History of Women in Education

Welcome back to Local Edition, I’m Brad Pomerance.
Thank you so much for joining us. We are celebrating Women’s History Month, March 2011
and we are celebrating with a professor of education from UC Riverside, her name is
Margaret Nash and she specializes in history of education. We’re looking at women today.
Thank you for joining us Margaret. [Nash]Thank you for having me.
[Pomerance] You know I’m the father of two daughters, I’m passionate about education for girls.
So let’s talk about educating women in America. Were women educated in American in, let’s say the
19th century? [Nash] Well absolutely. There’s sort of a common
belief that women weren’t educated in 19th century but in fact
there were hundreds of institutions, not called colleges, called seminaries, called academies, called
collegiate institutions, that provided a basic college-level education for women.
[Pomerance] So at what point did American at least, come to the realization that the mind had no sex as the Enlightenment proclaimed?
At what point? [Nash] Well, when the Enlightement philosophies right really came to this side of the Atlantic.
[Pomerance]Is that around the Revolution? [Nash] Yeah, right around that time, the late 18th,
early 19th century, the Enlightenment beliefs about the importance of reason and rational thought,
and that that’s what separated people from animals, rather than men from women.
[Pomerance] I think there’s also a perception that when women were educated, and even today
there is this perception that their educated in education. You know, to be better mothers. is that a true perception? Or was it not always that way? [Nash]Well, yes and no. It depends. What has really changed
is what type of education we think mothers need. [Pomerance] This is my favorite part. I know the answer.
So go! I read the notes before. This is the best part. Listen. [Nash] (laughing) Well, even in the 19th century, even schools that
advertised themselves as saying we provide the best education to train girls to be mothers, taught things
like philosophy, mathematics, astronomy, botany, chemistry, science.
[Pomerance] And that’s what I think is the best. Because as you know, I think it’s true that girls are not treated the same today
as relates to scientific education as boys. We’re working to change it. But here’s the irony, like you said, in
the 1800’s science was for the girls. The boys, that was
below the boys. [Nash] Well, it wasn’t below the boys. I don’t know if it was below
the boys or not. But the boys were busy studying the ancient languages. They were getting a classical education.
They had to know Latin and Greek. So they had less time for things like science, which were really seen as particularly suited to girls and women.
[Pomerance]I hope we get back to that place because I like female doctors. I admit it.
I want to go to a female doctor more than a male. Maybe it’s maternal, but that is just the way it is. When did that change, though? [Nash] It changed as science became more linked to technology
and therefore it became… you could get good-paying jobs if you knew science, then
it became more important for boys and men. Because Greek and Latin became less associated
with high-paying occupations and so, not surprisingly
then, women started being… [Pomerance]Squeezed out? [Nash] Into the languages, especially Latin. [Pomerance]I’m showing my bias when I say this, because I
have two daughters – they’re nine and almost seven – but today, women outnumber men in college. [Nash]Yes.
[Pomerance]That’s a stunning statistic if you ask
me. I mean, how did that happen? [Nash]Well, it happened slowly. For most of our history
that was not the case. It wasn’t until the early 1980’s.
[Pomerance]So that’s when the shift? [Nash] Well, women’s numbers, women’s higher education
attendance is a steady curve up. It’s men’s that has gone up and down, actually. Depending on war time, depending on other
needs, So, yeah, it has been men’s that has been more erratic
and women’s has been a steady increase. [Pomerance]Go girls! Happy women’s history month, I’m Brad
Pomerance. Margaret, thanks for joining us. Back to HLN. [commercial]

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