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words on our priorities in education

bridgetmartha's picture

I don't really know where I'm going with this; all I know is that I need to get the words jumbling around in my head down asap, and rather than write on paper, I want to get them onto serendip so they can be seen by a pair of eyes besides my own. That being said, this won't be particularly coherent (and given that I've been drugged up on Dayquil all day, it'll probably be erring towards incoherent--hence the words jumbling around in my head).

We brushed on the directionality and agenda of education today, specifically in the context of education about economics and capitalism, etc. Anne highlighted in her notes a statement which, in skimming over them to find some sort of framework for my thoughts, stood out:

Our minds must be as ready to move as capital is, to trace its paths and to imagine alternative destinations.

My mind is not ready to move. It is not ready to imagine alternative destinations.

This is not because I don't want to. It is because of my education, or lack thereof. As I've come to realize since being at Bryn Mawr, I had a strongly conservative leaning public education. As in, I was taught that the Civil War was all about states rights. That kind of conservative. Given my own education in history, government, and politics--especially haven taken not AP or IB history classes, which have more prescribed curricula, but the general classes whose curricula were at the discretion of my teachers--I know very, very little about economic theory. I know about capitalism, from the very American standpoint of here-are-all-the-reasons-why-capitalism-is-great. I know all about American government and history, and about the history of other countries as they pertian to US involvement. I know a bit about Europe, and a bit more about Spain and Latin America (although that's from six years of studying Spanish as an elective, not from required history coursework. And so now I am lost trying to keep up with economic theory. I am trying on my own and have been doing so for the last year--reading up on terms, on the economic systems of other countries, teaching myself about the gaps in capitalism and shortcomings of our institutional structures. But given that already my mind is not wired to be particularly receptive of the theoretical and abstract, I am struggling. I left class today feeling like my  brain was in a cold medicine- and academic confusion-induced fog, and my stomach churned at the thought of doing more discussion of theory. Of having to do more readings in which I'll be flapping around, stranded in an ocean of knowledge that I, as someone who learns by doing and thrives on practical applications and hands on work, am not cut out for.

So what do our points about education have to do with all of this? I don't really know. All I know is that my education at a public high school in borderline-rural Pennsylvania failed me. It was shaped directly by the "america the beautiful" philosophy--that is to say, that the sun basically shines out of america's ass. (pardon my crude wording.) And this, I suppose, is where we were going: that education in the US is framed with an agenda that inhibits us from analytical thinking and from gaining a deeply feminist view of the world--that is, the type of feminist view that Mohanty and so many others call for, the feminist view, even, that 'third wave' feminism calls for. Any feminist view that invovles the critique of power structures and inequality, since it's easier to just teach that inequality is inevitable and avoid discussing other structures or why the existing ones in the US are so problematic. How are we supposed to think critically when the education system refuses us the tools to do so? Or when it just actively doesn't want us to? How can we reshape our education system to encourage not just regurgiation and close readings but also critical analysis of the world we live in, the lines we're read and the lessons we're taught every day? It shouldn't take graduating and going onto a very liberal women's college for me to be pushed to think about my education on a meta level: those are lessons that need to be encouraged but aren't and are replaced instead by a US-, democracy-, and capitalism-centered agenda that is a byproduct of the belief that America is the leader of the world and by the convention that young people should learn but not question, memorize but not critique, speak up but not out.