Wednesday, November 21, 2007

But I Want Her To Go To Yale

Yesterday was the open house for the parish Catholic school we'd like Hannah to attend next year. This issue of finding the "right fit" in a major Metropolitan City has my entrails tied in knots. My parents and my husband's parents simply sent us to the local public school up the street. The choices for our kids are overwhelming without adding clarity to the "right fit" part.

We'd hyped the benefits of this school for so long, the actual Open House ended up as a bit of a disappointment for me. After getting all three kids pinned into their car seats, I asked my husband "So list the good points you noticed and then the bad points."

"What bad points?" he answered. After a brief discussion we arrived at the parking lot of Jon's work. As we traded places in the drivers seat, he leaned over to kiss me. Then he said brightly "there's nothing much to worry about, after all we don't want to send Hannah to Yale!"

My stomach turned. "But I want her to go to Yale."

I have such lovely memories of Yale: the neat quadrangles, the fantastic college sailing course, the Yalies I debated against in APDA rounds.

There is a saying going around homeschooling sites which says "educating for heaven not Harvard." I have issues with this. My concerns against Harvard are the amount of TAs that teach undergraduate courses, not a bias against ivy league education in general. I like Yale, and Williams, and Swarthmore, and of course, Smith. I'd be happy if Hannah chose to stick closer to home at Catholic University, or skip college all together to pursue a dance career in NYC at age 18. College is her choice. My role is to insure that her talents have time to develop into a solid foundation for wherever God's plans will take her. Still, I have issues with the assumption that the path of a serious scholar is not also a path to Heaven.

Catholicism is the one religion that fully engages both my intellect and my heart. I'm invited to ponder the most difficult theological thinkers and also enter happily into mysteries which are beyond my understanding. I personally need both. I need the challenging Catholic writers, St. John of the Cross, and the tangible kindness of my Catholic choir director. (My cure for the lonely futility of the Catholic housewife last Friday was to engage in a literary criticism of "On the Road.") I can't imagine my life without my finely tuned love of reading. That type of love is less likely to be inspired by hanging out in kindergarten with "leap frog" learning stations.

I'm sure this present dilemma of kindergarten; public, French immersion, Catholic, or homeschooling, will resolve itself by February. My discomfort with the "anti-intellectualism" in some Catholic circles will remain.

Such is the lot of a girl in the middle of the working mom's cultural debate. A mother with a huge educational loan debt who is still happy that her "useless" graduate school education enables her to cheerfully stay-home and serve as the primary teacher for three small souls.


  1. we sent our son to a Jesuit High School after attending public school through 8th grade--the difference is extraordinary--the school teaches the whole child--intellectually, spiritually, emotionally. . .I could not have asked for a better environment for my son--I truly wish everyone could experience this education

  2. This post touched home in a couple of different ways. I wonder about this same issue, although my daughter is only 2. I had a wonderful public school experience and did very well, waiting until the very last moment to decide, I ended up not choosing Yale. (I do, from time to time, wonder how choosing Yale would have made my life different.) I grew up wanting to go to an Ivy League school, believing they were the best. And while I still believe they are great and attending one is a wonderful accomplishment, having moved to Boston, I see that the Ivy League experience is not without fault, opening my eyes a little. So I am trying not to allow any expectations to form in my head. I'm horrible about having expectations in general, so this is just another battle in my war. Be glad that you realize that "My role is to insure that her talents have time to develop into a solid foundation for wherever God's plans will take her." I pray that I can stay focused on this same idea. I look forward to keeping up on your decision making process.

    On another note, my aunt has taught elementary French immersion in the DC area for years. I don't run into many people who even know what that is. How crazy is the small world of blogging!

  3. I know that the phrase "Heaven not Harvard" has negative implications. I think that it is a reaction to the mindset that assumes that folks homeschool simply to have their kids be "smarter" than the PS kids.

    Just a thought...

    There are plenty of kids in PS who are smarter than hs kids...Is intelligence a a function of family and style?

    Perhaps so...

  4. Ooooh yeah. This is something we talk about a lot too. The increasing disconnect between higher education and religion is such a tragedy. As the great convert John C. Wright recently said when he responded to an atheist's comment about Christianity being incompatible with true learning, "We invented the university, for God's sake!" Truer words.

    My husband went to Yale so we always assumed that our kids would at least try to go there as well, but now we're reconsidering it. Lots to think about!

  5. Definitely food for thought here, Abigail. I wanted to change the expression from "heaven, not harvard" to something else because my father went to Harvard Medical School, and is a good, holy, man, with a passion for learning....I know higher education is different these days, but I think the importance of the "life of the mind" and intellectual pursuits are so important.