me scratching my head on where her thoughts and ambitions are. I have explained that sure, you love music and musicals and artsy fartsy stuff. Not gonna pay the bills. Same with squishy degrees like sociology or 18th century English literature. She's just having an existential moment, I believe. It's scary to know you turn 18 and are pushed out into that big wide scary world and you feel overwhelmed. She's mentioned a few times that she can't believe she's a senior and she's going away soon. Hell, even her little brother has angst over her leaving the household. Me, I'm like, "Dude, GET SOME!" Not in the sexual way, in the "kick ass" way that the military uses. I want her to storm the world with caution but excitement over the possibilities. Of course, that is from the perspective of a 40 something mother who is past that scary stage. ;-)

Anonymous said...

"Success is primarily about the person, and their domineering and networking capabilities."

Then why buy credentials at all?

I very very nearly married and took on a woman's debt. She had a worthless degree in art and was earning minimum wage. I dodged a bullet there.

Anonymous said...

2000 flushes is about what a MarComm degree is worth. Well, no, wait, more like two flushes, if you tear it in half and wipe economically.

I have a niece with one. Honors etc, etc.. She's modelling to pay the bills. Luckily she has the looks for that, but then again you don't need a degree to be a model.

Unknown said...

I would suggest an alternative to both what the mother and daughter are saying: have the daughter do 2 years at a junior college. Then transfer to a school and degree that she is actually interested in pursuing and would only have half as much debt.

Of course the daughter is acting foolish by throwing a tantrum, but the mother is equally foolish in trying to push her daughter into a hard science field that she has no interest in pursuing. (by the way, communications is not a worthless field like art history or women's studies or some other victim studies). Does the daughter even have an aptitude and interest in science or math to get into yale?

It looks like yale has a special divisions or 'build your own major' which someone could probably get close tot he equivalent of a communications degree. It would not be STEM though, the horror.

pdwalker said...


It does not need to be said, but you are doing the right thing

Anonymous said...

"Success is primarily about the person, and their domineering and networking capabilities."

Then why buy credentials at all?

You are buying access to a certain type of student that they admit. Colleges of course don't realize this or don't care and start mucking it up with AA. Those girls in engineering that work 2 years and go raise children are a waste of networking space for the men. As are all those foreign students that are going back home after they get their prestige degree. But several of my college buddies have made it to where they have clout in places people have heard of and I have been able to get several other buddies interviews as a result. As they say half of all job openings are never posted anywhere.

Stg58/Animal Mother said...

I just do not understand the exalt for STEM. As if nurse practitioner or optometrist is some kind of pinnacle of success. It just sounds like you are imposing your own arbitrary preferences on your daughter. I know it is not a very "alpha" thing to say, but maybe she really does understand what she is doing.

Let me enlighten you, Toilet Cleaning Product.

Ever heard of Oil & Gas? As an example, Shell just announced a 12 BILLION DOLLAR Gas to Liquids plant to be built in Louisiana. Have you heard that we will be the world's #1 oil exporter in ten years? Wonder why? STEM degrees, directional drilling and shale plays

Anonymous said...

She's a good egg. She came in from work, apologized, we hugged it out, and we had a calm discussion about her future. There will be more moments like this but we'll sort it out eventually. I'm mostly grateful that she is sweet & respectful. I want the best for her with fewer hiccups than I had, but in the end, it's her life to live. Just keep your fingers crossed on Yale accepting her. Then it will all come down to the nitty gritty, there will be a choice, and we can move on. ;-)

Stg58/Animal Mother said...

Is she redheaded?

Anonymous said...

by the way, communications is not a worthless field like art history or women's studies or some other victim studies

Well, it's not as worthless as those degrees, but make sure you aren't thinking about the job market 6 or 10 years ago when you say there are jobs in that field. There are relatively few today, and they are at low salaries. The most likely place you'll get a job in MarComm as a recent grad is at a startup where you already know the founders. In which case, you probably don't need the degree to begin with, eh?

Yes, there are worse degrees to pursue, but it someone has the chops for STEM, going into another major is silly.

Don't think about it from a credential standpont (credentialism is on the way out). Think about it from an investment perspective. What is someone learning from four years in a MarComm program? Honestly there's nothing learned there that 6 months (a year at most) on the job won't teach a bright young 'un. From a pure utility standpoint, spending four years (at $XXk per year) to learn what could be acquired in 6 months as an unpaid intern is a poor ROI. We're headed into economic lean times. ROI will be king. The MarComm specialists 10 years from now will not have MarComm BA degrees, because the MarComm BA program isn't an efficient way to acquire the skills necesary to be good at the job.

Plus, on the off chance that what she's really pursuing is a MRS degree, the Communications Dept. is - aside from Wymyns Studies and Education - probalby the worst place to be. She will not meet exciting young men there. Maybe that's an angle Mom can sublty inject - there are 10 women for every guy in that major.

STEM on the other hand....

Anonymous said...

@Conscientia Republicae, nah, but she may have inherited some of the crazymaking from my Korean mother. Or should I not say that cuz it's racist? Heh

Brad Andrews said...

You can learn to communicate without a degree in it. Communication skills are vital, but get some solid backing.

Though the question left out is what is the point of her going to school in the first place? Is she earning her career merit badge? What pressures are being pushed at all. Note the discussion about the sex balance in higher ed for more info. It can be worth it, but are you looking only at a career or a complete life goal?

Captain Capitalism said...

More than happy to mail the mom (or the child-chick) a copy of "Worthless."

LP2021 Bank of LP Work in Progress said...

Oh no; finance and PR degrees? Finance degrees for women could equal men viewing you as banker trash. PR is all hen house.

Total loss.

LP2021 Bank of LP Work in Progress said...

I have shared my american express stmts with several people to illustrate how harshly one has to pay down and pay out real dollars to stay at a zero balance. For example, I charged $1,000 in a few days in health care needs; dental, medical equipment, meds, visits, etc., for dad and I. Total fiscal theft horror show but that is what I had to do.

When our money came in, $930.00 plus another $128.00 went to amex, I am at a credit balance for other reasons. The card was paid off, removed from my wallet and stays locked up with other docs (in case of a time where less responsible persons might find and take my card).

Debt is highly unattractive, near repulsive in women.

Glen Filthie said...

I fought this exact same battle with my daughter - and lost. I used the same tactics: 'if you dump the sciences to take 'Fine Arts' (whatever that is) - you are doing it on YOUR dime, chickie...'

So that is exactly what she did. After all, the beardo prof told her that her artwork was wonderful, and he was so cool and dad was a mean old grump - so of she went. She got the full meal deal too - student loans out the wazoo, hung out with the artsy fartsy tutu crowd...and today she struggles with loan repayments as a till monkey at a sporting goods store.

And of course, all that is somehow MY fault and she won't speak to her parents anymore. One of the liberating university experiences for her was that she discovered she was gay too.

I was fully prepared to fight this battle for my daughter's soul...but nothing prepares you for the loss. I don't know if my daughter will ever grow up. I hope she does...but right now, from what I know...she is 28 years old going on 13...

swiftfoxmark2 said...

Sounds like your daughter should have an arranged wedding. There is no point in her going to college and she would do better as a wife and mother. Intelligence like hers should not be wasted on college but instead be passed on to children.

Anonymous said...

@Glen Filthie

She is in god's hands now. You can only pray earnestly for her.

Jason773 said...

Something sounds weird here. How are the only options between getting into and going to Yale, or going to some UW campus. Hell, if she really was that smart and wanted to stay close to home why didn't she apply to Northwestern or Wash U in St. Louis? Seems like some of this is bullshit or her and her mother didn't think through the whole college application process.

CarpeOro said...

LL, you unlike 2kFlushes are showing the sense of a real parent. As a parent, time preferences and planning for the future needs to be done. 2kF is standing in for the generic grasshopper "what, me worry about tomorrow?". Obviously it ignores Vox's other site or is unable to comprehend the discussions there. Winter is coming and you are wise to at least try to impart the wisdom to your daughter. Another sad tale helping to reinforce my intent to home school when my wife and I have children. An understanding that any society that fails to balance views of past, present, and future is heading toward dissolution. 2kF is a good example why winter is around the corner, too focused on the present and ignoring both past and future.

Anonymous said...

@Jason773, the reasons for Yale or U of Wisconsin are Yale is grant based, I'd pay less than $5K out of pocket total per year, covering room, board, books, tuition, etc. UW is because we live in WI, in state tuition, we live 1 mile from the local campus and 30 miles from the Madison campus, therefore eliminating room & board costs at ridiculously high prices. We looked at colleges in Chicago and the surrounding area because she keeps saying she doesn't want to go far away. All of them have "financial aid" that tells you how much in student loans you get to take out in addition to tiny pell grants or scholarships. I have no interest in taking out loans to fund her education and she understands (somewhat) the burden of student loans. So no, this is not a bullshit story. The whole college application process is applying to the college. You know, where you fill in your name and address and write a spiffy essay and list all your accomplishments. Now, applying for financial aid is different, and it will include her father's income, regardless of his intent to help with college costs, and his income will be added to "my share" of the burden based upon the FAFSA determination.

Does that clear things up for you?

Anonymous said...

Sounds to me like she just wanted to have fun in college, her future be dam-ed. I means seriously, what girl wants to spend 35 hours a week in a lab/computer lab doing real practical work for 4+ years to struggle to pulls B's (or even C's) when you can pick a major that requires you to only read books 2 hours a week leaving 33 hours a week (that you would have been in a lab) to party, drink, get laid, and pull easy As? Seems like a no brainer if you are not a moral agent and don't worry about where the money to pay for this lifestyle comes from....

Anonymous said...

Glen I am so sorry for what happened to your daughter.

Unknown said...

My parents did the same thing. I got a degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering. Paid off $82K of loans all on my own, in just over 6 years. I only stayed with my parents a year out of school. Then I found a job and picked up a Master's in the same on their dime. I'm 30 and have been making six figures since 28. Yeah it sucks to pound out differential equations when the communications majors are playing disc on the quad, but I'm typing this from my house located in a suburb of Boston on a 400 square foot screened in porch. Which is better than Frisbee. STEM fields are growing, have demand, and for a woman especially the future is bright. Good on you mom!

John Williams said...

but the mother is equally foolish in trying to push her daughter into a hard science field that she has no interest in pursuing.
Yea, what he said. What do you think this is, 1953 where the parents actually guide their children in the right direction, no matter how hard the fight?

Devon, Look at the classes she'd taking. How can you say she has no interests in hard sciences when she's taking calc, chem and physics? She's just shittesting her mom. It's what girls do.

Anonymous said...

---I just do not understand the exalt for STEM.----

Computer Scientists are the 21st Century factory workers in offices that are limited only by the constraits of Information Technology. They make the money for the company or create ways to SAVE the most money the company is already spending. They offer the largest ROI in the office.....

...and quite often, those who graduated STEM can do things that most other people CAN'T.

That is the big deal.

Anonymous said...


I work in Institutional Research for a University - we study Universities themselves and understanding outcomes is a huge part of it.

Just remember that Biology while a stem field is the worst possible job market right now. Graduates are 4 times the number of job openings. My father and father in law have PhDs in bio and have had trouble their entire careers getting work.

If your daughter sets her eyes there then she should focus on bioinformatics or biostatistics which actually pay really well. Both of which require a MSc in the US to get anywhere.

Engineering can be good, but Civil engineers have a hard time getting work, I believe followed by Mechanical.

Anonymous said...


If your daughter can hack math, recommend her to Statistics program, it's very employable much more so than physics, chem or math.

Anonymous said...

@giantironman, I have a double bs in math & econ with a heavy emphasis on statistics/econometrics. I can't find a job for the life of me. My previous position was as a cost analyst in a manufacturing firm. Almost all the recruiters like my resume but firms are looking for an accounting degree. It is maddening. So in my off time right now, I'm taking an online course in cyber security. Difficult, but hopefully it might get me in the door somewhere in IT. Plan B, last ditch effort will be tech school for welding (I do my own car and motorcycle work so I'm not afraid to get dirty). With the economy & unemployment situation as it is, almost all fields suck, but my point to my daughter is STEM sucks less than everything else.

Unknown said...

LL: You are absolutely correct in your choice. You are being a great mother and a great parent. I wish my own parents had given the same advice! It's the advice I give to all of my younger cousins and which I will give to my own children, (unless the entire higher education system has imploded by the time my children are ready for it).

As it happens I still managed to become a software engineer by virtue of being smart enough and having done it as a hobby. But that's sheer luck, and all of my friends are fucked right now. They're in the mid to late 20's, working as starbucks baristas, trying to figure out which grad program to go to next in order to defer the grim reaper of college debt for a few more years. They walk around miserable and depressed. You can actually see the misery of the debt in the sallowness of their skin and the downturned corners of their mouths. It's always there.

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