Monday, November 9, 2015

How to Get a Degree without Drowning in Debt

The student loan system in this country is terrible. It's a bad system that doesn't give most people a good return for their investment and often traps them in crippling debt. It’s not designed to help students, but to help the colleges have a steady stream of new students paying tuition, whether or not they can afford it, and whether or not they receive a good return on their investment. Don’t get sucked in to the student loan vortex.

If you want to go to college and get a good value for your money, you have to do these things. None of them are optional.

1) Study a subject that will get you a job. A majority of majors in the university will leave you unemployed and deep in debt too. Study STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), not humanities, English, or social science. The latter fields are simply not worth the money to study at a university because they don’t yield good job prospects. Unless you are independently wealthy and have nothing better to do with your money, you’re better off to just study these things in your spare time by checking out books at your local library. Paying a college to teach them to you is not a good use of money.

2) Only go to college if you have reason to believe you are good enough at academics to finish your degree with a decent GPA. Unfortunately, many colleges are all too willing to accept unqualified applicants who can't do the work and will fail. If you don't finish the degree, you've wasted your time and money.

3) Make studying a priority during your college years. College is far too expensive to waste your time partying and acting like an adolescent. If you're going to pay for a college education, use it wisely and actually educate yourself. Make getting good grades, gaining knowledge, and making connections who will give you a good recommendation a priority.

4) Avoid student loans as much as possible. Instead, work as much as you can and apply for scholarships and grants. Go to a cheaper school, if necessary, or sit out a semester and work full time to earn the money. And if you do take out student loans, at least work part time so that you aren’t putting all your current living expenses into loans in addition to tuition.

5) Remember that the proper amount of student loans is zero and any non-zero amount must be justified by careful study and number-crunching to make sure it is worth it. Your future is at stake. In my experience, the only time student loans are an acceptable investment is when you’re going into a high paying field (think doctor, lawyer, or engineer), have very high graduation and employment potential (good grades and some work experience), and your realistic (not idealistic) future income will be sufficient to pay for your total student loans in less than 10 years while also allowing you to cover all your living expenses. You have to crunch the numbers and make sure the investment, including the interest you will pay, is worth it in better job prospects and pay than you could achieve without the degree. You can’t rely on the system to check this for you. They are all too happy to mortgage your future for a degree you can’t afford and that won’t get you a job.

For more on this topic, check out this excellent video from Prager University on the subject of student loans and how they are bad for students.

It is possible to go to college and get a degree that will prepare you for a job and to do it without drowning yourself in debt. I did it. I graduated with a Master's degree in Biology, with a 4.0 GPA throughout, with no debt, and got a job right out of college. But I’m the exception. You can’t just do what everyone else is doing and expect things to work out well for you. You have to be smart and informed or you’re likely to end up an unhappy statistic, paying down enormous debt on a degree you never use.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Soul Mates or Sole Mates?

The idea that there's just one person out there who completes you, is your other half, and with whom a close and intimate relationship is easy and effortless is a secular idea (and a false one), not a Biblical one. Too many people are looking for a soul mate instead of putting the hard work into making the relationship they have work.

Don't worry about whether you and your spouse are soul mates. When you get married, that person becomes your sole mate, and it is God's will that you make that relationship the best it can be.

Of course, some couples find it easier than others to understand one another and get along. And it can be easy to think that someone else has the perfect marriage when they seem to make it work so effortlessly. In some cases, this is due to personality types that are low drama. In most cases, however, it is because those people who seem to have it so good have merely developed good character and habits that make marriage easier and make good communication a regular part of their everyday routine. They figured out behaviors that make life smoother and worked to make them habits.

Here are some good habits to develop in your marriage:

  • Show gratitude for everyday things like taking out the trash, going to work, doing laundry, or making meals

  • Express physical affection (hugs, cuddling, kisses, holding hands) every day and not just during sex or date nights

  • Take time to talk regularly about something that isn't logistics like doctor's appointments or what the kids are doing in school

  • Do little things for each other like getting a glass of water or making a favorite meal without being asked, and do them frequently

  • Consult with each other before making changes, inviting people over, or making large purchases

  • Be careful to speak positively, both to the spouse and about the spouse to others

  • Learn to communicate effectively by listening well and speaking respectfully

  • Resolve conflict calmly and rationally, without arguing or accusations or manipulation

  • See yourselves as teammates and have each other's back

So, whether your marriage is an easy or hard one, whether you finish each other’s sentences or can hardly understand each other, you can make your marriage a close and happy and God-glorifying one. You don’t have to instantly and effortlessly click to build a great marriage.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Problem with "Values-Free" Sex-Ed

One of the common talking points of the left is that abstinence-only sexual education “doesn’t work.” This is their justification for the current sex-ed programs in public schools. But are they right? Is abstinence-only sex-ed ineffective? Should we be teaching kids more about sex? Are there problems with the current system?

If your idea of abstinence-only education is to only tell kids "don't have sex" and that's it, then that’s a poor plan. But if you follow up teaching abstinence with reasons why abstinence is good (like protecting yourself from heartbreak, disease, and unexpected pregnancy, making your future marriage more likely to succeed, reducing your chances of living in poverty, pleasing God, etc.) and strategies for refraining from sex (like not spending time alone with your boyfriend or girlfriend near a bed, seeking accountability, etc.), then abstinence education can be very effective.

For the most part, people who belittle teaching kids abstinence assume that it’s going to be the first case where you just tell them to say no. But that is (mostly) a strawman. Very few people believe we should leave sex-ed at just the instruction to avoid it until marriage. Most agree that children should be taught more and expect that reasons and strategies will be included in the discussion. So the criticism of abstinence-only education is flawed. It's really a good choice if it is done right.

If the alternative to abstinence-only education was merely teaching them about different forms of protection and contraception, but still holding up abstinence before marriage as the norm and the goal to strive for, then I wouldn't necessarily be against it.

However, the sex-ed given in most schools these days is known as "values-free" sex-ed, which means they don't place any value on morality at all, even though sexuality is inherently a moral topic. On top of that, they blatantly teach that having sex as a teen (or even a pre-teen) is completely normal and fine, and don't teach the dangers inherent in having sex outside marriage (which go far beyond STDs and pregnancy). There is no condom that will protect against a broken heart. There is no way to have sex without making an emotional connection, despite the common teaching to the contrary. There is no protective measure to prevent premarital sex from causing fallout in future relationships and marriages. So even if you're teaching kids to use a condom every time, you're not really keeping them safe.

What's more, the emphasis on how to have sex "safely" (which is a misnomer when applied to sex outside marriage) and on making it cool and normal teaches kids that if they aren't having sex, there must be something wrong with them. And thus they're getting pressure from the school system, in addition to their boyfriend or girlfriend and peers, to have sex before they are prepared for it. And even for those already inclined to have sex, telling them it's perfectly okay isn't doing them any favors. They ought to be learning to develop self-control - the kind of thing that will help them out in their future life and marriage - rather than being told to just give in to their urges.

So, no, just telling them not to have sex isn't sufficient. But "values-free" sex-ed is even worse. The kind of sex-ed that teaches children to be promiscuous, to see sex as something to be "safe" from, to see babies as a danger to avoid, and to consider unexpected pregnancies as a crisis to be fixed by killing their unborn children is not only immoral, but it's not best for our children by any measure.

An education that is lacking in a moral foundation is inherently flawed and incomplete. And anyway, how exactly can you teach about a subject like sex, that is inherently bound up with morality (in pretty much every religion, by the way), without discussing morals?

If you teach that sex should be saved for marriage, everyone realizes that such a position involves morality. But the thing is, if you teach that when to have sex is up to each individual child to decide when they feel ready for it and give no other conditions for engaging in sex, that's a moral stance too (an immoral position, to be precise). It's not neutral! That’s not values-free sex-ed. It’s sex-ed that teaches the wrong values.

So if we're going to say that public schools should take no stance on the morality of sex, it should be completely silent on the topic and give only the biological details of human reproduction in science class. Teaching kids how to put on a condom or how to perform oral sex or teaching that sex is fine whenever they feel ready for it is not keeping morals and values out of the classroom.

I should also point out that if we're going to make schools the realm of facts, as has been suggested, then it is only right to include all the facts. And the fact is that sex places children in danger of a number of things beyond STDs and pregnancy.

Children should, at the very least, be given all of the information if we're going to turn them loose with no moral guidance. They should be told about the effects of oxytocin that will emotionally bond them to their sex partners. They should be told about the heartache that comes from having sex with someone who leaves you. They should be told that having multiple sex partners makes their future relationships and marriages prone to breaking up. They should be told that they can become jaded and unable to love freely due to being hurt too many times by having sex without a marriage commitment. They should be told that having a baby before they get married greatly increases their chances of living in poverty and that contraception fails regularly. They should be told that using porn can interfere with their ability to make love to a real person. They should be told that having anonymous sex can lead to depression and suicidal thoughts.

But with all the current rage for giving kids all the facts about how to perform all kinds of sexual acts and how to take pills and wear devices to protect them from disease and pregnancy, no one is telling them about the risks involved to their emotions and relationships and mental health, much less to their eternal soul.

So what is really happening when we tell children to have sex whenever they feel like it without telling them all of the facts is that we aren't actually educating them at all. We're indoctrinating them. We're actively teaching them promiscuity with no regard for the damage we are doing. That’s what modern “values-free” sex-ed does. And it’s not okay. We can do better for our children.