Christian high school and homeschooling curricula increasingly require a “career prep” class. Modern people think of a career as a lifetime occupation or profession that requires special training. But the word originated in the sixteenth century from the French carrière meaning road, from the Italian carriera meaning racecourse, and is based on Latin carrus which means a wheeled vehicle. So career refers to the general course of action or movement of one’s life. To assume that “career” means a job is the assumption of an industrialized society that places work outside the home as more important than work inside it.
Assuming they can’t just give it the heave-ho, what should Christian school curriculum do about the flummeries of “career prep” class? What would a Christian “career prep” class look like? Consider four features.
Four Features of Christian Career Prep
First, it can’t be androgynous.
The calling and roles of men and women are different. Men need to develop a plan for a career. Women need to develop skills for being faithful homemakers patterned after the Proverbs 31 woman, who works from the home, is productive, hardworking, skilled at management, and able to conduct family business. It’s not that women will never or should never work outside the home. It’s that girls shouldn’t be burdened by career expectations.
Betty Friedan’s book, The Feminine Mystique, argues that female domesticity is immature and detracts from their full human identity. Friedan articulates the message of second-wave feminism, namely, that to reach maturity women need to leave behind the feminine order. Specifically, Friedan taught that fully developed, mature, and intelligent women need a career outside the home.
When boys and girls are together in a “career prep” class, they are each equally surrounded by the expectations for a career outside the home. This is the world imagined by Betty Friedan and Simone de Beauvoir. When girls are surrounded by the assumption of a career, guess what happens? The career is assumed to be higher; something that needs preparation.
Here is a common pattern for Christian young ladies. They graduate high school and go to college. After five years they graduate college, probably with debt. They get married and get a job. After a year or two at the job they have a child and quit the job, living the rest of their life as a wife, mother, and homemaker. So, in this pattern, what does the girl need preparation for? The two-year career or the rest of her life as a wife and mother?
Christian girls should be in an environment that operates from the assumption of Scripture rather than godless feminists. The female energy should be harnessed to the human and creative purpose of the family for the simple reason that domestic work is not inferior. In society today, the levelers see no distinction between male and female. Girls breathe in the societal air and intuit a low view of motherhood. For modern people, stay-at-home moms are strange creatures. The need of the day is to capture the imaginations of girls and show the beauty of being a wife and mother.
This is done in G.K. Chesterton’s essays on the family, where he establishes the dignity and humanity of homemakers. Students can read a selection of Chesterton essays, including “Women in the Workplace—and in the Home,” “The Wildness of Domesticity,” “The Drift from Domesticity,” “The Emancipation of Domesticity,” “The Dignity of Domesticity,” and “The Feminists and the Factory.”
Second, it can’t be all about college
After high school, a young man needs to blaze a path to establish a career. This is also the time when one most often meets their future spouse. College is one of several legitimate options, though families should count the cost carefully before borrowing money for college. Whether graduating from homeschool or a classical Christian school, students should be prepared to further their own humanities education without paying for college classes. Most Christian families simply can’t afford to send multiple children to New Saint Andrews, Hillsdale, or Grove City College. For men, therefore, college often needs a specific career goal to justify it. Some fields of work require a certain degree, such as doctors, lawyers, teachers, engineers, accountants, and so on.
Many careers don’t require traditional college, such as plumbing, electrician, mechanic, HVAC, medical jobs, etc. Entrepreneurship, also, doesn’t require a college degree. There are many ways to learn besides throwing money at an overpriced college. Books and online videos can teach much of what is needed to be an entrepreneur. The point is that college shouldn’t be assumed. Pope Leo XIII”s 1891 Rerum Novarum can inspire students to build a household economy.
Third, it can’t be called “career prep”
Jean-Jacques Rousseau thought of work as obscuring human nature rather than fulfilling it. Work was the result of “some fatal accident” which should never have happened and need not continue. In contrast, Christians view work as a blessing from God. Serving others through labor testifies to the usefulness and purpose of man on earth. Providing subsistence for yourself and your family through labor locates human dignity in the energies of sweat, diligence, character, and intelligence.
Christian education must, in part, prepare covenant children for a lifetime of work, which is an altogether more expansive thing than a job. Christians are obliged to work, not merely for subsistence’s sake, but to keep Alive, to keep self-respect, and to flee the sinfulness of sloth. Leisure—the pursuit of higher things—is not pleasurable without labor. Labor is the antecedent to artistic development, which is never so lasting that the artist can claim perfect finality. This does not mean the elimination of career pursuits. But it does make a theology of work the indispensable condition upon which a career rests, and not just a career, but the entirety of household responsibilities for men and women alike.
Maybe a class called “Christian vocation” would be more fitting than “career prep.” Saint Augustine’s On the Work of Monks will teach students the Christian imperative of work.
Fourth, it can’t neglect responsibility
Responsibility implies the force of obligation that has a social character. Parents are responsible to care for their children and children submit to their parents. A teacher is responsible to teach students and students are responsible to learn. A magistrate is responsible to reward good and punish evil and citizens are responsible to respect and honor magistrates.
Duties abound in one direction or another. For a young man to think about his future is to think about the responsibility of taking a wife and creating a new family, providing for it, and making a new Christian household. Young people need to learn to take responsibility for a family sooner rather than later, or else their sexual urges will conquer their souls. The default of human nature is that desire wins over duty. Growing up into maturity means receiving divinely-assigned responsibilities and forming a path that resolves the tension between duty and desire. Finding joy in the Christian life is catching a vision that responsibility and happiness are not mutually exclusive.
To that end, a “Christian vocation” class is preparation for the home. G.K. Chesterton said that only “domestic education” is particularly true. This is essential, lest Christian families continue as the pipeline for secular society—which currently is a partnership to destroy the family, marriage, the marriage act, children, and the soul. Preparing for the home, though, is more than a girl’s home economics class and boys learning how to hang Christmas lights. It means making the home productive and turning Christian workers into owners. It means teaching how to create a miniature Christian society inside the home. There is a distinctly Christian structure that is social, cultural, and economic. It cultivates the interests of the Christian family rather than flatters the college admissions office, the corporate board room, or government bureaucrats. The opening line of G.K. Chesterton’s The Everlasting Man, explains that “There are two ways of getting home; and one of them is to stay there.”
Domestic life is the larger matter. Commercial or official life is the lesser matter. This is why Titus 2:5 instructs women to be about the greater matter of “working at home.” Why should Christian schools pressure teenage girls to pass from private life to public life? Better to learn that providing conversation, culture, meals, and moral support for your own child is more important than social work for one hundred children absorbed by the system. The point, again, isn’t to teach girls they can never choose public life. The point, rather, is to teach them that commercial life is the smaller life.
Robert Farrar Capon’s Bed and Board will stroke the stunted imagination of students to shoulder the responsibilities of creating a robust Christian home.
To “essay” something is to attempt and this entire proposal should come with a trigger warning for those evangelicals who operate with the assumptions of modern society. But, that’s entirely the point. What would it look like to have a “career prep” class that operated on different assumptions? Feminism’s inflexible insistence on working outside the home effectively cast cold water on the household. It imagined that in the triumph of liberation, women’s unhappiness would wither away. That, of course, has not happened and Christians need not be embarrassed about educating students in a way that Gloria Steinem finds inconceivable.
 Mortimer Adler, The Syntopican I (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, 1952), 921-922.
 Dale Ahlquist, The Story of the Family: G.K. Chesterton on the Only State that Creates and Loves its Own Citizens (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2022), 172.
 Dale Ahlquist, The Story of the Family: G.K. Chesterton on the Only State that Creates and Loves its Own Citizens (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2022), 15-19.
 G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man (Rough Draft Printing, 2013), 7.
 Dale Ahlquist, The Story of the Family: G.K. Chesterton on the Only State that Creates and Loves its Own Citizens (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2022), 170-180.