December 9, 2011
I used to want to be a pompous asshole. Really. I wanted to walk around New York City in a pair of six-inch stilettos wearing classy suits knowing that I was the boss of everyone and had a beautiful lofty apartment to go home to. And in the back of my mind, I wonder if maybe that’s why I chose Bryn Mawr, because it was the fastest way to get to “superior” status.
And then I came to Bryn Mawr and realized that I didn’t actually want to be a corporate, façade of a woman. But that’s part of what Bryn Mawr does; it creates empowered women. I’m fearful that Bryn Mawr will rub off on me, and empower me too much. I don’t want Bryn Mawr to shape me into a woman who feels like she can only change the world by being in a position of power. I don’t want to be a lawyer or a doctor or a politician if I’m only doing it because that’s the career path Bryn Mawr women choose. I am afraid of becoming so empowered by a notion of a Bryn Mawr education that I lose the raw emotion of compassion and love, the real qualities that empower a person.
I am not unfamiliar to comments on my papers that say something along the lines of, "beautiful language, but what are you really trying to get at here?" The notion of academic writing has really affected my own writing, to the point where sometimes I try to be so academic, it detracts from my paper. I am always extremely aware of my choice of vocabulary and beautiful sentence structure. For some reason, subconsciously, I tend to think, "if I just sound smart, they won't notice I really have no clue what I'm talking about." The sad part? A lot of times it works. In this sense, academic writing is definitely classed. Because of the education I've received and how I've grown up, I've learned to write well, even if what I'm saying is a load of nonsense. If academic writing were more about the ideas and less about how they are presented, things would be a lot different.
I had a much harder time with this paper than I expected. I believe it was mainly because I went into my interviews with an idea of a research question but discovered that my interviewees didn't answer my questions the way I expected them to. Developing a research question afterwords was a little more difficult, and I'm not quite sure if I wrote the paper the way I was supposed to. I also may have read into my interviewee's statments a little differently than they expected. I basically didn't take them at face value. Did anyone run into this problem too?
I thought the workshop went very well. We had a fairly good turnout of people of lots of differnt students and professions on campus. However, participating in the workshop was very challenging for me. It was very uncomfortalbe, but that's why we've having workshops like this in the first place! The most difficult section was when we had to choose spaces that made us feel productive/uncomfortable/ownership. I felt strongly that I had to be honest, but also really didn't want to. They were such personal answers and I felt that I had the right to now have to share that with anyone if I didn't want to. It's the same thing with talking about money/socioeconomics. It's such a personal topic, and while we definitely need to "break the ice", we also have to respect people for wanting to remain anonymous and live their life without always thinking about inequalities. Sometimes, innocence can be bliss for everyone.
I chose to focus my paper on Pem Arch because it symbolizes the official entrance into Bryn Mawr, where students walk through and feel like true Bryn Mawr women. But for me, it’s also the place where I feel like I am leaving the real world and entering Bryn Mawr’s own atmosphere, one that intensely focuses on individual academics and not on the world as a whole. Pem Arch really stood out to me as being a symbolic space on campus because M. Carey Thomas built the campus to be secluded from the outside world, and built it knowing that personality reflects space. In my paper I grappled with the fact that M. Carey seemed to almost manipulate our experience here at Bryn Mawr and whether that manipulation hinders or enhances our educational experience.
I’m really enjoying class this semester. I feel like I’m excited to learn and the readings all seem really informative and interesting. I feel good about the workload as well even though it can be tricky having to write a paper a week. Even so, the papers really force me to reflect back on what I’ve learned during the week. I’m not a big fan of the online forum, but I think we could use the two sections a little more but in different ways than we have been. I’d also like to use Class Matters more since it’s so relevant to our class.
I'm really excited to visit the high school in a couple of weeks. We've talked so much about education in class and about different teaching methods such as banking and problem posing. I hope we get to sit in on classrooms and see what kind of methods they use in their classrooms and how students respond to them. It'll be interesting comparing the different teaching methods from a liberal arts college to a public urban high school.
To be completely honest, I'm not sure exactly what we'll be doing during our visit to the school. Will we just be hanging out and talking with students? Or interacting with them in classes? Either way, I hope that I'll be able to form some kind of connection with students at the high school. It would be really awesome to eventually be able to make a lasting connection, even though I know that won't be feasible in one visit! I would have looked to have a college student connection when I was in high school. Since I went to a public school I'll be able to relate to their educational experience, but not in the same way. Since my public school was in a rural setting, it'll be much different from theirs in an urban, and also because of expected differences in socioeconomic class.
The playing field in America is definitely not level, but I believe that education is not at fault. Education is something everyone should acquire because it allows people to further themselves in life. For instance, in Shorris' study where he gave lower class a basic education, it allowed them to continue on to college and hold their own. However, even though many people are becoming education, those who "make it" or find the level where they can compete with others in life, have certain characteristics that allow them to reach this place, and its not their level of education. It is money and connections. Shorris' students, although they did not have money, found the connections through his program that allowed them to continue onto college and make a name for themselves. Other students have money. The ability to pay for college automatically puts that person ahead of one who cannot afford an education. And even on a smaller scale with kids in the same school district, some parents may be able to afford to send them on community service trips or pay for music lessons. The ability to pay for these things is basically the ability to buy yourself into college, because it is these things, the extra circulars, that make a difference in the college application. Basically, the playing field really can't be leveled when personal finances come into play.
In my paper I focused on something both Edmundson and Dewey touched on in our readings, that in order to recieve an education that matters one must have some sort of self-doubt or curiosity. Even though Edmudson relates this to all his students, I chose to focus on how the lower class has even less access to an education that matters than those who are from the upperclass.
While writing my paper it really struck me how much class mentality molds a persons education. For instance, when Luttrell goes to interview one of her students, their two children are playing together and the interviwee writes off her childs intelligence as "just common sense". Already from a young age her son's intelligence isn't as valued as Luttrell's daughter, something that will follow them later in life. And when Dorothy Allison is assigned to make her family tree, her mother demands she doesn't pursue exploration of her uncertinty about her heritage.
It occured to me that if the lower class what to receive an education that matters, class mentality has to be changed rather than providing greater opportunities for the lower class. Like Viniece Walker explained to Earl Shorris, the lower class have to learn the "morals of down town".
The first thing that came to mind when I started thinking of my educational story was the experiences I had out of the classroom rather than in school. Although I've had some amazing teachers and classes, the trips I've taken overseas really have educated me more overall. What I didn’t realize before I started writing was how much my formal education influenced my “real world” education, the experiences I’ve had overseas. As I was writing I discovered that being formally educated allowed me to better comprehend the value of the experience. Although at times in school it seems as if we’re purely memorizing formulas or facts, things really do seem to come back and make connections later in life. Realizing this connection was very eye opening for me.