Hello, and welcome to another Feminist Friday post! After 6 weeks of conversations, which you can find information about here, we realized that we had both barely scratched the surface of Feminism – and that we needed a good starting place, an area to spend more time on. What has been decided on first for focus is Education.
I had volunteered to host a post for Feminist Friday this month, and with the topic of Education, I volunteered to get us started. We’re considering talking about Education through age ranges, from early childhood – before schools even – through childhood, adolescence, and into secondary education – and on into adult education. But before hitting any of that, I felt that the place to start is with the purpose of Education.
While this might especially mean the purpose of formal education systems, I think that the question also applies to early childhood, lifelong learning, home schooling, and any number of other ways you might consider Education. Or at the very least, I would like us thinking about these things as we consider the purpose of Education.
I don’t want to present myself as having the answer to this, either. This is a conversation starter. I have some sources I want to point out, and I’ve done some thinking and reading. I’d also like to present a bit of my personal experience with Education. However, at the end, I will have two polls – about what we think the current purpose of Education is, and what we think the purpose of Education should be. And the comments board is open – please join in the conversation! Holly and I will both be giving that a look today.
Why Education and Feminism?
I figure if I am starting a conversation about both Feminism and Education, we have to start with this question. Where is the connection? Is it simply educating people about the existence of Feminism?
Happily, I have an answer to the question, one that we have mentioned on the blog before. The documentary Girl Rising, about girls, education, and the developing world. A deep international look at the power of educating girls. I can’t tell you everything from the documentary, and in many ways, I shouldn’t try to. On their website, they keep track of screenings and help you set up your own in your area – if this documentary intrigues you, check it out and see if you can get some people together and watch it. We got a group of over 100 together to watch it a few months back. Very positive responses.
I think the element that I can most easily share with you are the statistics from the film. Here is a link where they are gathered together, along with their sources. Now, imagine Liam Neeson reading the statistics. You’re halfway there.
They move on from the statistics like this to tell a very human story, by telling stories written by the girls themselves, with help from someone local to their country, at least. It’s not just a Western-constructed film about making us feel bad – it’s full of hope. And it talks about the power of education, the things that it can change in the places where it’s not universal.
Because it’s harder to tell the effects of education where it’s universal.
This documentary shows very clearly why Education is important as an aspect of Feminism. Educating girls has a phenomenal impact not only on those girls, but on their children, on their society as a whole. The movie somewhat concludes that if we did a better job, globally, of educating girls, we would have a substantially, measurably better world.
My Educational Experiences
In thinking about this topic, besides thinking about Girl Rising, I am thinking about my own experiences. I have been in basic American public school. I have been in a school-within-a-school – including International Baccalaureate. I have a Bachelor’s in a field which does not directly equate to a job – History – and then a Master’s in a professional field – Library Science. My most recent experience with education was this last semester, helping as a TA for a Master’s of Education course on Digital Citizenship.
All this is to say, I have seen many of the aspects of Education.
So I have experienced Education being unrelated to employment and job success. I have experienced Education being focused on testing. I have experienced Education where the point seems to be to get you to the end and out. I have experienced Education that seemed mainly to be a gateway to going to college.
I have also experienced Education that was focused on learning how to learn – an admirable life skill, but not a specific one that can go on a resume. Also, if you have to be in a special program for that to be the focus – then apparently that is not the goal of the rest of the Education system?
Out of all of these experiences, what was the benefit? What did I get out of going through an Education system? And how can I tell, surrounded by a country full of people who have also gone through an Education system?
The Value of Education
I got a lot of perspective on this actually by watching Girl Rising. The first level of observation is just in watching these girls – in societies that do not necessarily value them, or else do not value education, or else both. And you watch them fighting for Education, fighting to be in a classroom. And you see their families fighting with them – or fighting against them. I walked away the first time with this feeling of, “Hey, they clearly see some value in Education. What am I missing?.”
In watching it the second time, however, I got deeper into it – to a level I have mentioned briefly before. The idea that, in these societies where there are very traditional roles, maybe especially for girls and women – that Education exposes them to something else. To the other possibilities in the world. To the other ways that people live in the world. It shows that there is another way, that things do not have to always and forever be the way they have been.
This is the power in literacy, in reading. I argue that a book gives you the knowledge that you are not alone in the universe – that there is someone else out there, thinking things you have never thought before. Sometimes we read someone with a similar life or experience to us, to let us know we are not alone. Sometimes we read something entirely different from what we have experienced, to fill us with wonder.
At its most basic, I think that Education gives us the skills to be more than we were. Okay, but this is to vague and simple that you can’t quite build systems for Education around this. So this leads us back to our question, now with some of my thinking behind us, and with some statistics and thoughts to lean on.
Now for your thoughts.
The Purpose of Education
I don’t know that there is one answer or an easy answer. I think it will be different depending on region, on country, and probably on our age. Then you factor in personal experience.
So I know, it’s Wikipedia, but I looked through the page on the History of Education in the United States. Combined with my experiences, my thoughts on the topic, thoughts from Girl Rising… I have compiled a list of possible answers to the question, “what is the purpose of Education?” Go with this question however you want to: local, personal, Education systems or outside of schools.
There are two polls: the first is, What do you think the purpose of Education is? The second then is, What do you think the purpose of Education should be? I have left it open for multiple answers, as well. And the comments are open for even more of an answer. Do you have an issue with one of the things I put? Did you add something to the list and want to explain it? Personal stories? Let us know in the comments below!