Educating Girls

Population Growth

When Slate Magazine starts recognizing the reality of a falling population, perhaps things are finally getting through. About That Overpopulation Problem digs into arguments that Wendy and I have been blogging and writing about for years. The article explores a specific angle at the issue that I have found fascinating. Let’s explore this.

The article reanalyzes the clarion call of the past 50-or-so years. “Overpopulation” has been assumed by the world, prospective parents especially, molding a culture that assumes responsible people would choose not to have children. Wendy and I push against that assumption by emphasizing that children are blessings from God. Why not have children? (See our book Love Another Child.)

One of our arguments is trying to get people to realize that a shrinking population would be devastating. That’s a tough argument to make when the population is expanding. That’s starting to turn around, as Slate admits:

It took humankind 13 years to add its 7 billionth. That’s longer than the 12 years it took to add the 6 billionth—the first time in human history that interval had grown. (The 2 billionth, 3 billionth, 4 billionth, and 5 billionth took 123, 33, 14, and 13 years, respectively.) In other words, the rate of global population growth has slowed. And it’s expected to keep slowing. Indeed, according to experts’ best estimates, the total population of Earth will stop growing within the lifespan of people alive today.

Now, I’ve read articles from people who admit that the population bomb isn’t going to be as big as the fear mongers proclaim, but there is a subtle “that’s okay” attitude about it. The assumption remains: a shrinking population would be a good thing. The Slate article, however, pulls few punches. It actually admits that the extinction of the human race could be a viable reality in the future, and they admit it’s simple math:

According to a 2008 IIASA report, if the world stabilizes at a total fertility rate of 1.5—where Europe is today—then by 2200 the global population will fall to half of what it is today. By 2300, it’ll barely scratch 1 billion. (The authors of the report tell me that in the years since the initial publication, some details have changed—Europe’s population is falling faster than was previously anticipated, while Africa’s birthrate is declining more slowly—but the overall outlook is the same.) Extend the trend line, and within a few dozen generations you’re talking about a global population small enough to fit in a nursing home.

Now here’s the interesting admission from the Slate article that I find fascinating, something that one of the professors in a Huffington Post interview I did last month: the education of girls shrinks birthrates. Forget one-child policies, forced sterilization or creepy eugenics. All you have to do is send girls to school and they’ll stop having children.

The reason for the implacability of demographic transition can be expressed in one word: education. One of the first things that countries do when they start to develop is educate their young people, including girls. That dramatically improves the size and quality of the workforce. But it also introduces an opportunity cost for having babies. “Women with more schooling tend to have fewer children,” says William Butz, a senior research scholar at IIASA.

This begs the question: what are they teaching the girls? Oh my, this is a whirlwind of a discussion that – as a teacher – I find absolutely fascinating. It digs deep into my fundamental pedagogical beliefs that should be on the minds of all parents. Modern schools don’t really “educate,” they “indoctrinate.” Schools proselytize young minds to become good workers. Not thinkers, creators, leaders. They are taught from an early age that true achievement in life is being the best employee possible.

The author, while not admitting this to be a regret, admits that he and his wife are the norm:

In developed countries, childrearing has become a lifestyle option tailored to each couple’s preferences. Maximizing fertility is rarely a priority. My wife and I are a case in point. I’m 46, she’s 39, and we have two toddlers. We waited about as long to have kids as we feasibly could because we were invested in building our careers and, frankly, enjoying all the experiences that those careers let us have. If wanted to pop out another ankle-biter right now, our aging bodies might just allow us to do so. But we have no intention of trying. As much as we adore our little guys, they’re a lot of work and frighteningly expensive. Most of our friends have just one or two kids, too, and like us they regard the prospect of having three or four kids the way most people look at ultramarathoning or transoceanic sailing—admirable pursuits, but only for the very committed.

When you really take in the reality of such a culture, it becomes almost overwhelming. If we continue this “educated” course, we’re doomed. We’ll slip into extinction and witness the devastation of the human race. It’s good to read Slate and see that some are realizing this, but they need to embrace a rethinking of what they believe to be educated thought.

About Chris & Wendy Jeub

The Jeub Family live in Monument, Colorado. They encourage couples to love God and love one another, building an atmosphere of love in their homes.

  • http://twitter.com/raisingrealmen Raising Real Men

    I noticed this same article and came to the same conclusions. A little more of *this kind* of education and the world’s in trouble!

  • http://www.facebook.com/huib.vanoortmerssen Huib van Oortmerssen

    So here’s the thing: teaching girls to become mothers is considered arcane.
    I don’t mind, in fact, I know plenty of girls who didn’t want to aspire to anything else while they were in school.
    I think it’s frightning how well the indoctrination works in schools.
    You’re tought that today it’s everyones right to make a career and that everyone is taken care of in a collective pention scheme. A pentionscheme wherein the newer generations take care of the old ones by funding their prior generation with pentionfees. Now in the Netherlands, this reality crashed in the 1980’s when the new generation simply wasn’t large enough to both pay for childrens tuitions ánd pentionfees. So they nationalised the oil industry and funded the pentions with the additional funds.
    But worst of all: pentionfunds were essentially not growing so much as beïng invested in realestate plans that didn’t work on account of there beïng fewer and fewer people to host in such schemes.
    That means that there’s this small group of people that have historically aqcuired the right to reïnvest the fee that you bring in as you make a career; a career that costs you time away from home, from building a family, wich generates the neccesairy amound of children to in the future: fund the pentionschemes.
    It has risen to debate in Germany now, that people who make more career take out more pention, but are seen as egotists for working more while others let their chances go to grow the children needed to pay for the careerpirates’ pentionplans.
    It’s pretty obvious that a call for ambition and wimen in the workforce, is in fact a misspelled call for more pentionfees for the pentionscheme(r)s and their realestate friends.
    But the wider public simply isn’t told.
    It in fact is taught to die out and they call thís system; western styled democracy.

    • http://www.chrisjeub.com/ Chris Jeub

      Hmm. That’s an interesting perspective that I hadn’t thought about.

      • http://www.facebook.com/huib.vanoortmerssen Huib van Oortmerssen

        But it cóuld just be a part of an economics tutoring program couldn´t it?

    • Samithemage

      Motherhood is a wonderful thing, but not every woman is cut out for motherhood. A woman who is miserable raising children will not make a good mother, and yes such women do exist. Women who love raising children should be praised and encouraged and women who love having careers and decide not to have children should be praised and encouraged and women who love having careers and having children should be praised and encouraged. However, women who have children and resent and abuse them because they are not suited to motherhood should be condemned.Having children is not something you should do because society tells you that you should. You should truly want children.

  • Bea76

    We sponsor a girl in India through Compassion International and one of the reasons we picked India was because our support funds her schooling. In her community most girls a) get no schooling at all because parents are working/surviving and b) school isn’t free. Our sponsor child has now gotten through the 3rd grade with our tuition money. She can read and write. Skills neither of her parents have. None of that would of happened if we weren’t funding her education. Regardless of what she does as an adult her life and that of any children will be improved because she’s gained needed skills to survive in this world. If this causes her to have 3 children instead of 10 so be it.

  • Margaret

    I don’t think it’s education nearly as much as social attitudes that develop concurrent with increased educational opportunities. In my family education is important, whether formal or informal. And we are a very “fruitful” family when it comes to children. :) My sister finished a double degree at 22 and got married, promptly had a kid, and hopes to have many more. She had intended to go on to medical school, but due to her husband’s joining the military that is on hold. So she may have a bunch of kids and go back as an “elderly” student. Her husband is one of 7 children, whose mother is highly educated and works in a university library. All of them are highly educated, but also devout Catholics who value children and love the large family. These families encourage and value education in women, and also set up a dynamic where the mother is not so burdened with a bazillion tasks that she has to choose between education/work, and being a good mother to her children. IOW, the dads are all deeply involved, and share the labor of parenting and running the house. For a woman who has been given a sharp mind and the deep desire to learn and use that learning, this allows her to mother her children and take care of the household without her having to deny those gifts.
    Women being literate, even having multiple degrees, is not the problem here. :)

    • A.Roddy

      When you say love the large family’, it means children are not valued as individuals but part of a group regardless of who does what chores in the house. True. these women may be educated but they likely identify themselves with a group. Children from larger families offten don’t how to interact with others outside their sibling group.

      • http://www.chrisjeub.com/ Chris Jeub

        What a bunch of judgmental jibberish. You’re so wrong on this, it’s hardly worth a reply. But, for the sake of whatever: I’d put my kids up to yours anyday in “how to interact with others.”

        • A.Roddy

          I don’t have kids by design. You are the one judgmental.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lila.rose.5249 Lila Rose

    Well, better pull your daughter out of school, quick. It would be terrible if she learned she has value outside her reproductive capacity.

  • Selah Selah

    It’s a bit difficult take the decisions of an upper middle class American couple and say that they’re representative of a world wide culture. I think the part you’re missing is that most of the world’s 7 billion people live in poverty – and I mean the kind of poverty that has no drinking water, not enough food, death from easily preventable diseases. Education opens the door for young boys and girls to escape that poverty. It’s not about indoctrination, it’s about giving people the ability to make choices where previously they had none.

    Food insecurity is a part of life for a significant percentage of the world’s population. Most parents would choose to safeguard their ability to feed the children they do have, rather than have more children than they can afford and watch them starve to death. Most parents would choose to build a better life for themselves and their families if given the tools to do so. Education is that tool, and as education means that less children die of poverty and preventable diseases, I sincerely hope we continue down this path.

    • http://www.chrisjeub.com/ Chris Jeub

      You raise interesting points, Selah, but they beg the question (that’s for molly above): less children die of poverty…but is less children the answer?

      I’d answer with two points. First, a shrinking population brings economic catastrophie. Second, the solvant for poverty is not a blanketed “education”; it is freeing markets and stabalizing empoverished economies.

      • A.Roddy

        More people do not equal better economy. Research shows highly populated areas experience more stress.

        • http://www.chrisjeub.com/ Chris Jeub

          No it doesn’t. Provide a link to your claim. I’d like to see it.

          Oh, and after spending a lot of time trying to find your imagined “research,” be open to the idea that you may have been dealt some lies about large families and overpopulation.

          • Samithemage

            I would like to know how exactly you would go about “stabalizing empoverished economies.” You make it sound so easy. I would also like to point out that it is third world countries that are filled with poverty, uneducated women, and high birth rates. It seems that the countries with lower birth rates and more educated women have higher standards of living. If it comes to the point that these countries need more workers, people will immigrate from third world countries and fill in the gaps. If it comes to the point that there aren’t enough people to fill in the gaps, people will start having more babies.

            • http://www.chrisjeub.com/ Chris Jeub

              Freedom and capitalism. Works every time.

              • Samithemage

                So how do you plan on implementing freedom and capitalism in these impoverished countries. Also, again, all of these countries with freedom and capitalism have educated women. So if freedom and capitalism also lead to the education of women, which leads to the terrible decline in population that you’re so concerned about, doesn’t that mean that freedom and capitalism are destroying society? You can’t have it both ways.

              • http://www.chrisjeub.com/ Chris Jeub

                Well, yes. That was the point of the Slate article. People exit poverty and in response they have fewer kids. My thought is this: have more kids anyway. Children. They’re blessings. Always.

              • Samithemage

                They aren’t a “blessing” to the family that can’t afford to feed them. Having 12 children when you can only afford to feed 3 leads to either malnourishment of all the children or a situation where some children receive more food and others receive less. And by afford to feed, I don’t mean a family that has to stretch every penny. I mean a family who literally can’t afford food. How is watching your children die because you truly can’t feed or clothe them or offer them medical care a blessing? It is never a blessing to watch your children die because you can’t do more for them. If you can have three children and know that you can support and care for them then that would be better than having 12 and watching two thirds of them slowly die because you can’t save them. You are truly lucky. You may not have money to spare but you can provide for your kids. Try living someplace where you literally are living in a trash dump, in a house made from what you can scavenge from that dump. Living off what food you can buy from you’re job that earns you pennies a day and from what food you can find in the trash. Watching your children die from diseases that don’t exist in the modern world. That is the reality of poverty and that is the reality in many third world nations because of over population. I don’t deny that their are countries with very low birth rates that might possibly damage their economy, but the truth is, that those countries will become immigration hot spots.

              • http://www.chrisjeub.com/ Chris Jeub

                This is SUCH a strawman. “Overpopulation is bad because somewhere someone is starving because of it.” Come on.

                No, the empoverished child is not a curse. All children are blessings. Other factors (political, economic, social) are to blame for poverty. To say that it has to do with population is, arguably, a denial of real problems that face our world.

      • smiavs

        FEWER children. Molly’s correct. Your grasp of the English language really is pathetic.

        ETA: Oh, and “catastrophie?” Really? The word is ‘catastrophe.’

  • Molly

    I think you need to learn when and how to use the term ‘begs the question’. I think what you meant to say was ‘it raises the question’ (it doesn’t really raise any question, your entire premise is utterly ridiculous not to mention disgusting, misogynistic, and silly). Here is a simple guide for you to understand, in the future, how to use the term ‘begs the question’:

    Begs the question is actually a term that comes from logic, and it’s used to indicate that someone has made a conclusion based on a premise that lacks support (1, 2). It can be a premise that’s independent from the conclusion (3) or in a simpler form, the premise can be just a restatement of the conclusion itself (4, 5).

    I remember what begs the question means by thinking that THEE argument raises a specific question–it begs *the* question–What’s your support for that premise? OR more informally, What does that have to do with anything? You use the phrase begs the question when people are hoping you won’t notice that their reasons for coming to a conclusion aren’t valid. They’ve made an argument based on a lame assumption. The question is What’s your support for that premise?

    What is really ironic and amusing is that your entire post actually begs the question. If you are going to yap on and on about how women are inferior and should not be educated, but instead ought to stay home popping out and raising children all whilst serving their man, at least, for the love of everything, learn how to actually sound as though you have a command of the English language.

    I would also point out that countries in the world who have higher level of equality between the sexes (particularly when it comes to education) also have higher qualities of life. Are you suggesting that women should remove themselves from the public sphere? Perhaps you should take a trip to Afghanistan, Iran, or Saudi Arabia to see what it is like for both men and women when there is such a great divide on a grand scale between the sexes. I feel for your children, both male and female, who are pigeon-holed into these ridiculous ideas of ‘male’ and ‘female’. I just want to hug them and tell them that they can be anything they want, and that includes being a housewife if that is their choice. How can you sleep at night knowing that you are stifling your children and taking away their ability to choose their own path. You chose yours, why not let them chose theirs?

    I am an educated woman, wife, and a mother. None of those things define *me*, I chose to be all of those things and never will I let an ignorant human being such as yourself try to tell me that what I am doing is wrong. For shame.

    • http://www.chrisjeub.com/ Chris Jeub

      Oh c’mon, Molly. You’ve worked yourself up way too much. Did you even read the post? The Slate article is very well written and poses intersting questions about “educated” views.

      • smiavs

        The only question I’m posing is what sort of “education” your kids could possibly be receiving if your own reading comprehension is so poor.

    • Jennifer S

      ” If you are going to yap on and on about how women are inferior and should not be educated, but instead ought to stay home popping out and raising children all whilst serving their man…” Those are your words, not his. And I see nothing to support your argument in any blog post I have ever read on this blog.

  • Jennifer S

    I appreciate the points made in this article. But I think that the variables are much wider here in the affect of decreasing population. Legalization of abortion, feminism, delayed fertility, economic woes, fear of the cost of children… those things have all had a profound affect on population. Now I suppose that one could argue that many of those things are a result of higher education…

    I discuss the innate value of motherhood with my kids (boys and girls) all the time. I have a BS in Nursing and worked for 17 years. But now I homeschool my 4 kids and love it. My education has absolutely helped me…but I always knew I wanted to be a mother. I think many kids do not see the joy that comes with child-raising and grow up believing they were a difficulty/inconvenience to their parents, which, and I have heard people say this, leads to them not wanting to add difficulty/inconvenience to their lives.

    Thanks for bringing this up –

    • A Roddy

      You are teaching your kids outdated concepts. Girls should know nitherhood isn’t their only worth and boys taught they aren’t just baby makers. While motherhood worked for you it may not be your kids’ goal.

      • A.Roddy

        oops I meant motherhood

  • fearcutsdeeper

    I am not convinced that 10 billion people on this planet is a good thing when so much of the population will live in poverty, not having access to clean air and water, plenty of food, while smaller and wealthier cultures have the lion’s share of resources and create the lion’s share of waste. It seems like a recipe for disaster and discontent.

    • http://www.chrisjeub.com/ Chris Jeub

      Yet you’re convinced that population is linked to all these awful things? The link is not there. Population does not link to poverty, pollution, hunger, or natural resources. This has been the assumed link for a couple hundred years, yet we live in the most prosperous time in the history of mankind.

      Instead, the burden is on you to show how population links to the awful things in the world. I am not convinced that there is such a link.

      • Samithemage

        Population is absolutely linked to poverty, pollution, hunger, and natural resources. The larger a population, the more strain on natural resources. The more strain on natural resources, the less likely it will be that people can grow enough food or have access to enough fresh water. The lack of food and water leads to an increase in the price of those resources, hence a rise in poverty. The more people the more pollution. 10 people produce more waste that 1 person. That’s pretty darn obvious. These issues can be overcome to a certain extent with careful regulation and oversight, but that of course requires a strong government that can enforce those regulations.

        • http://www.chrisjeub.com/ Chris Jeub

          Yeah, thank you for reiterating the logic of the 1970s, when Paul Ehrlich was crying the sky falling with half the population we have now. What’s “pretty darn obvious” is that these predictions never pan out. They are based in fear and control, and are economically illogial.

          Here’s logic, and history is plentiful with results: More people = greater economy = prosperity. In free countries, that is.

          • Samithemage

            Then why aren’t all those third world countries super prosperous? Many of those countries are quite free, sometimes so much so that there isn’t even a function government, so that means no regulations at all. Using your logic, they should be the most prosperous of all countries.

            • http://www.chrisjeub.com/ Chris Jeub

              Third world countries are free? Name one.

              • Samithemage

                Freedom does not automatically make things great and shiny. If you’re talking about freedom to do whatever you want, Somalia has no functioning government to enforce rules, so theoretically the people are free to do whatever they want. However, in any power vacuum, terrible people end up in charge or tiny regions and cause instability. In China, there is a huge lack of freedom and capitalism, but they are a relatively prosperous country and their economy is constantly growing.

              • http://www.chrisjeub.com/ Chris Jeub

                The first country that comes to mind that resembles freedom is Somalia? Now that’s a stretch. Political and civil chaos is what you call freedom? Try economic and political freedom.

                China isn’t free. They’re communist. Doesn’t count.

                Here’s what I asked for: a 3rd world country that is free, i.e. a country where people are free to pursue their own happiness. Here’s a list to help you out.

                You said there are many. Shouldn’t be that tough. Name one.

          • fearcutsdeeper

            What about India? It’s nominally a democracy, has extremes in wealth and poverty and a very high population.

            You haven’t addressed my other concern. America already uses a disproportionate amount of natural resources. How will an increase in population help that?

            • http://www.chrisjeub.com/ Chris Jeub

              I’m so GLAD someone responded! And I was hoping someone would say India, because it is the perfect example of how overpopulation is not linked to poverty. Until the late 1990s, India was one of the most socialist countries outside the Communist block. The social reforms of Mohoman Singh has led to the overwhelming economic boom of the country that they are still experiencing today. India has one of the most developing countries in the world, and their people are growing out of their poverty. The days of Mother Theresa’s Calcutta are largely behind them.

              Glad you answered. I think Samithemage parrotted a claim that is just not true. It is a claim popularly made to justify population control. Honestly, If you want to free people from poverty, promote capitalism and free markets. These are the only things that have ever worked.

              • fearcutsdeeper

                India Their birth rates vary greatly by region with some having a 1.7 birth rate while others have a 3-3.7 rate. Their birth rates are largely tied to socio-economic class where wealthier families have fewer children that poor families.

                You talk a lot about lifting people out of poverty but the reality is that a lot of wealthier countries advocate an unsustainable lifestyle that could not be replicated across the entire word population without grave environmental problems. Look at what’s happening in China with the air pollution. What would happen if every country in the world had China’s level of prosperity and air pollution.

              • http://www.chrisjeub.com/ Chris Jeub

                No, I don’t buy this argument. “Unsustainable” is most often predicated with a devaluation of human life, all the while societies that value human life are the most prosperous. China? For heavens sake, their rampant pollution and environmental problems aren’t because “wealthier countries advocate an unsustatinable lifestyle.” That’s jibberish. China has the one of the worst human rights violations on the planet.

                Look, this is very simple to understand. Human life is precious, always. When life is degraded, endemic problems follow. Pointing to overpopulation is a red herring — ignore the real problem and claim that the very solution is the problem. Societies that chase after population control “solutions” in fact commit the worst atrocities.

                Come to think of it, China is the perfect example. They’ve been forcing abortions and killing second born children for years, and their “sustainable” ambitions haven’t helped a bit.

  • samantha

    Before I get too far into reading the comments, I just want to say for myself as a stay at home mom of 8 (and would welcome more), that my public education combined with being raised as an only child of a divorced working mom did in no way prepare me for staying home and raising children. I’m nearly 36 and I’m still figuring out how to keep an orderly house, while keeping a diligent homeschool, being a loving and firm mom without taking over my husband’s job as dad, and being a loving wife while trusting my husband’s ability and desire to provide for all of us. That being said, I believe balance is key here. Boys and girls need to learn to work, and both can gain knowledge for a better life. How many boys today don’t want to chop wood or take out the trash, but would rather play video games or watch football? As for 3rd world country girls, they need a way out of the only source of income many of them have to survive – to sell their bodies and themselves. What kind of life would that give her children?