Saturday, February 4, 2012

Educate a woman...

Educate a man, and you educate an individual. Educate a woman, and you educate an entire nation.

I have heard the above statement before, in several guises.
Until today however, I never knew where it came from.

A quick Google search revealed the following information about the above statement, by John Kwami Esseboe Nyamidie  :

This well-known saying is attributed to the Ghanaian scholar Dr. James Emmanuel Kwegyir-Aggrey (1875-1927), one of this century's greatest educators. Kwegyir-Aggrey probably used this proverb to convince African parents who were more willing to allow their male children to attend missionary schools than their daughters. Like many sayings, this one makes its point by unqualified exaggeration to capture our attention. The message here is that once we know the value of education for men in society, we should allow women to have equal access to it. Education is used here to mean knowing, through formal or informal means, what is right for the spirit, mind and body and acting upon this knowledge.

Women in general are the newborn child's primary caregivers in most societies. The paid nanny, the indulgent grandmother or an older sister are most likely to watch over the child during its first three critical years. From the womb through its early formative years the baby has more direct contact with women. It is during this time that the words, unspoken messages and expectations of the caregiving woman affect and determine the child's future destiny most. A physically abused and psychologically hurt child at this time is likely to project his or her anger on society in later life. On the other hand, a child that is surrounded by the warm embrace of loving women caregivers will most likely spread that love in his or her future dealings with others as the child grows up. Perhaps the truthfulness of this saying is best exemplified in the life of George Washington (1732-1799), the first President of the United States, who said this about his mother: "All I am I owe to my mother...I attribute all my success in life to the moral, intellectual and physical education I received from her."

A biblical parallel is Exodus" 2:9: "Pharaoh's daughter said to her, 'Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.' So the woman took the child and nursed it." This story of Moses shows the importance of women in raising a child. The mother of Moses protects her child from hostility, hides him in a basket and asks the infant's sister to watch from afar. The Princess saves and adopts him. These three women are epitomes of the various women that ensure the growth of any child in society. When one in the chain fails her duty, society loses the opportunity to have another Moses, another deliverer, another reformer. What is not stated but implied in this second chapter of Exodus is that the mother of Moses knows that it is right to protect her child. The sister of Moses is well brought up to obey her mother. You won't find many girls in today's world "sticking out their necks" for their little brothers. She was unafraid to suggest a nurse to the princess for her little brother. The Princess knew that it was morally right to raise this child against the Pharaoh's edict. Because the women saved this child through their knowledge of what was right and doing it (education), the people of Israel were saved from the Egyptians and God sent to humankind one of the greatest tools of education: "The Ten Commandments."

Some might see the statement as sexist. I don't.
Here's why:
It is a historical statement not to be viewed out of context. As explained in the first few sentences, it was a great way to capture the attention of many families who did not see the potential benefits the education of their girls would bring to their families.

A woman is a natural teacher. Because she is a natural communicator. She is simply wired that way. A man has to have a good reason to step into this role. Like he wants to teach his son football, or his daughter the skill of computing. Or it is his job. Women teach all the time. We don't need a reason to do it. Just like we don't need a reason to talk.

What Dr. James Emmanuel Kwegyir-Aggrey was saying was, 'let's put this natural gift of women to good use. Let's not waste a natural resource at our disposal'.

The problem is, Dr. James Emmanuel Kwegyir-Aggrey never envisaged a time in history when girls' education would come at the expense of boys' education. Like many well-intentioned men of his time, he never foresaw a time when educating boys would be seen as something in direct conflict with girls' education. To him, boys' education was a constant given. End of story.

I got into a little 'spat' with The Private Man over his post on educating women. Although I agreed that education in women was somewhat counterproductive to women in their goal to settle down with a worthy man, because it increased their 'hypergamy' instincts, I disagreed wholeheartedly with him that the solution was to stop educating women.

To me,  a better solution would be to educate women more as to the importance of men in society. So not less education for women, but more.

I watched with great pride as Oprah Winfrey's first crop of girls from her Leadership Academy graduated in their cute white dresses.

These are girls who would never have had an opportunity like this in their lives had Miss Winfrey not had a dream.
A dream she later backed up with action.

Kudos to Miss Winfrey.

But I had a nagging thought in my head the whole time I was watching the graduation ceremony.

Where are the boys?
Who is educating them?

I voiced my unease to someone. Their response: don't worry about the boys. Let's concentrate on the girls.
Fair point?
Or more evidence of brazen feminism?

First wave feminism was a good thing because it sought to 'redress the balance'.
First wave feminism is the reason I can vote.
First wave feminism is the reason I can read and write.

But it morphed into something else whilst we were all asleep. A new monster emerged, determined not just to redress the balance, but to declare a state of 'superiority' of women over men.

It does not work. It is not working.
Because Nature will not allow it.

I thought about all those lovely young women in their white dresses receiving their diplomas with 'proud mama' Oprah watching over them.

I wondered to myself: In twenty years when they have conquered the world, then what?

Are they being groomed to be little mini-me's like Mama Oprah in this fashion? To conquer the world and yet at the end of it all, to be alone, or in a place they don't want to be?

I sincerely hope not.

I hope part of their studies include words like these:

You are beautiful, intelligent young women. Get an education, which is being handed to you free on a plate. Go out there and influence others, in a good way. You have the power to educate a whole nation. Take it.
But remember that your true happiness lies in forming great relationships with good men. Never forget that.

I don't hear much about educating boys in today's mainstream media.
Could it be that it really is a forgotten concept?

When I do hear something about boys and education, it is usually in the context of boys falling behind.
Why is this?
Are boys really getting thicker/dumber? Or are they not being treated as equals with the girls anymore?

It seems Bellita is reading my mind and vice versa. On the same day she published her post on education (she is a teacher), I drafted this post.

The general consensus seems to be, men don't want highly eduacted women.
I say 'false' to that. Many men do choose educated women.
But they have to know that the woman is not going to choose her career over and above him and their family.
In this day and age, an uneducated woman actually poses a risk to a man. Unless she has other sources of income, he might well wonder if she is just looking for a meal ticket?
Our grandfathers never thought like this. But then again, our grandfathers did not have the current dating milieu to contend with.

Let's educate the girls. It's a good thing. But let's not forget the boys.


Lost said...

The thing you have to keep in mind is that a lot of the grunt work men go into doesn't require the level of education a University degree provides. Diploma's certificates and even highschool is all that is required. and in the fields you can very well say "where are the women."
Whats the problem is the importance society puts on a university degree that is 90% of the time completely useless. Thus fueling the hypergamy problem TPM was talking about

My solution.... take away the status of a University degree, or raise the statuses of college diploma's to the same level as a Uni degree and you problem of hypergamy is solved... oh in a perfect world i guess.

Seriously, anyone can go in a get a degree, it's not that hard, seriously, i have one and if i can do it, anyone can. but most men really won't feel fulfilled working retail with a liberal arts degree from x university. and thats what the easiest cheapest degree gets you.... what not get a mechanic diploma, and start working your way up the ladder in the field you studied in.

But i'm rambling on again so.....

i just make blog posts about my comments instead of commenting i think.

Bellita said...

Where are the boys?

That's an excellent question! I'm afraid they're invisible to Oprah as well. :P


spacetraveller said...


Oprah can do what she wants with her own money, of course.

I am just slightly uneasy about the message she is sending, i.e. girls are more important than boys.

I'd like to think that she could just as easily open an Academy for boys in S. Africa...

Wouldn't that be a nice idea?

Maybe she has plans to do this and hasn't got round to sharing this with the rest of the world yet?

In which case, sorry to spoil the surprise, Oprah!

J-N said...

I find it hard to believe that first wave feminism is the reason you can read and write.

After all it is not such a difficult skill to acquire. Heck, there have been women known to be able to read and write long before first wave feminism.

Furthermore with regard to education there's this nice quote by Frank Zappa:
'If you want to get laid, go to college. If you want an education, go to the library.'

The Private Man didn't say the solution was to stop educating the women, he said "Keep the dames out of college".
Women can still be educated without going to college.

A great deal of people, both men and women, cannot seriously be considered educated despite having gone to college.

spacetraveller said...

@ J-N,

Welcome to The Sanctuary!

"I find it hard to believe that first wave feminism is the reason you can read and write."

I am by no means an expert on this, but my understanding is that those women who had access to the finer things in life, including an eductaion were probabbly part of the upper classes, the elite, pre-feminism.

First wave feminism brought education as a right to the average woman. I stand corrected if I am totally off the mark on this.

I agree that there are different definitions of education. What I was referring to in this post is what is commonly known as 'formal education', i.e. college education and beyond.
So, The Private Man's mantra of 'keep the dames out of college' is precisely what I question.
I think a lady ought to obtain as much 'formal education' as she can get. But she also needs the informal education about life which should be an adjunct to the formal education.
Otherwise the formal education is useless.

"Women can still be educated without going to college."

Just out of interest, what are your examples of 'other ways' for women to be educated? Just curious :-)

I think I know what you mean, but could you clarify?

J-N said...

Does college education refer to things like university degrees?
If this is the case than I very much disagree that anyone (man or woman) should get as much formal education as possible.

If you consider education important from the point of view of enlarging your horizon and learning the kinds of things which have no immediate economic or real life relevance then universities are an unnecessary middleman, if you can read you can teach yourself.

There are plenty of idiots with BAs, MAs and PhDs, having a piece of paper doesn't make one educated.

Chances are that the only true education is the one where you taught yourself something.
Being spoonfed might make you a good parrot and get you that piece of paper but you won't become much of an independent thinker.

When it comes to 'formal education' more commonly know as 'certificate hunting' women, and men for that matter, should seriously evaluate their position. Will getting that piece of paper add value to your life (at least enough to compensate for the expense with which it was acquired).

Studying the mating habits of birds might be fascinating and might make you feel better but is worth getting 100 grand in debt?
The BS in engineering on the other hand might be worth it.
Are you getting your money's worth or are you simply happy being ripped off?
Educated people shouldn't let themselves be ripped off.

Furthermore why is that usually only book learning is considered 'formal education'?
Why is the carpenters 'education' considered inferior to the major in sociology's?

To bring it back to what The Private Man probably means;
The girl with the BA in Sociology won't date the carpenter (assuming that hypergamy holds true) since she's higher up the formal education ladder, even though chances are that he's actually more educated than her (in the education that matters - I'll go on record: I believe most blue collar workers are more educated than the occupy wall street crowd - and I say this wearing a white collar).
So by pursuing that degree she reduces her marriage market without actually really becoming more educated, so the question is, is it worth it.
Will it still be worth it when she is 40 and still single?
Does it hurt society.

These are maybe the things that The Private Man meant.
I, for one, don't really care.
Everyone's free to make their own mistakes
Karma and whatnot.

Bellita said...

I, for one, don't really care.

And yet you wrote over 400 words on the subject in your last comment. ;)

spacetraveller said...

@ J-N,

Thank you for your insightful answer.
I see where there might be a disconnect. So I am glad I persisted in my questioning of you.

By the way,
"Chances are that the only true education is the one where you taught yourself something."

I very much agree with this!

Here's where I think you and I may have crossed wires.

When I say 'college' education, I include 'trade' education. A carpenter these days, at least in the UK where I come from, goes to college. Gone are the days when you learned the trade in your uncle's workshed at the bottom of his garden.

All that you say makes sense to me.

But, I find that this is a common throwback at women with education: That she holds a degree in sociology, or 'mating habits of birds' or some such, which is useless and has created a ton of debt for her.
Whilst this is true in some cases, why has it become the proverbial stick with which women in general are being beaten?

Which is why I ask again (sorry to persist!). What would you consider suitable education for women (noting my 'new' definition above)?

How do you propose women earn a living by the type of education you suggest - the type where she 'taught herself something'? Is this really a viable option in today's economic clime? Not just for a select few, but for the masses?
Give an example of this, if possible.

My feeling about this is, the type of thing that you teach yourself is not usually what you can earn a living by, unless you are really creative. Yes I know there are many entrepreneurs out there who made it big by their 'wits'.
But the truth is, most people need some sort of 'formal' education to be able to support themselves. Something to fall back on if the big dream does not work out how they would like.

Am I totally insane for making such a remark?

Are we agreed that a woman should be able to support herself at all times, married or not, and that her choosing to put family over her career is 1) not easy because it is risky for her, and 2) desirable (usually both to her and her family) but not always feasible?

See, I am really curious about this because on the one hand, men are terrified of 'gold diggers', and so they should be. But on the other, they are disdainful of the woman who works.
This is not necessarily a criticism, just an observation.

What is the ideal trade-off?

In my post above, I have tried to find middle ground in a woman's attitude to education and life after education.

If it is not suitable, could you propose a more agreeable one for the rest of us to ponder?

Whether you are a man or a woman (believe it or not, I have my suspicions, but I am not sure!) let me have your thoughts on the above. I think it is a more important aspect of today's SMP than I first realised.

So thank you for opening the Pandora's box. (I believe I only put it on the table - you opened it! :-)

Awaiting your response with unbridled gusto :-)

Bellita said...


You already know my opinion that the real enemy is not degrees, but the inflated sense of value which women draw from them. You may remember a time when English Literature was considered the "rich girl's major" or the "housewife's major" because it was recognized as a useless, but pretty, accessory for a woman. (I should know: it's my own degree! One earned without going into any debt, because, yes, I was a "rich girl." :P)

Which reminds me of the new Duchess of Cambridge's old job as an accessory buyer for a fashion company. It was, in a sense, a "placeholder" for the job she expected to have in the future--and it was a good choice for her inasmuch as it was a respectable way to make a living but not a career she would be expected to pour her life into. Most jobs for women used to be like this, because of the expectation that they would marry and become housewives before any talk of a promotion would come up.

Kate's template is actually the way it used to be. If women could afford to go to college, then they went. And if they wanted to work a bit before they married (because a man will not always pop the question when his girlfriend would like), there were low-pressure but respectable jobs that she could apply for. And there was nothing wrong with that! (A few years ago, I wished for something similar--but few companies would hire me unless I lied about seeing myself still with them in the next ten years. :/)

Unfortunately, the only reason Kate seems to have gotten away with this "old school" strategy is that she was expected to marry the future King of England! Hahahaha! And this actually emphasizes PM's point that women can make too much of their degrees (and later, their jobs). If this woman with a "useless" degree and a "placeholder" job was able to land royalty, imagine what other women in her position must think they deserve!

And yet it seems so easy to turn it around again . . . pointing out that these things aren't what you do to catch a good man, but what you often have to do because you haven't caught one yet!


spacetraveller said...



This is one area where a woman cannot seem to win. Because so much has changed since the days of Dr. James Emmanuel Kwegyir-Aggrey.

We are all would appear.

What do men want, at least in this area?
And, will it be acceptable to women?
Should women care what men want in this particular area?

I really hope J-N can enlighten us a bit :-)

You are right about the Duchess of Cambridge. She has been ridiculed for waiting around doing nothing for years and getting some sort of bogus 'filler' job while she waited on William to make up his mind.
Most women do not have this sort of luxury. For a start, their parents are not millionaires, and second, they cannot all land a prince.
Not that Prince William is necessarily to everyone's taste, in any case, prince or not, it must be said.

And what if after 8 years of 'living together' Prince William had ditched her in favour of someone else?
Would her history of art degree be useful in feeding her expensive tastes?
Or whatever she may have learned by helping to run her parents' business?
Some might say her parents' business provided a better education for her than her degree!

What do men think of Kate's strategy? 'Clever girl' or 'lucky so-and-so'?
What do women think of Kate's strategy?
'Hmm not impressed', or 'Wish I'd thought of doing that!'??

Bellita said...

You are right about the Duchess of Cambridge. She has been ridiculed for waiting around doing nothing for years and getting some sort of bogus 'filler' job while she waited on William to make up his mind.

I remember "Waity Katie"! All the memories of the "Will they or won't they?" years are coming back now. Hahahaha!

And what if after 8 years of 'living together' Prince William had ditched her in favour of someone else?

This is a darn good question! Her strategy was ultimately justified by her marriage, but it was, in and of itself, not a guarantee of any marriage.

On the Rules Revisited blog, Andrew recently had a post warning young women not to let a man "use up" their best years while they just "have fun" together. Kate is so lucky that her gamble paid off, because eight years is a lot of time to be off the market.

J-N said...

I guess one of the reason why getting a useless degree has become the proverbial stick with which to beat women is that women are more likely to pick these kinds of degrees than men.
Since you're from the UK, let's take a look at Imperial College London (officially The Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine), where the 2010-11 full-time undergraduate student numbers are 3022 female to 5863 whereas in Cambridge the figures where 5601 female to 6344 male.
You can see what focusing on science and engineering does to the male/female ratio.

In general I don't think it's untypical to have twice as many men as women in degrees in the hard sciences.
So it's an easy stick to swing.
Though I guess the real problem is not necessary the fact that some choose useless degrees but that they think that their masters in useless it better than someone elses BA.
Though I haven't really spent much time thinking about how these things pertain to SMP and whatnot. I just mostly like to criticize the education industry in general.

If you consider formal education that with which you can support yourself I believe we are on the same page as to which choices would be acceptable. Simply put; the ones that let you pay the bills.

Though I don't call this formal education but formal qualification. Education is what makes you a better human, qualification is what convinces the guys at human resources to give you a job.

If we agree that a woman should be able to support herself at all times then it must follow that having student debt after getting a useless degree in the arts or humanities is a losing proposition.
Though I wonder whether people really think about this, what with the 'follow your passion', 'do what you love and the money will follow' feel good phrases.
Accounting just isn't sexy enough.

You don't actually have to be really creative to earn a living with what you teach yourself. If you work in an office for example where excel spreadsheets are used a lot and you teach yourself VBA to be able to automate many of the tasks you do on a recurring basis you'll be a more valuable employee. If you deal with customers who speak a foreign language and you acquire that language on your own I doubt the customers will have a problem with the fact that you lack formal qualifications if it is clear that you can communicate with each other.

Teaching yourself is not an either/or proposition, you can still get the degree if it's necessary to get the job in the first place but once you're working I doubt your boss would mind you becoming a better employee by teaching yourself.

What is the ideal trade-off (in a less the ideal world nonetheless)?

Assuming that a woman would like to have kids, start a family the whole shebang, then her education as you stated should let her support herself (at the very least before the marriage) but also put her in a position where she can contribute to the marriage in a way that her husband can't.
It's sexist but she should be able to run the household.
If all she has to offer is an additional paycheck it will likely be used to cover the costs of outsourcing the child care.

By the way you said that a woman should be able to support herself at all times, do you also mean that she should also support herself at all times?
Having the ability to do something and doing it are not the same thing.
So she could have the qualifications to easily find work that would pay enough to support herself but still stay at home and care for the children without having a paid job as well.

spacetraveller said...

@ J-N,

Thank you for your very clear response.
And the good examples you provided.
We are definitely on the same page, I would conclude.

"By the way you said that a woman should be able to support herself at all times, do you also mean that she should also support herself at all times?"

No, not if there is a compelling reason to prevent her from doing so.
Like very young children.

But I think a woman is an asset to her husband if she has skills she can rely on should the need arise. She is of course an asset to herself, too, because afterall, what if Husband dies/gets ill/loses job?

(In the same way, sometimes a man has to take on childcare and other tasks if the need arises).

It does sound incredibly sexist, I agree, and I expect a full-blown attack from any feminists reading this, but I think at least you and I, J-N, agree this is what can work best, in general.
Sure, it won't work for everyone...

Sometimes a woman's skills are in a profession where skillsets change very rapidly, so even a year out can make her effectively obsolete. But I gather there are 're-train' or 'refresher' courses for such professions?

I believe more can be done for women in these types of situations.

I think it is such a shame when an older woman (for example) is done raising her kids but finds she is now a dinosaur in her former profession and is forced to stay away...when in fact with a little help her skills could far outshine those of her colleagues who never left.

Anonymous said...

I know I'm late to this; but when I heard about the Oprah Winfrey situation, I thought that in South Africa, can it be a matter of young men in such a more patriarchal society, young men are deemed empowered merely by their existence, while for young girls, they need extra efforts for their empowerment.


Spacetraveller said...

@ PVW,

On a deep primal level, I want to believe that what you say is a plausible explanation for what's going on in the education system today.
But alas I am not so sure...

It has become quite clear to me that feminism lost the original memo of 'leveling the playing field' long ago.
Now it's an all-out war against men.

And that makes me kinda queasy.

Anonymous said...


On a deep primal level, I want to believe that what you say is a plausible explanation for what's going on in the education system today.
But alas I am not so sure...

It has become quite clear to me that feminism lost the original memo of 'leveling the playing field' long ago.
Now it's an all-out war against men.

My reply:

In the United States, yes, I can see how that argument has merit, but in a place like South Africa, they are dealing with something totally different.

So that is why I was not overly concerned about Oprah Winfrey organizing such programming for South African girls.

They really need it: an AIDS pandemic, a rape culture where young girls are vulnerable because sex with a virgin is seen by some as comprising a cure for AIDS.

Women who are seen to be "getting out of line," ie., who are taken to be lesbians are vulnerable to "corrective rape," ie., gang bangs.


Spacetraveller said...

@ PVW,

Yes I see what you mean. South Africa has an out-of-order record on rape.
There was the recent report of a disabled girl raped by some youngsters including a 13 year old...

I am all for education. For as many people as can take it in.
Both genders.

The worry is that Ms Winfrey is taking feministic ideology to people who do need something, yes, but just not feminism.

Favouring girls over boys even in the social disaster that parts of South Africa has become is maybe not the answer?

If anything, the boys need an education more than the girls...

They clearly don't have respect for women. Their education can start right there perhaps.

My point is, it is not the answer to create an imbalance in formal education as has happened in the West, because then you end up with overly qualified women with no husbands.

And not all of them will be willing to leave home to find a husband abroad...

Anonymous said...

Space Traveler:

If anything, the boys need an education more than the girls...

They clearly don't have respect for women. Their education can start right there perhaps.

My point is, it is not the answer to create an imbalance in formal education as has happened in the West, because then you end up with overly qualified women with no husbands.

And not all of them will be willing to leave home to find a husband abroad...

My reply:

I see where you are coming from, that they can be taught to do better, and so, education can be offered to them too.

Perhaps educational programming for both genders, ie., Winfrey organizing both boys' and girls' schools? Some black male philanthropist, ie., a Quincy Jones, doing the same thing for the boys?

Heck, Jones could have started such programming in South Africa years ago; he's been around much longer than Winfrey.

Here is the thing which I think is crucial. It is easy to criticize someone like Winfrey for her girl-centered philanthropy, but where are the men to step up to the plate and provide some leadership to begin with?

But would Jones or someone like him have even imagined that sort of philanthropy? Or would their efforts have been focused within the US? Would there have been howls of sexism? What if a Jones were to sponsor programming for boys and girls over there?

I think you mentioned and some have wondered, that if the young men were educated, would they bring that education back to the community or would they do something else with it?

Would they begin to respect the women in their community and become more supportive of them? Or would the long-standing persistent tendencies of the local mores hold greater sway over them?

If the evidence is that they do not, it is understandable that some might hesitate to be as supportive.

At the same time, I can understand Winfrey's identification with the young girls and her emphasis on their needs, for she was once a vulnerable young girl who had been abused.