Very small room. Crowded. One window. Everyone she knows is in that room. There’s one window, and only one person cares to look. The rest stay in the room, unconcerned with the world outside. She. She looks out into the unknown and wonders. Is it hopeless, crazy, wrong to look?
She is from a small town near Philadelphia. She went to a small school, belongs to small religion, and grew up in a small community. Even her family is small, in persons and height; she is the tallest female at 5’3” (friends of the family refer to them as “The Hobbits”). But smallest of all are the minds of the members of her small little world. Life is seen as very black and white. There is truth and falsehood. Right and wrong. Holy and sacreligious. Haram and Halal.
At school she learned that thinking for oneself and being independent were two vitally important parts of going through life as a woman. In an all-girls school she thought she would find people who valued those things: free-thinkers, limit-pushers, life-lovers, and most of all, questioners. If there’s one thing she’s good at it’s asking questions. She might not know where she’s going, know what she wants, or even know who she is, but she always wants to know more. She’ll ask anything. And that’s exactly what her school taught her to do. She read classics and unknowns, women and minorities, and were taught about the problems in the world only to encourage us to fix them. And yet in an all-girls private school designed to empower young minds, logic was not questioned. Purportedly liberal, the students got involved with “important causes” yet never took the time to try to make changes in their daily lives. It wasn’t that girls outwardly scrutinized or made outward attempts to exclude or condemn, it was simply that they were unwilling to think outside of themselves—they were practically of one mind. Bryn Mawr college, a mere street away (literally) was described as “that feminist gay school.” Small room. No one looking out.
Her family and religion; one could scarcely be deciphered from the other. Heavily religious, her parents raised her to aspire to be a humble, truth-searching servant of God. At home she was not taught to question and learn as she was in school, in fact any such notions were seen as a lack of faith. It is not the idea of religion that she questions, nor does she begrudge the faithful. In fact she considers herself a very spiritual person, and her faith is strong. She respects the beliefs of my parents and community, and their certitude and determination. She finds it inspirational that people so close to her life could have such a clear idea of what they think and believe and can have the strength to follow it so closely. Yet what they lack is respect for all walks of life. Considered the “mystic side of Islam,” her religion is about the individual’s spiritual path to god. Its doctrines brag acceptance of all, yet in practice are homophobic and sexist. All individuals are valued, but as entities which are subject to change into “believers.” Not respected are those who make the “wrong” choices, and who do not strive to be the image of “good.”
She respects them but does not respect their disrespect. They live within the same walls as those at her school. They do not wish to look any further than the confines of their beliefs. Unlike those in her school and town, her family knows of that which is “outside world,” yet have chosen to close themselves off from it forever, and expect her to do the same. She does not ask that they share her beliefs or even support them. She asks instead that they support her, love her, and love whoever she becomes.
She has seen the room. She has lived within its walls for most of her life. And now she wants to leave. HER room would have no walls, no windows to have to look through. She believes that you can have faith and moral standards and yet live and let live. All she really wants is contentment, and for now that is something for which she is still looking. She has gone through certain phases and taken steps in many different directions, but ultimately, she is probably still going to be asking questions her whole life.
That’s how she pictures her ideal education. Teaching her many methods and ideas and letting her question and decide on her own. She hopes that any education that she is given would include the whole story. She expects high expectations of her educators and of herself, but she does not want those expectations to be conditional.
If she were to design an education system it would follow along the same theme. Openness to all possibilities, fields of study, and subjects of study. This is where McIntosh’s 5th phase comes into play. An ideal education would include a large and unbiased study of all different kinds of subjects, and there would exist no rigid walls or structures.
She is now a college student. Before, in school she was given a broad range of works to shape her mind. She was promised the world. At home she was told to forget these ideas and live not of the “world.” She became very confused. She surveyed all her options, gave most a try, and the confusion continued. She hopes her education can give her even more options and that she can become even more confused. And maybe spit out enough ideas to even confuse some others, and together they can slowly break down the walls of that small room.