Saturday, 7 June 2014

My "Big Thinker" - Mary Wollstonecraft

Since last September, I have been studying for a Postgraduate Certificate in Academic Practice at UoB; a teaching qualification for HE which will also allow me to apply for accreditation by the Higher Education Academy (HEA). I have been meaning to write some blog posts about it but I have found studying part-time on top of working full-time, keeping up with my writing, continuing to make and maintain friendships in Bedford, and dealing with everything else that life entails quite demanding! I have completed the first unit and found out this week that, subject to ratification at the exam board in July, I have passed it (hooray!) and this week was also the first session for the second and final unit.

We talked about “Big Thinkers” – people who have influenced the way we think about and carry out our practice in teaching – and some of the course staff shared theirs. I couldn’t help notice that they were all men – Lacan, Heidegger et al. – and, whilst these figures were undeniably significant, I couldn’t help but wonder about which women we could come up with. I suspect it’s because of my ignorance of theorists, but I could only think of one – Mary Wollstonecraft. Mary was in many ways the “mother of feminism” – her text A Vindication of the Rights of Women, published in 1792, is, as far as I’m aware, the first text arguing for sexual equality, and in it her argument was that women needed to gain equality with men for a happy society, and that the way to achieve this was to educate girls.  Education is a hugely powerful thing operating in a context that goes way, way beyond the classroom. Even now, recent events – the shooting of Malala, the abduction of hundreds of girls from a school in Nigeria – demonstrate the power of education and how it is feared by those in this world who wish to continue to oppress women. As a teacher I am part of something much bigger than helping students find journal articles for their coursework.

I’ve been thinking about this over the past few days, and also the fact that I can’t think of any other female “Big Thinkers “ in education right now, and I’ve decided I want to explore more about educational theory, and in particular feminist educational theory. There’s quite a bit of literature out there on it, and a new book about feministpedagogy in info lit teaching has been on my radar for a while, so I’m going to make the time to learn more, and maybe make this my kind of focus for the remainder of my course.

Oh, and Mary? Well she sadly died shortly after giving birth to her second daughter, another Mary, but her husband William Godwin shared her beliefs, and the girls were educated and exposed to writers and philosophers of the time from an early age. Young Mary went on to, at 19 years of age, pretty much invent science fiction

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