Is Education Equal?
The United States provides our society with the undeniable right to learn. The right to higher education is not limited to the middle and upper classes; it allows the less privileged, minorities, as well as both sexes, to receive an equal education. Two arguments which present interesting views on higher education are bell hook’s “Keeping Close to Home” and Adrienne Rich’s “What Does a Woman Need to Know?” Hooks views higher education with a concern for the underprivileged, whereas Rich views it with a concern for women. Of the two works, I personally do not agree with Rich’s argument.
Bell hooks views higher education to be a time in which we find ourselves and learn more about who we are. This concept remains difficult on the underprivileged because they do not want to be known for their background. They see themselves as less privileged, and therefore want to keep this hidden from their new society. These students face many obstacles in their lives; college presents a whole new and much larger challenge. The transition is also hard on them. They want to fit in and hide their past, but at the same time, they do not want to lose sight of their upbringings. Hooks felt that she was an outsider in college, because she herself came from an underprivileged background, while most of her peers came from privileged backgrounds. Hooks states, “I did not intend to forget my class background or alter my class allegiance”(88), but she felt that in order to succeed, she must change who she was. Society, peers, and educators make assumptions that label the underprivileged and minorities as “‘lower class’ people” who have “no beliefs or values”(88). Professors expect these students to perform badly because of their past and their reputation in today’s society. The students are not given the fair chance other students receive. Knowing the way society portrays them, the students keep to themselves. Even after they prove to be serious and capable students, they are still looked down upon. Hooks, at first, thought that in order to succeed in college, she must change who she was, to blend in with her peers. She said many “believe that assimilation is the only possible way to survive, to succeed.”(89). After going through the transition and facing these obstacles herself, hooks came to the conclusion that this was not the case. She has maintained close ties with her family, knows where she came from, and has succeeded in life. Hook’s essay tells us that you can maintain close relationships with home and still succeed.
Not only are the underprivileged discriminated against, but women are too. One extreme feminist side, Adrienne Rich claims that women are not getting what they deserve when it comes to higher education. Rich states, “There is no woman’s college today which is providing young women with the education they need for survival as whole persons in a world which denies women wholeness”(45). This, of course, is all due to male dominance. Rich believes women are outsiders in man’s world. She wants women to keep their outsider’s view and not think like men when they are placed in a prominent position. The sense of male supremacy discourages women from performing at an equal level. This goes along with the idea that “feminist studies are ‘unscholarly,’ ‘biased,’ and ‘ideological’”(46). Rich claims that the education women are receiving is leaving them powerless and vulnerable. She believes “that without such an education, women have lived and will continue to live in ignorance of our collective context”(45). Because of male dominance over women’s education, the chance for women to be educated the way women should be educated is one that Rich believes does not exist.
Because of Adrienne Rich’s extreme views and harsh tone towards men, I disagree with her view on higher education. Just as Rich, I do believe that women have the right to an education. Men do not have a hidden agenda to keep women powerless in the world as Rich implies. Despite the fact that this argument was given almost twenty years ago when women’s rights were a controversy, her view of women, even then, is a bit demeaning.