Violent Protests Against Women’s Education: Getting Schooled About Tradition

October 22, 2012 | Katie

Rousseau declared,

All that we lack at birth, all that we need when we come to man’s estate, is the gift of education.

With an education, people gain the skills and confidence necessary to achieve their full potential.  Many Americans, over the course of thirteen years of compulsory education, not only take it for granted, but become disenchanted with the opportunities it has afforded them.

Unfortunately, many girls around the world do not have the luxury of complaining about school, because they are prevented from attending – and prevented by any means possible.  Afghan schoolgirls have faced acid attacks, bombings, poisonings, and shootings.  In nearby Pakistan, teenaged activist Malala Yousafzai was shot in the head by the Taliban for speaking her views on education, but is now in a stable condition.  Her alleged crime?  Spreading Western culture and “promoting secularism.”

While some men are allowing their daughters to go to school in the Middle East, many do not wish for girls to be educated by men, and half of Afghanistan’s rural school districts are without female teachers. Around four million children are not enrolled in school, but the three million girls who are make up a promising increase since 2001, when there were almost none.  This has likely been aided by teacher training programs for high school girls.

Even though things are looking up for worldwide women’s education, violence is still a daily reality for far too many.  The reason for this is the belief that progress in women’s education is against tradition.

The alleged opposition between progress and tradition is a question with which many wrestle.  NeW offers an alternative to the popular idea in American culture that a woman has to be liberated from tradition in order to be empowered.  In large part, that idea comes from a misconception of what “tradition” is.

Tradition is a cultural construct, formed by the miracle of human consciousness, that allows it to reflect back on itself.  Tradition requires thought.  Tradition is not meant for blind acceptance; to survive the passage of time, an ideology has to be continually considered, and the discourse about it constantly in progress.  Its truth, compared to other worldviews, must be weighed by each individual who subscribes to it.  Education does not teach people what to think, only how to think.  Tradition and education, then, are not mutually exclusive, but vital for the propagation of the other.

There’s been a lot of backlash in our culture against religious traditions, as if they all mistreat women.  But what about the “Proverbs 31 woman“?  She doesn’t just stand in the kitchen and cook, and maybe do a little bit of sewing on the side: she buys and sells fields, she volunteers, she sells clothing, she offers advice, and she isn’t afraid of the future, because she takes care of business.  She works hard, and sure, it makes her hubby feel good, but he’s barely mentioned; she’s the heroine of the story.

Where did that go?  Tradition isn’t as static as it is thought to be, because this tradition changed.  The good news is, even though religious tradition was altered to include violence against and subjugation of women, today, that tradition is slowly but surely being altered again, by women themselves.  Traditions may change, but right and wrong do not.  So keep thinking, and keep it classy.

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