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w0m_n's picture


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Often, however cliché, you’ll hear students remark that some of the learning that happened in school did not occur in the classroom. If I had to choose one way to describe my education and it’s intersection with my gender and my life that would be it. The word education is often interpreted to mean education in a formal sense with classrooms and tests, and professors professing knowledge to be learned. In thinking about how I view my gender, female, and my representation of it in my daily life, I don’t recall a single lesson from class but rather from musing on about things I had seen and still do see from everyone around me.

My “out of the classroom” education has given me the kind of education that is not discussed enough. My formal education has served. This is the kind of education that teaches you about who you are and the way you navigate your space in the world. I feel that in my past classrooms the kind of conflict and uncomfortable feelings that allow this learning to happen exist in diluted amounts in the classroom. They were then taken into hallways and once brought there were tested by the real life occurrences of human nature.

I don’t think of one education as better than the other but rather, that there is a distinct and often off-handedly mentioned interplay and connection between the two. The Lego sculpture pictured above is meant to reflect that. Both in the larger structure and the latent smaller structures there is a balance that helps to make the overall piece one. The conversations that happen in the classroom form a basis for the conversations that happen in the hallways.

As far as my gender, female, my education both formal and informal did not really come into the picture until recently. It wasn’t until high school that I actively started identifying as female. In my international politics class we were discussing international human rights laws, and how they are reflective of the cultural conflict between the dominating Western cultural values and the other cultural blocs of the world. When we discussed equal rights for women in the international human rights laws, we started thinking about what it means to be a woman and how the laws should protect that right. That section in class got me thinking about my own experience with my gender. Until that point, I had passively identified as female but it was from my musings with my peers that I had come to actively say that I am a woman.

Recently I’ve found that more and more these two different educations have merged in my classrooms, but more and more I’ve wondering why this doesn’t happen earlier. Why is it an option to have engaging, stimulating classes that really push you into uncomfortable places?  Why is it an option for the hallway conversations to happen in the classroom?

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Anne Dalke's picture

Taking a page out of your book....

Why do you end your essay with questions? Are they rhetorical? Can you theorize about why these two forms of education--in-the-hall and in-the-classroom--have been separate in your life? (That is, do you have hunches about WHY that separation is so generally enforced?) Then: why do you make classroom queries the 'basis' for 'testing' in the hallways? Why not reverse the causality--make what happens in the hall the basis for what we do in class? Which comes first: theory or practice? Or can they "loop," and feed one another? (To think more about this, see  skindeep's essay, which also looks @ the relationship between education that occurs inside, and that--such as instruction into the differnce between being a girl and boy--which happens "outside of the classroom.")

Your lego structure 'works' well as an image of the parts which make up a balanced whole, but it is curiously un-human looking (might it be an abstract heart....?) Curiously un-human, that is, as an illustration of the gendered component, @ least of your education. Getting closer to representing all the dimensions you describe might be a lego structure of a woman, perhaps a women caught in a larger structure (of oppression....?)