I have chosen to focus my presentation on Chapter 12 of Nodding’s book which explores themes based on a feminist view, the ethics of care and how it relates to education. I will summarize key points, provide a critical thesis with a supported argument, explore some controversy related to it and finally pose an objection from an opposing point of view on the topic.
In Chapter 12 of Philosophy of Education, Noddings begins by contrasting Plato’s views on Feminism by discussing Martin’s views about educating both female and male children for ‘productive’ and ‘reproductive’ life (Noddings, p.218). She explains that girls should be able to learn and have the same opportunities as boys and vice versa while strongly emphasizing the important values of women’s traditional care-providing tasks.
Noddings discusses the essentialist approach stating that men and women each have different essential natures that must be accepted as they are. Rousseau’s views were similar in that education for boys was pursuing their natural goodness and freedom and girls were subordinate to them, learning how to care and be subjected to their men and never surpassing them (Noddings, p.219). Mary Wollstonecraft, an earlier feminist, argued that when given the chance to be educated, women are fully capable, and they could thrive. She stressed the importance evermore, of women’s education to be able to run their households and fulfill expected tasks (Noddings, p. 220).
Noddings goes back and touches on feminist epistemology focusing on ‘Standpoint Theory’ – that certain privileges are given to those who experience oppression as in the case of women and as a result men should not able to discuss certain gender issues as women are (Noddings, p.221). From a social sciences perspective, Feminist philosophers have exposed a masculine ideology over control of women and nature and have criticized the methodical research that is conducted.
Noddings highlights the connection between feminism and ethics of care. The importance of caring for humanity as an ethical principle to live by and the relations between the ‘carer’ and the ‘cared for’ is discussed. Each are active contributors for this relation, constrained by the ethic to care and not leaving the carer to feel neglected or deprived (Noddings, p.227-228). This ethic of care is not just for women but is ‘feminine’ in that ‘it represents the female experience and the tasks and values associated long with that experience’ (Noddings, p.228). Nevertheless, it is essential to provide a moral education of teaching both boys and girls to be competent carers and sensitive cared-fors in relationships of mutual responsibility (Noddings, p.229). With this idea, comes moral education from the care perspective including four components: modeling, dialogue, practice and confirmation. Each is necessary when educating children to be caring. The ethic of care teaches to be understanding, respectful and receptive to others which everyone needs to learn. Interpersonal reasoning plays into this ‘virtue’ and the reality of moral interdependence (Noddings p.236-237).
For centuries, women were expected to remain in their traditional care-giving role in society, and leave the providing, educational role to men. From a feminist approach, women should be able to go work with the public and as Martin puts it: “She would educate both female and male children for both reproductive and productive life” (Noddings, p.218). She puts a higher value on women’s traditional tasks while ensuring that they are just as capable as men to be educated and to be able to work outside of the home. Through a Feminist view of educating women just as much as men and enabling them to shift from their traditional, care-providing tasks to include other more ‘masculine’ tasks, women have become stronger, more educated, more determined, and more heroic individuals. Their wants for a fulfilled life and needs are to be cared for just as they care for others’.
In support of this statement, I argue that now that women have the opportunity to pursue their education and compete for jobs in the workforce, while still having a family, they no longer have to focus their education on caring for their men in order to live comfortably (Noddings, p.219). In the 20th century, women now have higher rates of University attendance than men and represent nearly 60% of the U.S. workforce (Weigel, 2013). Women are becoming highly educated and pursuing degrees in areas that are not related to care, and that are prestigious in the work force. The working woman must now wear many important hats as she recognizes the importance of her job as a care provider as well as her career. As men and women have come to share the workforce, they are also both demonstrating the ethics of care when it comes to family life. This supports Martin’s claim that all children should learn and be prepared to do the traditional home-life tasks and emphasizes the vitality of it, in that it should be taught in school (Noddings,p.219). However, caring for others remains a primary female responsibility and she is expected to maintain that position while working out of the house. Of course, it is impactful when there is support from others and her needs are cared for just as she cares for the needs of others.
The release of the movie, Wonder Woman in 2017, sparked some controversy and debate about a first female-led superhero where super heroism was always a male dominated world. The creator believed that women were more honest and caring and that the future of humankind lay in the hands of women. William Moulton Marston, wanted to educate the masses in creating a hero to represent common feminine values of kindness and compassion, without being perceived as weak (Di Placido, 2017). This demonstrated a feminist view of taking a female character out of traditional views and putting her to be heroic and empowered enough to save the world, not just on the home front. While it is essential to educate men to be caring and compassionate people, there is still that conception that women possess different virtues that are vital and can assist in saving the world.
A plausible objection of the thesis statement that educating women just as much as men and enabling them to shift from their traditional, care- providing tasks to include other more ‘masculine’ tasks, is that women can’t have it all. Something has got to give. Even though they can be perceived as highly educated, stronger superheroes, there is more pressure and more responsibility on them, and they are forced to struggle and balance between their work and home life. Women are spending more time in school, having less kids and pursing high ended careers, which sometimes puts a strain on family time. Often, women are forced to choose what they focus on more, which leads to increased stress in maintaining a work-life balance. While it is wonderful and vital that women are represented and able to work outside the home, this understanding puts into question the effects that educating both female and male children for both “productive” and “reproductive” life can have on each gender and do they each still better engage in their designated roles than the opposed ones?
Di Placido, Dani. “The Complicated History of Wonder Woman”. Forbes,31 May, 2017, https://www.forbes.com/sites/danidiplacido/2017/05/31/the-complicated-history-of-wonder-woman/#3b4c31414707. Accessed 05, July 2019.
Nel Noddings, Philosophy of Education, 4th ed. (Routledge, 2016). This text can be accessed through the University of Ottawa Library website https://doi-org.proxy.bib.uottawa.ca/10.4324/9780429494864.
Weigel, Margaret. “Women, work and work/life balance: Research roundup”. Journalist’s Resource, 20 Oct. 2013, https://journalistsresource.org/studies/society/gender-society/women-work-research-roundup/. Accessed 05, July 2019.