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Charlie Kirk is right about tradeoffs between education, family and career

It’s true that ‘[y]ou’re going to have to choose’

Much attention has been paid to a response Turning Point USA CEO Charlie Kirk gave to a chapter leader from Pepperdine University who asked how she could balance her dreams of becoming a surgeon while also having a family.

The clip from Media Matters reporter Madeline Peltz has 1.8 million views as of this writing and the response has generated criticism from both liberals and conservatives. The exchange came during Turning Point USA’s annual Young Women’s Leadership Summit, which trains conservative high school and college females.

But my former boss is correct in the analysis he gave the student when it comes to the tradeoffs between family, education and career.

The student, named Abigail, said that she is “driven career wise” and her “goals are set on succeeding as an orthopedic surgeon.”

“I have really rarely thought about even getting married, having children, and even going into dating,” the student said. She asked for advice on how to “succeed in surgery” while also focusing on her personal life. “What’s some advice for really balancing my career as well as venturing into settling down?”

“You’re going to have to choose which one matters more, and that one is up to you,” Kirk said.

“You could potentially do both,” he said, before cautioning her that there are tradeoffs and that not having kids could leave someone “very miserable.” While some of Kirk’s comments were probably tongue-in-cheek, the overall point he is making was correct.

I’ve made my views on the ideal situation for married couples clear (you can read that here and here), but for now let us just focus on why it is true that there there is a cost/benefit analysis to all decisions, without addressing what the correct choices are in my view.

It seems to be lost on most of the critics that Abigail herself brought up the balance between work and life. She herself recognizes that there are tradeoffs. Her question about “balancing” shows she knows something must give.

For example, if I said, “How can I balance walking every day with losing weight,” everyone would say that’s silly. The two go together well.

But basic economic understanding of opportunity costs tells us that our personal life (family, hobbies, friends, faith) will compete for time with our work life, including the pursuit of education. That is why people talk about “work/life balance” and why there is a push for maternity leave.

Peltz tagged the Association of Women Surgeons in a quote tweet of her video and said she was “curious” what the group would say to Kirk’s response. But that group, whether it would explicitly say it agrees with Kirk, implicitly does. That is why it publishes information on the extra resources needed to support pregnant and parenting surgical residents. The liberal American Medical Association agrees that family time is a major stress for female physicians.

While the debate on this subject often focuses on women, given that biology dictates that the physical bearing of children is a heavier burden on them, men also must make choices.

Most of the responses that weren’t just ad hominem attacks on Turning Point or Kirk were along the lines of “I went to school and I had a family” or “I had a career and I had a family.” It is definitely possible to go to school and have a family. But that doesn’t mean people do not give up something along the way. Every hour we spend on one activity cannot be spent on another.

For example, I work the normal 40 hours a week for The College Fix and then write for the Washington Examiner and LifeSiteNews along with other odd jobs that sometimes come my way. My wife stays at home with our son. Of course I don’t spend nearly the same amount of time with him nor on household chores as my wife does. There was a decision made that I would primarily focus on earning money while my wife would primarily take care of kids and domestic duties.

Nor would I expect my wife to watch our son, do most of the daily chores like laundry, dishes and cooking and then work 40 hours a week. Of course I help around the house as much as I can before and after work and my wife sends me story leads or listens to me as I edit articles or bounce ideas off of her. But there are still decisions being made about how we’re each going to allocate our time.

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Again, perhaps in your family you’ve made different decisions about work and family, but that only proves that you too recognize there are tradeoffs.

Sometimes the truth is hard to hear, but we cannot deny reality – there is limited time and we cannot have it all.

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IMAGE: Turning Point USA/YouTube

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Matt has previously worked at Students for Life of America, Students for Life Action and Turning Point USA. While in college, he wrote for The College Fix as well as his college newspaper, The Loyola Phoenix. He holds a B.A. from Loyola University-Chicago and an M.A. from the University of Nebraska-Omaha. He lives in northwest Indiana with his family.