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Intimacy and Education

alexb2016's picture

I apologize for my late posting; my parents were up at Bryn Mawr for Parent's weekend on Sunday, and I didn't have a chance to visit my spot until this afternoon. While there, I reflected upon recent class discussions, and couldn't help but feel a little bit frustrated--and conflicted--about the role of women in present day society. I don't identify with the "radical" ideas that we discussed this past Thursday, but our discussion about ecofeminism coaxed out some bitter feelings that I've been harboring for quite some time (actually, I wouldn't exactly call it's a common topic of discussion with my roommate). The patriarchal views which dominate American society have even penetrated the bi-co, crushing any sort of intimacy that may have been emerging between students and their curriculum, peers, and professors. This obsession eith domination is the problem. We're so focused on dominating our academics, social tiers, and athletics that many have lost their love of knowledge. William Butler Yeats once said that "Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire". This is the type of education that our liberal arts institutions have attempted to provide, but that we have not truly taken advantage of. I want to return to the state where I love to write, read, and learn with out feeling like I'm robotically taking in information. However, this is easier said than done, especially gievn the academic rigor of Bryn Mawr. This week though, I like to think that I took a step back and tried to pace myself with my work in a way that made it much more enjoyable. I really developed my thoughts into concrete ideas, and wrote about topics that I'm passionate about (for my French essay). Not only did I take in more information about my subject, but I loved doing it. I realize that I won't always be able to spend as much time on my work as I would like, but I'll try, and I encourage others to try the same. If we can't foster intimate relationships with the curriculum, it's going to be a long four years.



Sarah Cunningham's picture


I love your identification of intimacy as the quality you want in your learning-- intimacy between "students and their curriculum, peers, and prefessors." That is a beautiful way of putting it. My question is, shouldn't "academic rigor"-- whatever that is, hopefully not rigor mortis!!-- have as one of its important goals fostering that intimacy, especially, perhaps with the curriculum, as you say? I'd like to think of rigor not as a stiffness, but as honesty and thoroughness-- but actually its root does mean stiff, same word as rigid. Maybe Bryn Mawr should reconsider: is that what we aspire to, academic stiffness and rigidity???!!!

The other strand of Alex's point seems to have to do with competition; when we talk about domination, an important strand of that is competing with other individuals and/or groups to come out on top. I don't think we can ever get completely away from competition, however unhierarchical we may want to be. It's both hard-wired into the way we are, and just a reality of life in general. But maybe with conscious attention to fostering the positive side of competition, without becoming consumed by the need to win, we could keep that sense of intimacy, of collaboration, which is probably even more important both to our survival and to our quality of life-- and to our education.