Manners and Holistic Girlhood Education

Every childhood experience is rooted in education. The word “education” may mean something different to everyone, but it is always a vital and foundational part of a child’s development and everything a child experiences is part of their education. In Elisabeth Rose Gruner’s article “Education” in Keywords for Children’s Literature, Gruner describes education as “primarily vocational…or more holistic,”(70) where the former is typically a more formal school education in which children learn to be “productive adults” within specific focus areas and the latter is a more nurturing form where children learn a broad understanding of the world.

The stories of Josefina and Kaya focus on a holistic education. While they never go to a formal schoolhouse for education, they are constantly learning how to live in the world through their everyday interactions with peers and superiors. The website amysmartgirls.com, while it is a modern variation, also focuses on this holistic type of learning. According to their website, “Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls organization is dedicated to helping young people cultivate their authentic selves. We emphasize intelligence and imagination over “fitting in.”” To me, this description perfectly represents what the American Girl company is all about: learning about historical characters for girls to become a strong, independent and intelligent people in society.

Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls often publishes videos and articles that align with this mission. One video that stood out to me most in relation to what we have discussed in class is called “Modern Manners with Amy Aniobi.” In this video, which is the first of a series, Amy Aniobi talks through how to, in a world of social media, introduce oneself in multiple different settings. These lessons are exactly the things that girls like Josefina, Kaya and even Laura learn throughout their girlhood that help them mature. And, in regard to this website, these lessons that girls have learned historically continue to be important to reinforce today – especially in the digital world.

7 thoughts on “Manners and Holistic Girlhood Education”

  1. I think you make a great point. Putting gender aside, learning practical skills and mannerisms is a very important part of growing up and maturing. It is crucial for children to not only learn how to read, write, add, subtract, etc., but also how to get along with others, take care of themselves, learn from their mistakes, and overall figure out who they are as a person.

  2. I completely agree with you on your opinion about individuals constantly learning by interactions with peers and superiors. I think it would be interesting to think about the differences in individuals that are home-schooled vs. individuals that attend public school. Although these individuals may be receiving the same academic education, do they both get the same interactive and social education opportunities? Could a home-schooling life style might take away from the chance to interact with others, learn social cues and become intelligent in society?

  3. This makes me reflect on my high school education. I was required to take a four year class that met Monday-Friday for 25 minutes. Within this class, advisory, we were taught how to introduce ourselves at various venues, how to shake hands, and how to do “adult things” like balance a check book. At the end of every unit we were quizzed on the information. If we didn’t pass you re-took the unit until you passed. This mode of teaching does not embrace the ‘holistic’ mode of education that our keyword elaborates on. In hindsight, I would have done much better had I just been allowed to observe people and gain knowledge through imitation rather than memorize, regurgitate type of learning. I can’t help but imagine what if all of education was required to switch over from passive to active instruction, would students perform at a higher level?

  4. I thought this video was awesome! It is an interesting thing to look at in the sense that yes we are learning, even though we are not in a school setting. This video really stood out to me because it shows the importance of understanding the “basic” things one should know in life, while making it fun and easy to remember. I thought it was very affective in the way that it made something important, easy and fun to figure out. She brought in different voices and characters that made the video easy to follow and entertaining. These videos are important for people to see, I think, because it reminds us, just like the different books we have read, that we are learning everyday and we need to keep our minds open to the idea that everything can be fun and exciting.

  5. How to introduce yourself is such a good example of the things we all learn informally just by observing other people within our culture! In addition to Kaya and Josephina, I think we also see a really interesting informal education in Zitkala Sa’s “American Indian Stories”, particularly in the first half where we see her mother educating her, rather than the boarding school. We see Sa discuss how her mother teachers her things like “she taught me no fear save that of intruding myself upon others” (p. 68), as well as beadwork (p.73-74), exchanging gifts (p.75), and how to treat guests when they arrive (p.78), all without setting foot into a formal learning space.

    1. I completely agree with you, Janine. We see girls learning manners and other informal lessons throughout most of the books we have read throughout the semester – including Little Women! Especially when girls from these time periods, like Zitkala Sa or the March Girls did not have a formal education like we have today. In those cases, manners and other lessons learned at home became integral parts of their growing up and their girlhood.

  6. Love the video! The first thing I thought of when reading your blog post was home-schooled children. During my freshman year of high school, I met a boy in my grade who had been home-schooled his whole life up until freshman year. He was always very short in conversations and came off as very uncomfortable. By senior year of high school, he was an entirely different person. He had found a group of friends, was extremely social and also a part of the student government. It had taken him a couple years to reach this point and I remember feeling bad for him. I believe that if parents choose to home-school their children, they need to make it a priority to expose them to situations in which they can gain the social skills that they would typically be gaining in a school setting. This type of education is nearly equally as important as an academic education in my opinion.

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