Searching For a Balance in Education

Searching For a Balance in Education

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Searching For a Balance in Education


The definition of "education" encompasses many different meanings. It can be defined as schooling, studies, learning, the educational system, and the list continues on. Both Adrienne Rich and Jon Spayde feel that education is composed all of these elements. But learning at a school, inside of a classroom is only the beginning. There is much more to learn other than what is inside of a text book. Learning, in large part, will come from experiencing the happiness, horrors, tragedies, and other lessons that life will bring us. We will not be able to truly appreciate our gift of knowledge until we learn to look within ourselves and to gain the self- awareness we need to recognize the meaning and importance of education. Spayde and Rich feel that a school education alone does not prepare us for the real world. Both Spayde and Rich give accounts of what they have experienced inside the educational arena. (66)

Jon Spayde, author of "Learning in the Key of Life,²s ntless experiences of many writers to illustrate the various types of education that exist in today¹s society. He and his colleagues don¹t necessarily believe that a formal education is the only way to learn, but instead there are various avenues for acquiring knowledge. ³The whole world is a classroom, and to really make it one, the first thing is to believe it is. "(62) In Spayde¹s essay, Elizabeth Sutton- Lawrence discusses Greek education, known as "in-the-street education,"where the Greeks "learned largely in part from first-hand experience. Socrates met and challenged his "pupils²"in the streets, at dinner parties, and after festivals.²"(us) Even if universities had been established in Greek times, Socrates, most likely would still have chosen to educate himself in the streets. He probably would have chuckled at the idea of formal schooling. (62)

According to Spayde, not only did the Greeks believe in self-education, but so did other classical philosophers. They believed that to enliven the mind ³"You need to be very alert to the world around you."(63) Awareness is so critical to our learning experience. We¹ll never appreciate the beauty that life brings us if we don¹t sit back and reflect on the experiences that we¹ve learned from. New York Jazz and rock writer Gene Santoro expressed that we can also learn a lot from ³popular culture.² "Jazz", for example, ³"is the artistic version of the American experience.

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It¹s both disciplined and unpredictable." (63) Colin Greer, Co-editor of The Call to Character and The Plain Truth, makes an attempt to find the relationship between what people learn from books and what they experience out on the streets. (Spayde, 63) We can study some of the moments of major change in the world both through books and literature, and from what we learn from other people, for example issues such as child labor. We can learn all about child labor in our classes at school as well as from text books. We can also learn about child labor from the people around us, including our friends and neighbors, and from the media, etc. (63)

There are many different ways to become educated in today¹s society. Society offers lessons through living, training courses, formal education courses, workshops, and we could go on and on. "There are as many ways to become educated as there are Americans." Adrienne Rich, author of "What does a Woman Need to Know²?"as been a writer and teacher for most of her life. She gave a commencement speech at Smith Women's college in 1979, regarding issues of women in education. She strongly believed that women were denied part of there education in the formal school setting, and felt that it was necessary to rely heavily on educating one¹s'self through life experiences. (65) Receiving a formal education is not for everyone, in fact, Rich feels that most of what is learned, can be experienced through the awareness of life¹s lessons.

Although both Rich and Spayde still feel that a rich education must evolve from a balance of school and life experiences. Spayde argues that a truly good education may well be one "Carpentered out of the best combination we can make of school, salon, reading, online exploration, walking the streets, hiking in the woods, museums, poetry, classes at the Y, and friendship......."62) Self education, by far, is of great importance in creating knowledge for one¹s self. We all learn by living. Most things that people experience in life will have some type of lesson attached. It is our choice whether we want to take advantage of the learning experience or let it go and choose not to learn from it. Imagine if we could not learn through living, just what kind of meaning our lives would have.

Rich supports formal schooling, yet she also questions many aspects of it because she was denied being taught her roots as a woman. Rich is lucky to have that ability to remove herself from her position in society to see what she says is known as the "truth.²" The truth came to Rich through self- awareness, and also the insight of what was existing in her surroundings. Women were being denied part of their education. They were attending a women¹s college, and yet were not being taught some of the most important women¹s histories that are essential in knowing, when truly getting to know one¹s self. For example, histories of women in other countries and cultures. Though women¹s studies programs exist at many colleges, Rich feels that women are often presented with biased information by male professors, who choose to distort the truth. (66)

Rich feels that a formal education is important, and that academics are absolutely necessary as part of one¹s learning experiences. However, she also believes that educational opportunities are influenced by class and power. Although women are becoming a more inertial part of society, as far as their careers and their involvement in the political arena, we are still living in a society that is largely male dominated. (68) Rich feels that not only are women denied parts of their education, but the women's schools are run and taught by males. As Rich speaks out to her fellow, sisters, "An ideology of the education you have just spent four years acquiring in a woman¹s college has been largely, if not entirely, the ideology of white male supremacy, a construct of male subjectivity."66) Because men continue to be viewed as the all-powerful, it is important to Rich that women begin to stand up for their rights and to empower themselves through their education.

Though women do hold some upstanding careers, this kind of power can sometimes become known as a false power because ultimately they are taught to ³"tank like men."(68) The only true way for a woman to create inner change in herself is through the"outsider¹s vision."The outsider¹s vision is a special insight or awareness that women contain to empower themselves. Women must be aware of discrimination and male supremacy in today¹s society, they must take action to change it. (67) Some of the women who have taken action to change our world have often been thought of as "strident," "shrill,²" or "crazy.²"(69 Rich) These women had the courage to speak their truths, and yet were looked down upon by society. (69) These women from the past include the marriage-resisting silk workers of pre-Revolutionary China, and the millions of midwives and women healers who were burned as witches for three centuries in Europe. Though they may not be considered heroic in society, they are legendary to Adrienne Rich and other activists. Rich admires these women for their courageous actions.

Some of the women Rich admires from present times include Inez Garcia, Yvonne Wanrow, Joan Little, and Cassandra Peten. These women¹'sparest stay strong. They all have been either raped or battered. With great strength, these women stood up to their abusers and were brought justice. (69) These women may not have had the type of training society would consider to be an education, but they all had common threads; self -knowledge and self- education. Each woman fought in their own way for what they believed in.

Women contain a source of power within themselves that Rich calls the "outsider¹s vision.²"7) Most women will start out with this vision, but it will slowly fade away. The vision will fade when women begin to accept the idea of motherhood, heterosexuality, and other natural states of being as enforced and institutionalized. They may begin creating unhealthy patterns and cycles in their lives. Without such education women will live and continue to live in ignorance. (66) Rich held onto her "outsider¹s vision,"by deciding to take action through speaking and writing about the injustices of a woman¹s education. She stood up for her beliefs and contains to do that today.

"There is_ and I say this with sorrow_ no women¹s college today which is providing young women with the education they need for survival as whole person in a world which denies women wholeness_that knowledge which in the words of Coleridge, returns again, as power. (66 Rich) Rich believes that everyone has the privilege of education. "

Even if we do not receive an ideal education, where we may be denied some of the important knowledge we have the right to learn, literacy is available to everyone. "Sixty- percent of the world¹s illiterate people are women. ³"Women are giving their power of knowledge away, by not becoming academically educated. ³The number of illiterate men in the world climbed to a high of 8 million.²"We all have the power to become educated. Beyond classrooms, there are tools available to train people in their areas of interest. Women have been historically viewed as being under priveledged and will continue to be seen this way if the statistics in illiteracy do not decrease. (67)

Though receiving a formal education has its flaws, it is also a necessary part of becoming well-educated. However, a formal education is not the only way to acquire knowledge. I believe that it is important to find a balance between educating one¹s self through life experiences as well as learning inside of the classroom. This will abslutely provide a rich foundation for a person. I feel that I have gained so much experience both inside the classroom and learning from my own mistakes in which I¹ve edndured throughout my life. Both Jon Spayde and Adrienne Rich also agree that there is no one way to become educated, especially in today¹s society. Each person is an individual and will need to decide for her or himself which form of education is best for them. Whichever path an individual may take, it is hopeful that a balance between life and literacy will comprise a part of their educational discoveries.

Works Cited

Rich, Adrienne. "What Does a Woman Need to Know?²"eNewory k: 2000. 65-69

Spayde, Jon. ³Learning in the Key of Life.² New York: 2000, 58-63
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