Publisher: Mobile reference
Challenges: A Year of Feminist Classics
My Thoughts: The basic thesis of this book is one I can absolutely agree with: Education is important. My biggest problem with the book is that Wollstonecraft belabours the point a bit. She is extremely long winded.
That aside I found the book quite interesting, especially when one takes it in relation to the time when it was written. You see, while I was reading Vindication I was also watching Jane Austen’s Emma (the BBC version with Romola Garai), and although I didn’t enjoy the book when I read it, I found it interesting that Austen (1775-1817) was critiquing the same aspects of society that Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) found so repugnant. The sillyness of society which gets some critique in Emma but even more so in Northanger Abbey (my favourite Austen) and in Pride and Prejudice.
Wollstonecraft felt that education was the key to a better society. She felt that educated women were better wives and mothers. She believed that by educating men and women together they would better understand each other and therefore make a better society. She also wanted women to be educated so that if tragedy should strike they are able to care for themselves and their children. They wouldn’t have to rely on the charity of relatives. In addition, she felt that by educating women the petty behaviour between women that she saw would be eradicated. I wish she was right. Today we educate men and women together but we don’t seem to understand each other better or behave better. We, as a society, still put a premium on looks. In some parts of society what we wear and who we hang out with is still more important than our intellectual achievements.
Despite the fact that we still have many similar problems to the society that Wollstonecraft criticizes I still believe that education is the key to make society better. And that we MUST educate women and men EQUALLY. Iris from Iris on Books in her commentary to the early parts of the book wondered about the fact that she as a modern reader had issues with the fact that although Wollstonecraft believed in educating women, she still thought that men and women had different places in society. I too have these issues. I do believe that we as individuals are good at different things, but I don’t believe that these things are dependent on our gender. And because of this I believe that education should be tailored to the individual and not a collective. Of course to a certain extent public education has to be tailored to the collective. I have 10 students in my classroom and part of my lessons I teach to the collective. Even though I have them 6 hours a week I can’t completely tailor my class to them because they are different. But the part that I do tailor, I tailor after the individual, not after my perceived idea of what the individual needs due to their gender. I think I am rambling here so I will end by saying that I do agree with Wollstonecraft’s basic thesis: Education is a must. But I want to take it further.