DeAngelis, S.F. (2007). Educating girls and human freedom. Enterprise Resilience Management Blog (Bradd C. Hayes, Ed.). December 3, 2007. Available online: http://enterpriseresilienceblog.typepad.com/enterprise_resilience_man/2007/12/educating-girls.html.
The reason I started blogging was that I was afraid my thoughts were limited by my poor capacity to remember what I think. Working memory is very limited, and I feared that I was not applying principles from one part of my thoughts to another. I was optimistic that blogging would help reveal these faults to me, and help me change my mind.
One of the areas I have improved on is the education of women in the Gap. For a long time, I bought into justifications like this:
As life expectancies have increased along with leisure time and increased opportunities, many cultures are re-visiting how they treat women, including how they educate them. Overall, this is a good thing. What business could thrive if half its employees were uneducated, untrained, and under-utilized? The same is true for societies. A society that undervalues the contribution that can be made by its women finds itself relying on half its brainpower and half its strength.
which, frankly is weak.
I first ran into this line of reasoning in Lewis’ The Emergence of Modern Turkey, in the context of Kemalist reforms. The argument made is that only formally educating males reduces the quantity of workers, without affecting their quality. However, a work force that enjoys a childhood with more intensive education — which could well be the case if every child essentially has an informal teacher in the home, or if boys do not have to compete with girls for the attention of formal teachers — could well outperform a larger though poorer quality workforce. The answer is then non-obvious. Further, as someone who believes that tradition in largely an accumulation of strategies that worked in the past, such radical change struck me as a recipe for the destruction of a functioning culture and its replacement with something else.
And this brings me back to blogging. The first argument (educate women = a better workforce) is a logical leap. The second argument is true. But the first argument doesn’t matter. The Gap is full of inferior cultures. Therefore, their change is a good thing.
“Inferior” of course means worse, and these Gappish low-quality cultures come in two broad kinds. First, the Islamic Gap contains modern cultures that are capable of high-level hostile engagement (physical, mental, moral) against globalization. Whatever problems existed in Islamic civilization a century ago have been exacerbated by exposure to French intellectuals, and we now have a truly bad situation on our hands with no end in sight.
Second, the African Gap contains populations that are simply lacking in the infrastructure required for success. Peoples in the Gap need to be scaffolded, with enough infrastructure provided to them so that they can climb up to the Core. While much of the the Islamic world is experiences a civil war that (hopefully) will end in radical culture transformation, Africa by contrast merely needs a reasonable chance of success.
Educating women is critical to both of these approaches. Through the Uma, educating women can break an otherwise continuous line of cultural transmission which gives us this mess. In Africa, educating women can lead to better educational outcomes. While these goals are different, both require women who are largely taken out of their traditional space and incorporated into the male-oriented formal domain.