7/5/10

Freedom and Education

Last night, on the eve of the holiday celebrating American independence, my husband and I watched a British film.

This was not an entirely unpatriotic decision. In our defense, we did search Netflix for "John Adams", the mini series that I enjoyed so much 6 months ago. Sadly, John was unavailable, and we turned to the "maybe" movie. You all know it. It's the movie that you pass by in the movie store, on Comcast, etc. and assign to the "maybe" category - a last resort movie.

Now, I am ashamed of my inability to see "An Education" for what it truly was - pure gold. And, at its core, "An Education" plays those American heartstrings with the best of them. Watch this connection...

Yesterday's holiday, as I hope everyone knows, was founded as a celebration of the adoption of the American Declaration of Independence. The Declaration, a document created in the sweat and blood of our courageous, revolutionary forefathers, is most famously recognized by its second sentence, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."


When the document was passed by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, the meaning of "all men" most closely resembled "all landowners", or "all white males". The Hobbesian concept and Jeffersonian phrase have been used again and again in other historical documents such as the Gettysburg Address, Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" Speech, and the Declaration of Sentiments.

Which brings me to my point. July 4th, as America built on itself, grew to mean more than the celebration of freedom from dictatorship. While this independence from the British Empire was purchased at a high price, one to be appreciated and recognized, the legacy of freedom in America owes itself also to a long list of revolutionaries. These revolutionaries came, and continue to come, in the shapes of soldiers, politicians, teachers, explorers, religious leaders, and countless others. We are a people who are free by sacrifice. And so many of you, like myself, have been lucky enough to enjoy the blessings of these sacrifices without feeling their pain.

"An Education" tells the award-winning story of a young British girl seduced by an older man into giving up her education at Oxford and a "boring" future for a life of pleasure and adventure. Carey Mulligan does a beautiful job portraying the naive teenager who eventually finds that she has been deceived, then admitting that there are no shortcuts to her life. The girl must then reconstruct her life, getting accepted to and attending Oxford. We presume that she goes on to do one of two jobs assigned to women of 1960's England with an education - teaching or working in Civil Service. As the credits began to appear, I think many will react the same way that I did: with a twinge of hope for this factual (Lynn Barber) turned fictional character. We want to see her create the life that she wanted, and glimpsed, in spite of the odds.

More than this, I reflected on my own opportunities. Today, women have more trouble choosing one of hundreds of career paths than accepting the one in which they "fit". In 2009, women comprised 46.8% of the United States labor force. 66 Million women were employed. 74% of these women worked full time jobs. Women accounted for 51% of high-paying professional occupations. Women owe this in part to our independence from a parliamentary monarchy, but more so to revolutionaries in the feminist movement.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton's Declaration of Sentiments, which used Jefferson's phrase of equality to encompass women, was the ringleader for change to female life and opportunity. This document proposed ideas that would slowly determine the future of women even beyond the United States.

As a woman in the United States in the 21st Century, I have the world at my feet. Rather than be stressed by the prospect of choosing between public relations, publishing or journalism, I should feel blessed. And yet, with such opportunity comes great responsibility. Just as we utilize the freedom afforded through sacrifice each day, I plan to take advantage of the educational and occupational possibilities afforded by revolutionary women.

That's cause for celebration.

1 comment:

  1. i saw an education. I strangely liked it. it was a good conversation movie. growing up is tough...but that grl got QUITE the education...

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