What Does Education Teach a Girl?

How many tests have you taken in your educational career? Do you even have a clue? Tests are endless in education today. In fact, the video above explains how it seems as if many teachers in K-12 and higher education teach the test, rather than teach the valuable material. The Common Core standards that are being implemented are changing the direction of education. It seems crazy that you have to compete with others on a variety of tests to see who has the “highest intelligence.” According to Elisabeth Rose Gruner’s Keywords Essay on Education, education is supposed to be “providing ‘morals’ or lessons in citizenship and life,” but can it really do this through a standard test?

Education was much different for Laura in Little House on the Prairie. Education in this time period was more “self-directed” and based off of “what they and their society need them to know” growing up as a girl in America (Gruner). For example, Laura learned to set the table, care for their sister, sew quilts and help out with any task around the house that she was needed for. Life on the prairie didn’t require taking tests in math and history and science, but the real test was whether or not Laura could be a good girl by doing what she was told and being a good listener. This kind of learning teaches Laura how she can succeed and be a triumphant woman in her life.

Laura also learned the morals and lessons as stated earlier that taught her how to be a mannered girl. She was consistently told by her parents that children “must be seen, not heard,” and Laura reminded herself of this each time that she wanted to be a part of a conversation. Laura also learned that she had to care for her family even if she was afraid. When Laura saw the Indians in the house with Carrie and Ma, she ran inside to make sure the Indians were not hurting them. Also, when there was a fire inside the house, Laura pulled Mary and Carrie away from the fireplace because she knew they would be severely injured if she didn’t help out. These experiences taught Laura more about herself and her lifestyle than any test could have done.

There is a clear difference in the role of education for American girls today versus the late 1800’s. Education today prepares girls for the workforce, which is “what their society needs them to know” but, as the video explains, it teaches it from a different standard. Today’s system is based on the idea that every person regardless of who they are or what they can do, should be able to do the same task with the same amount of skill. I added the cartoon at the top of this post to show that every individual is different. By testing children on standards that we expect everyone should know, on the subjects we want them to learn, the video explains how we are taking some of the self-directed valuable lessons that each person is unique out of the education system. Additionally, the tests are not focused on all subjects, specifically not the stereotypical, creative thinking “girly” classes like art, cooking, and sewing, which takes the important skills learned from these classes out of the system. The uniqueness is what was focused on in Little House. Laura learned and practiced the feminine, girly skills she was able to succeed at because she knew her strengths and was able to learn from her environment rather than a textbook. This ultimately shows the difference of focus between Laura’s education and a girl’s education today.

5 thoughts on “What Does Education Teach a Girl?”

  1. I never liked the standardized testing myself. I always thought that it never tested your true abilities and intelligence. For example, I remember taking the ACT and struggling because I was such a slow reader. I would never be able to finish that section of the test because I was so slow at reading. I know that I am a good reader and can comprehend written work but that test did not show my abilities just because it was timed. This is just an example of why standardized testing is not an efficient way to test intelligence. Everyone has different abilities, strengths, and weaknesses. I think that schools spend so much time trying to teach how to take tests and how to do well on tests that they miss many crucial teaching points such as morals. Laura was taught her morals from her parents but many children spend so much time at school they don’t learn these morals because it isn’t a teachers job to teach them.

  2. I agree that these standardized tests that we take today aren’t a great reflection of what we know or how we will perform in the workforce. They often only test a certain kind of person. These tests lack testing emotional intelligence which some would argue is even more important than knowing math and science in the workforce. In the keywords essay “Education” it stated that education in the past was mainly about manners and morals. Curriculum study came second. I can see this present in almost all the books we have read so far. I believe that schools are now teaching curriculum first and leaving manners and morals up to the parents.

  3. Erin I strongly believe everything in your post. Education is a huge topic that can be related to every single text we have read thus far and seeing the evolution of education overtime is very important. Today, I believe students need to be taught more about how to be a good citizen, which is mentioned in the Keywords Essay on Education by Elisabeth Rose Gruner. The difference of education in Little House on the Prairie verses the education of young girls today is immense. Laura is so young, but she can do things that really help and support the family due to her learning hands on. Laura is never given a written test with right or wrong answers. Instead she is given real life tests by her parents on things such as trust and ability.

  4. I also think that it is very interesting to consider the differences in teaching methods throughout the time. I feel as if in today’s society ‘success’ is often measured through exams and standardized testing. When comparing education today with education of the past, such that Laura received as a young girl, I think that the main difference is that in today’s society there is always someone higher up than the teachers and principals who is looking to quantify the success of certain schools and students. With this happening, there is inherently an importance placed on standardized testing. Whereas, in Little House on the Prairie, there is no person or committee looking to quantify how ‘successful’ the girls were at learning. It is very interesting to consider why there has been such a shift in what is truly important in the educational system and how it differed before there was concern of funding. Your post made many good points on these facts and was very interesting to read!

  5. My mom has been in the education field for about twenty years and has seen it evolve and how much stress is now put on standardized testing. She taught kindergarten and previously a lot of the day was spent on playing but in the recent years that time has been significantly cut down. Playing is vital for children’s development. Instead, they make these five year olds take numerous tests to make sure they are progressing academically and that every kid knows the same thing by the end of the year. At this young age each kid learns at different rates and are still in their critical stages of development. Children learn so much through just playing that can’t necessarily by taught in other ways. The education field has seen drastic changes since we were in elementary school and it will be interesting to see the type of education our children will receive.

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