My first paper’s conclusion


“A RATIONAL EDUCATION, a fundamental right”, that says it all. Obviously, if you put it like that it sounds startling or maybe shocking. Everybody who reads this title will want to know the reason for my decision or maybe they ask me: ‘what made you do it?’. So, as a woman of principles based on reason, education, freedom and with aims in life, as fas as it is possible, I am going to express what I feel deep inside after reading Mary Wollstonecraft’s  A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.

As soon as I chose this authoress, after reading the introduction of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman last year at University (as I said in my introduction to this paper), this led me to took a long time in front of my laptop exploring on the Internet universe everything that I reckoned had influenced Wollstonecraft in her work.

Without missing any detail and making certain of literature has been used many times to educate people politically, as James Piereson explains in his essay called  “Literature and Politics”, I was absolutely sure Mary Wollstonecraft had written her Vindication to make people to elaborate different opinions about how women should be educated and that a wonderful view was unfolded before their eyes. In fact, this text is important because of the literary form on which Wollstonecraft presents her points of view.

So, first of all, through her biography I knew that Mary was always concerned with education because when she was 24 she opened up her own school for girls in the progressive Dissenting community of Newington Green. (The Dissenters were people committed to combining reason with piety, and who looked forward to a more just and egalitarian future brought about by individual effort.) The following years saw much intellectual growth for Mary, who learned to broaden her resentment towards her family into an analysis of general social injustice.

On the other hand, understanding perfectly the resentment Wollstonecraft exposed in her book was my second task. The modern era begins with the Enlightenment (“power of reason”) in the 18th century, during which the universal ideals of equality and freedom were used to attack the nation state and the international system build around it. The Enlightenment challenged the system with the weapons of ideology and revolution but with certain pejorative connotations to women. To be true, from this moment I couldn’t believe the vision which  the Enlightenment thinkers presented about women  and how the social and political turmoils of that time also excluded women or relegated them in a subordinate place in relation to powerful men. So Wollstonecraft in her book strove towards the ignorance or slavish dependence that several authors had presented previously.

So, in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, she basically recognises women as equal to men; so women should be educated as men. Moreover, Wollstonecraft is very concerned about how girls are educated by their mothers and she demands a change in this education. She requires an education based on the exercise of reason, not an education destined to please men as Milton in Paradise Lost , Rousseau in Émile or Mahoma set out. They clearly insulted women but unjustly was Wollstonecraft who through her strong opinions was considered of being bold in the face of her society.

Anyway, she defended the important task of learning to think and reason and it  is the central idea Mary Wollstonecraft builds because every opinion is the result of thinking and reason:

‘By individual education, I mean, for the sense of the word is not precisely defined, such an attention to a child as will slowly sharpen the senses, form the temper, regulate the passions as they begin to ferment, and set the understanding to work before the body arrives at maturity; so that the man may only have to proceed, not to begin, the important task of learning to think and reason.’

So the role of reason versus passion was constant in her writing. Wollstonecraft fought tooth and nail to defend the rationality of women which was overthrowed in Rousseau’s Émile.

To be true, she is quite contemporary when thinking that education can change society. She strikingly thought out of the box saying that the exercise of understanding strenghten the body and the heart. She envisioned a society which promoted equality of opportunity being the talent of each one the key to be successful and undoubtedly women’s rights had to be the same of men’s rights. So being Wollstonecraft a defender of all of this it’s obvious that Rousseau’s treatise got on her nerves saying that girls had to be given a different education to men; ans what is more, men would be who would train women to be submissive.  Fortunately, Wollstonecraft’s motto was:

‘Women should exercise power over themselves, not over men.’

This is the reason why she proposed a ‘Revolution in female manners’ which consisted on a rational education which developed their own reason and their virtue, being women a first-class species as men. Moreover, through education not only women can achieve knowledge, but also economic independence, political participation and autonomy. Mary pleaded for an educational reform and I think that it is one of her best-received thoughts.  She advocated for the necessity boys and girls attended school together, despite gender or class, being essential to develop their bodily and mental strengths. Furthermore, she said that if women were educated, it would benefit the whole society so this is the reason why I have titled my last but not least section of this paper: “EDUCATION: the mainstay of society“.

Wollstonecraft exposed several ideas which can be applied in today’s society and this is for me the worth of her book. These are:

Education must become a grand national affair.

Education has to take place in social intercourse , not in a private manner or with parents.

Public education should be concerned with forming citizens.

I can’t say goodbye without invite everybody to promote education, to promote knowledge in the same way of Wollstonecraft made; because I have the nasty sensation that nowadays there are  lots of schools only for women or only for men and that politics advocates a private education, a  faulty education, an education only available to the privileged stratum of society. It is my duty to tell that this type of education, whatever people says, brings nothing good at all; only inequality and ignorance.

‘A liberal education is at the heart of a civil society, and at the heart of a liberal education is the act of teaching. ‘
A. Bartlett Giamatti

‘Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.
John Dewey






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