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    College Has Its Down Sides

    As a frum, professional writer and editor for over 25 years, I have helped quite a few overwhelmed college students with their college writing assignments.

    I am often surprised and disappointed with the sheer irrelevance of most of the topics. Sometimes, the subject matter is IRREVERENT as well. Jewish students delving deeply into Greek mythology seems wrong to me, and I decline to even read the material.

    Why is college still on such a pedestal, after all these years? Why is it deemed fit for EVERYONE? Why is the down-side downplayed?

    Lest I be misquoted by cynics as someone who entirely discounts college, allow me to reiterate my 2 specific questions:

    Before jumping to bite my head off, kindly read on.

    The secular world, undeniably, is replete with destructive influences, and no one is immune!

    The teachers themselves are not necessarily righteous people, and the language heard in the classroom may be unrefined, at best.

    It is entirely possible to earn a living without having to compromise the intrinsic purity of our daughters.

    True, college may be an appropriate choice for a select few, meant to serve the community at large, with outstanding skills in specific areas. BUT EVEN THESE PEOPLE MUST BE CHARACTERISTICALLY STRONG ENOUGH TO WITHSTAND THE MANY TESTS THEY WILL UNDOUBTEDLY ENCOUNTER ALONG THE WAY.

    The average person will be influenced. It is not a simple matter and should not be treated lightly!

    As for the question of adequate parnassah:

    Is the hand of Hashem short of capability?

    Hashem is the One Who sustains all of His creations, from the largest, to the most minute.

    Certainly, people who try to guard and protect their children from negative influences will merit Heavenly assistance as well.

    [the effect of] one hundred rebukes.

    This explains why a person who attends classes which contradict Torah hashkafos so often plummets spiritually, and quickly too.

    1. My children would ALWAYS be seen off to school by ME in the morning, and come home to ME after school, as well.

    2.They were NEVER ever watched by a non-frum babysitter. (A non-Jewish sitter was out of the question entirely.)

    I feel that I can therefore say, if there is a will, there is a way. (I am a single mother today, and I do struggle financially, but I have no regrets about not having gone to college. Honestly.) Perhaps Bais Yaakov should make all of the above-mentioned points clearer to their students, before they graduate.

    A person should weigh the decision of going to college in his/her mind a thousand times before taking a step so fraught with spiritual danger. And do not negate the exorbitant costs!

    Only the true gedolai hador should pasken on so weighty a matter, with all the pertinent factors of each individual clearly before them.




    I disagree. I believe that if your children have absorbed the values they learned at Bais Yaakov (or wherever) and at home, their “purity” is not in danger because they should already have the tools to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to the secular world. I have a friend who went to Bais Yaakov and took courses at a community college before she was in shidduchim (and no, she did not have to borrow money in order to do this; she contributed her earnings from a computer repair job and her parents paid for the rest up front). One of the courses was in oceanography. She told me with a smile, “They believe that the world is billions of years old!” Today, she is happily married to a great guy and has a baby (actually, she missed my wedding because the baby was born four days beforehand, but her husband stopped by to wish us well) and because of those courses, she is more than adequately equipped to support her growing family. It’s not like she didn’t already know that the secular world believes such and such. So when she encountered it in college, she was able to just laugh it off, write whatever the professor wanted to hear in the exam book, and get her degree without any damage to her faith or observance. If there are children out there (of any hashkafa) who reach the age of 18 and are unprepared for college because hearing these things from non-Jews will shatter their emunah, I blame not the non-Jews but the parents and teachers, who clearly didn’t do their jobs properly.

    Incidentally, I learned Greek mythology in high school English in an Orthodox day school. It’s called mythology for a reason– we read it for its literary value as a work of fiction, not because we chas ve’shalom attach any importance or sanctity to the named “gods”. I went on to graduate from a four-year college with a majority Jewish population and strong Orthodox presence. Yes, I have loans, but I know I will be able to pay them off, and I actually became more religiously observant in college, not less.


    So what is your suggestion for the people who will need to help support a family. Kollel lifestyle isn’t for everyone. And what about the people who have dreams about certain professions. You can’t take that away from them.


    I fully agree that it is a very slippery slope with dangerous classes. I was working on a degree in Education, but of course with that comes the liberal arts requirements, with problems like literature classes that read the problematic parts of hte christian bible (had to drop that one), art classes that involve images no ben or bas torah should ever see (never even signed up for that one) etc etc.

    unfortunately however, we live in society where it is often seen as “you won’t get a good job if you don’t go to college”. As someone explained it to me while I was trying to avoid this step: it used to be that not everyone went to college, so people hired people without a college degree, but now that its normal to go to college, no one will hire you without a college degree.

    this is a very sad state, and unfortunately, despite the number of frum college programs, many of them aren’t fully recognized in the secular world because they avoid these liberal arts requirements, and the ones that are recognized, unfortunately risk the loss of frum enviornment.

    I wish there was a decent alternative, but who knows


    Halevai more people should act with such (un)common sense.


    I agree with your points. I always say i want to (respectfully) invite all the Roshei Yeshiva in Lakewood to look into who is raising the children… at what cost does this come?


    The words you quote, while relevant and timeless, nonetheless were written in a time when women were not the primary or even full time co-breadwinners in most frum households. Today, a woman needs an education for many reasons, but most especially, because SOMEONE has to be able to earn a living, and many of the husbands are not doing so. Plain and simple.

    If she is uneducated, her ability to earn will incrementally decrease. There may be a variety of places in which she can become educated and employable, not necessarily in a college setting, but let’s be real. NOT every girl can be a morah.

    With great respect, in the ideal world we would not need to get education in a treifeneh environment. But we do not live in a utopia, and we have to be practical about life. College life may not be ideal, either (far from it), but in order to protect yourself from your enemy, you have to recognize who he is, and what his strengths are, and then arm yourself to fight back. Presumably, we get those tools in Yeshivah and in the home.


    On the one hand, I’ve been told by people (not necessarily Jewish most of the time) that college is a great opportunity for me to go out into the big, wide world and “find” myself. (I think in the case of the non-Jews telling me this, they mean that I can be exposed to junk and make an informed decision for myself – as if I haven’t already – whether or not I want to stay frum after seeing these “alternative lifestyles.) They stress how wonderful a place it is.

    And THEN they tell me horror stories about spiked drinks, date … troubles … and all those wonderful, safe things.

    College isn’t evil, but I can’t say it’s exactly the most wonderful place either, especially for a frum teenager.

    There are quite a few online colleges now, including Jewish ones, like Naaleh College. You don’t necessarily need to go away into that big, wide world to get a college education anymore.


    I agree with your basic premises. An orthodox single shouldn’t have to learn about Freud (As a married person, I didn’t particularly enjoy it either!)

    That being said, we do have a responsibility to learn a trade. If a person can do it without college, great! I personally tried and failed. I then went to college and love what I do (and earn a living).


    @funnybone – Freud? Oh, you poor soul! >.<


    Even when we set aside issues about parnossah and supporting families, it is a very difficult issue. On the one hand, I see the concept of protecting one’s spiritual health by controlling the environment their in and limiting their exposure to certain types of material. On the other hand, it suggests to me something very weak about how we raise our children if we are so concerned that mere exposure to ideas will corrupt them. It is a very difficult issue.


    Thank you so much for all the respectful replies!

    A lot of angles were addressed, and the thread stayed intelligent.

    Hurray for the CR!!


    More than the actual subject matter, the real danger is the culture shock. After being taught for eighteen years that modern secular culture is venal, shallow and a pointless pursuit of pleasure, our BY meideleh (or our BM bachur) gets to college and sees that it ain’t necessarily so. She observes that seculars can and mostly do, have happy, focused, fulfilling lives, and that college involves real intellect and scholarship. This often engenders doubt and causes her to begin to question what she was taught. Can you say, “slippery slope”?

    It has always seemed to me that it is counterproductive and dangerous to teach such derogatory things about the secular culture when anyone with half a brain and two eyes can see that it isn’t true. A better course would be to inoculate our kids against doubt by focusing, not on the superiority of our culture but on the singularity of our mission which is to be mekadesh shem Shamayim and Standard for the Nations.

    P.S. In the interests of full disclosure, I went to Engineering School where we only dealt with the minimum required Humanities.

    P.P.S. College or otherwise, I feel it is important to learn as much as one can about as many things as one can. There have been many times in my 43 year professional career when some random bit of unrelated information has proved relevant to a problem at hand.

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