Thursday, May 21, 2009

Learn to coo, learn to moo

My summer class focuses on the history of American education, and so far has been based around a PBS documentary from 2001. It's very well done, and features background music to fit each decade. My personal favorite played as young women in the 1950's learned to cook and wash fake babies, in training for their required real babies later on. It's called "I'm Gonna Be An Engineer," and the original version is by Peggy Seeger. Possible relation Pete Seeger has his own take on it.

"You only got the job because I can't afford a man": You know that current nagging little question about why teachers aren't paid very much? Trace it back to how teachers were hired during Westward Expansion in America.

Men would only become teachers if they "hit their head too many times" and couldn't be of use anywhere else. Women, however, were biologically built to be mentors and carers. It was a "moral calling", said Catharine Beecher, founder of teacher training schools and 1/2 of another famous pair of siblings. Conveniently enough for those writing the checks, women could also be paid less than their male counterparts, and recruiting efforts were tailored accordingly. Think of it like being a work study student that every department wants, except women didn't get to pick their department or job or really anything, and actually they weren't allowed to go to college until way past pioneer days, so that's kind of where the analogy falls apart. Women did need a 6th grade education in order to teach little pioneer kids and, like all fine ladies, they were trained in Connecticut before they were sent out West to shape a changing a world. Assuming their oxen didn't die and no one got dysentery, pioneer education was ready to roll.

And just because you can't use the word 'pioneer' this many times and not mention it:

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