The keywords essay on “Education” describes education as a means to lead children into their futures as productive adults, forming individuals to benefit society, and to conform to the logic of the current world. It also says education throughout history has done two things, integrate and transform. I am going to focus on these two factors as we look at the connections of education to the text “Zitkala Sa- American Indian Stories” and the popular culture movie “Mean Girls”.

First, we must analyze how education is different between these two stories. To begin, characters Zitkala Sa and Cady from Mean Girls attend two different types of schools. Zitkala Sa attends a boarding school designed for Native Children. Cady attends a public high school. While these types of school appear to be very different, the main characters face very similar challenges through their education. These have to do with their struggles with integration and transformation at their new schools.

Zitkala Sa decides she wants to attend a school like her older brother. Despite her mother’s hesitation, Zitkala Sa chooses to leave her mother and tribe in order to go to school. Quickly after arriving, she realizes school was not what she imagined. She didn’t have the freedom she hoped for. She was disciplined and forced to change. Her hair was cut, she was not to speak her native language, and she was not to be disruptive or unattentive in any way. While she was educated about reading and writing, this school was meant to take the Native American out and put the new white ideals in these children. Zitkala is transformed into a new, civilized, educated young woman and integrated into society later in her life.     

Cady was educated by her parents in Africa for the greater part of her life. Once moving to America, Cady is introduced to something brand new, public high school. One of the biggest challenges she faces is the “mean girls” at her school. She is introduced to drama, jealousy, and popularity for the first time in her life. Cady at first struggles with interacting with these girls, part of her troubles with integration into this new school. They make fun of her and look at her as different than them. The mean girls later take Cady in and transform her into someone she is not. She turns into one of the “popular” girls at her school and leaves her previous friends until she realizes she made a big mistake in turning into someone she’s not. Cady’s school experience included her being transformed from a mean girl to a typical high school teenager, where she eventually thrived at her new high school.

We see the similarities between these examples. Both Zitkala and Cady are transformed at their schools and are later integrated into their new communities. We are able to identify many similarities between Zitkala Sa and Cady in their experience with education, despite the major differences in time, culture and identity. Within the keywords article of “Education”, we can understand that education has expanded to include everyone as is essential to life today. I can see some of the challenges of Zitkala Sa and Cady in my own life and in other students here at UW-Madison, but also see the goals of education being completed by helping transform students into productive and successful adults and preparing us for the real world.

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