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Prolongation of Schooling



It has become evident that the school experience had been over-developed and too prolonged for many women. While the woman, whose core of living is her interest in her professional development and her research and scholarly work, may find her greatest happiness in her work and the life which she builds about her work, she is, and will remain, the exceptional woman. For the average woman derives little benefit and she may suffer actual harm from an undue prolongation of school experience and from the attempt to become a learned woman. And yet, certain factors in the school experience itself may lead to a prolongation of study on the part of those who are not fitted by nature for advanced work and who have no real desire to pursue it. For the necessity for concentration on studies during graduate years may lead some students to neglect their personal and social life and to become pronounced "intellectuals" during those years. As a consequence when they leave school they lack that development and that experience which makes them interested in social life or successful in it. Since they have little or no outlet for their energies in social life their interest in the school situation and in learning continues as their chief interest in life. When they have leisure from their employment they return to school to take additional courses. This study may be beneficial and wholesome if it is directed toward a definite aim and if the interest in studies is sincere and profound. But for some women this return to school for evening or vacation courses is aimless in nature and not directed toward the achievement of any definite objectives. Some women take courses because they are at a loss for anything better to do. It is assumed that it is good to take another course which may lead in some vague way to "self-improvement" or occupational advancement. Time which should be spent with the family, in social life, outdoors, or in the development of new friends and new activities is spent in the class room and in study. Women who are in no way fitted for a scholarly existence and who should be living a different life continue to take courses. And the tendency of many of the courses is to turn them in upon themselves in the search for rules for liying and for happiness when they should be meeting life's situations as they arise.

Some single women whose interest in studies and whose ability are slight continue taking courses until they are well on in their thirties with no particular objective in view, and when there are no more courses to take they are at a loss to know what to do with their leisure time. One single woman lamented the fact that during the early years of her employment she had continued her courses in night school so assiduously that she not only neglected to spend time with members of her family but she actually deprived them of some of the comforts of life in order to pay for her schooling. At the end of the time she found that her schooling had been of very little use to her.

Some single women use further schooling as a means of escape from situations in life which are difficult for them. Graduate schools often complain of these students who have reached the end of one occupational experience and who use graduate study as a stop-gap while they are making up their minds what to do next or while they are waiting for the university employment office to find another situation for them. One university was obliged to develop personnel service of a specialized nature to deal with its maladjusted students. That some of the emotional disturbances of which that university complains are produced by its own courses seems not to have occurred to university heads although students comment freely upon it. For a break with family tradition and with religion has been encouraged and even required as a preliminary to certain courses which insist that women should work out their problems of personal and social adjustments with "none of the pre-conceptions or prejudices based upon tradition" but guided only by the "scientific and experimental approach" which is advocated in the class room. Some girls, particularly those who are far from their customary home and community controls, are influenced by the teachings, and the results in the disorganization of personal and social life are evident. Schools tolerate the situation in the interest of the professor's free speech unless he achieves publicity when he is hastily repudiated. A well-known university refused to recommend one of its women graduates for any position because she wrote a book which reflected the views which she had acquired in the course of attending class-room lectures at that university.

As a consequence of present teaching methods the intellectual woman graduate of some of our universities not only has her life impoverished by a developed attitude of mind which is largely "intellectual" in a masculine sense, but she has been led to break with tradition and religion as well. She has been provided with assorted fragments of knowledge which she cannot fit together into a pattern that has meaning for her or that can aid her as a guide in living. Her customary standards, which would have guided her at least to safe paths of living, have been destroyed. She soon discovers that one life is too short a span for "the experimental method" to produce norms of ordered and successful living either for herself or for the professor who taught it to her with such confidence and force. Her attitude is one of bewilderment. "They have taken away the Master and we know not where they have laid Him."

Many years may elapse before she has recovered her intellectual poise. Some of the renegade feminists who have become ultra-feminine and conservative are women who have passed through this process of being torn with violence from their moorings, thrown out to sea without a compass, and urged to swim for invisible but presumably happy shores. After a painful and bewildered period of thrashing the water they usually head in to familiar shores and accustomed moorings, somewhat bruised and beaten, but determined to live their lives as they would have lived them had they never been cast adrift. But precious time has been lost.

It is evident that in a democratic society every woman who is fitted for advanced studies and who wishes to pursue them should have the opportunity to do so. But it should be recognized also that the learned woman is not the average woman nor does the average woman wish or need to be the learned woman. The average woman wants and needs learning but it is clear that that learning should be closely related, both in content and in range, to her interests as a woman and as a citizen. The process of education itself should follow lines of a normal learning and developmental process with a minimum of the explosive bombast which characterized uniyersity teaching of a decade ago.



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