A False System Of Education - Mary Wollstonecraft
Mary Wollstonecraft was born in 1759 in England, the oldest daughter of an abusive farmer. Her work, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, was released in 1792, and is now recognized as a landmark treatise on women's rights. Its notion that culture rather than nature is the determiner of much gender difference foreshadows later feminist theory, and some aspects of environmental psychology as well.
Wollstonecraft's revolutionary work in Vindication contained a passage, "A False System of Education". In the following article, I will be discussing some of her points and elaborating on them to find a meaning more apt to modern society.
A False System of Education
Equality is an essential aspect in our lives. In many cultures, the idea of respecting individuals of all races, genders and religions has been steadily increasing over time.
In modern times it is almost a thing of the past to discriminate based on such characteristics. However, there are still problems with equality in our world, and overall there are many things which need to be addressed before it can be said that everyone is equal.
Firstly, we must define exactly what equality means. Instinctively we assume that it means that we are all equal, but the fact is that we are not all equal. Some of us are smarter than others; some are stronger and better skilled; some are more creative. The more accurate way of defining equality is through balance. Equality is balance in unequal things.
Socrates has taught us the importance of balance all too well, and here too it is of vital importance. As an example, men are physically stronger than women, on average. How can we create a balance in this unequal distribution of strength?
A simple solution would be to allow men to do the physical tasks and labours, and allow women tasks more suitable to their strengths such as being affectionate mothers. This solution is reflected throughout history and even in modern times, the only difference being that in modern times women have just as much of a choice as men do in choosing their tasks.
Mary Wollstonecraft argues of a lack of balance that existed until recently in that women are generally considered inferior to men. The argument consisted that women can be just as intelligent as men, but because of their weaker educations they have become mentally weak and believe their tasks became solely to love. This idea of giving women and men equal education is now reflected in at the very least Western society, where anybody can get an education.
Since the problems with gender inequalities in education are essentially solved in our modern times thanks to such writers as Wollstonecraft, I will address the issue with education itself. The lack of balance now lies not in whether a sex is being excluded from the education, but in the method of the education itself.
The main problems in current education systems include:
- dependency, in which you must wait for instructions and procedures instead of solving the problem on your own
- ineffective procedures, in which naturally easy tasks like arithmetic and literature become incredibly difficult when taught in an ineffective way
- judgements by certified officials, which creates a sense that self-evaluation – the staple of every philosophical system that ever existed – is not a factor in your education, only the judgements of others.
This is the true false system of education.
The focus now should switch not of equal teachings to all human beings, but to balanced teachings to all human beings.
The current issues with the educational systems of today are unlike the issues women faced in previous centuries, yet they are exactly the same.
Women were made mentally weak with inferior education; is it any surprise that the youth of today, boy or girl, rich or poor, are indifferent to everything but toys and violence, being materialistic, and cannot concentrate for very long, being addicted to distraction?
Self-sufficiency of women may have been accounted for in the past, but the problem now is with the self-sufficiency of youth.
Wollstonecraft, Mary. "A False System of Education" from Vindication. Classics of Western Philosophy. 1:190-199.