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Bryn Mawr for the win

buffalo's picture

I think Virginia Woolf would mostly approve of Bryn Mawr- for example many of our classes (like this one) do not have the same format as classes in big universities, because from what I’ve gathered at other schools there are too many students for the teachers to grade individual work and talk to students in the process of working- so almost all of the grade for classes come from big exams. Bryn Mawr has a different learning atmosphere than even my high school, (which is much smaller most colleges/universities) because here there is much more emphasis on learning than just the end grade. My friends at other colleges have so much more stress over their exams, which involves a lot of cheating, ect.  I talk here more with teachers about my work more that I ever have before, and their attention definitely makes me care more about my work. On the other hand it has been a bit different in some science here, where there is a more competitive feel, so she may not approve of that part. The issue about Bryn Mawr not accepting all female applicants poses another issue because it is not a place where all woman can choose to go- something Woolf wouldn’t approve of. Overall I think Virginia Woolf would approve of Bryn Mawr because we are getting a different kind of education, where it is less cutthroat, and more about figuring out who you are. I think that the Bryn Mawr environment would continue the truth of Woolf’s quote: "Though we see the same world, we see it through different eyes."  

            This weekend when I was at Temple University, visiting my cousin, I overheard a group of boys talking to some girls and the tone/language was surprising to me. I forget how guys can be, especially when a bit drunk, sounding so disrespectful and arrogant; fortunately I don’t get that at Bryn Mawr. I’m sure Woolf would want Bryn Mawr to exist to have an environment free of women being degraded. 


meowwalex's picture

I would have to agree that

I would have to agree that Virginia Woolf would disapprove of Bryn Mawr - we really do have such a competitive nature within our school that is often hidden very well. While my friends and I tend not to speak about the grades we have gotten, comments are made like "I hope I get atleast a...(insert high grade here)" or, when talking about professors, we discuss how easy it is to pass the class in comparison to other classes we have taken previously. While I agree that the emphasis at this institution remains on the process of learning and the overall enjoyment of it, final grades ensue a state of anxiety within me as well as in all of my friends. It was a competitive process to be admitted to this school -- we literally had to sell ourselves through mini essays and SAT scores -- and this competitive air is still present as we have now reached a different level of competition. Now that we are in college, perhaps we have become far less of a competition for our peers, and because of that, push ourselves even harder. Not knowing our grades in our classes are consistently as we may have in high school seems to make the situation even more stressful, and although we can pride ourselves by saying we don't focus on our cumulative GPA's or test scores, it is a conversation that happens outside of the classroom whether directly or indirectly -- an unavoidable need to be competitive with others, and most of all, competitive with ourselves.

rayj's picture

Harvard of Women's Colleges

I think it's important to recognize that Bryn Mawr, at its inception, was meant to be as academically rigorous as the most prestigious colleges and universities for men, and that its standards were set at a higher bar than even more prestigious schools, so in many ways, Bryn Mawr is the kind of school that Virginia Woolf disapproves of, the kind of schooling that trains its students to be comptetitive and to be able to perform at the same level as mail counterparts. 

I think, too, although we do not, as a social courtesy, speak explicitly about grades here, that does not make us any less conscious of our grades and the desire to strive to be the best, often at the expense of health (mental, physical, social). I think this kind of cloaked grade obsession is even more problematic than more overt instances, because it cannot be as easily addressed if it is not as visible.