Archive for the month “September, 2012”

Group Meeting Outcome: 09/30

Today the EduGirls met in Slavin to discuss our progress.  Here’s the results.

Group Meeting Outcome:

Where are we at?  We drew an education web discussing our individual theses ideas and what aspects of education we will cover.  Anne is relating education with empowerment in adolescent girls.  Lynnzie is focusing on solving and eliminating violence against women through the education of men and boys.  Grace is looking at Southeast Asia and the education there, possibly combining religion, women and Islam and the economic crisis and funding.  Brenna is investigating alternative education methods, applicability, context and outlets for education.  I am focusing in on foreign language education and trying to foster a reciprocal relationship, breaking down the we vs. them dynamic through language learning and looking at the implications of bilingual education.

What is education?  Definition.

– We looked up two different dictionary definitions of education.  One we did not agree with and the other being a little bit more all encompassing.  Our reactions to this were that education is not systematic.  Education is a means to live and create a better world.  It is multifaceted.  It is a means to help create a more communal society.  It helps us prepare for the now.

-We find it so difficult to create a definition because we are constantly challenging it.  For now, we are going to have an evolving definition of education.


–       How do you define education? à Since we are having so much trouble defining it ourselves, we want to pose this to others.  Our target audience is PC students and professors from different disciplines.

–       Below are our questions:

1. What’s your major?

2. What’s the highest degree you’ve earned?

3. Where does education start?  Where does education stop?

4. Describe an important educational experience you’ve had.

5. True or false: Everyone should have the same education. Please explain.

6. What do you think is the purpose of education?

7.  How do you prove that you’ve learned something/mastered your topic?

8.  How prepared do you feel for the real world?

9. Should education be individual, collaborative or both?

10.  How do you learn best? (orally, visually, experientially, etc.)

We established a regular meeting time: Tuesdays at 6:00pm.

This is the pretty little idea web that we drew for our individual theses.


It was a dark and rainy Sunday…

Here’s to hoping that the dreary weather outside makes our studying efforts inside super productive.  Here’s a possible agenda for today–please add on in the comments section if there is something else we need to talk about.

  • Revisit individual topics–what questions can we help each other resolve to help clarify each person’s focus?
  • Capstone assignment–based on our individual topics, what do we want to learn from public opinion about it?  Who are we going to ask?  Qualitative/quantitative/both questions?
  • Possibly set a timeline for the next month (or even week) with goals that we can keep ourselves accountable for (and rewards for reaching them–I vote international food and wine night)
  • Blog specs

The stack

20120929-214557.jpgTo start my lit review process, I passed through what I thought the relevant shelves of the library would be and picked the books that grabbed my attention.  I tried doing a keyword search on the computer, but those books were either not available or were only in e-book form (much harder to interact with).  After looking at the spoils of my raid of the shelves, I realized that anyone else looking at them would not know I was writing about education.  They wouldn’t know I was writing about girls, not women.  Maybe I wasn’t looking in the right place, but I saw very little literature on girls, not women.  I couldn’t find the texts I know are out there about girls’ empowerment through education. There are some useful chapters and articles in these texts to be sure, but I feel like one of the greatest merits of this first draw will be the ability to rule things out and know how to look better for what I am interested in.  I should be able to find something at least, and if I don’t find a lot of specific literature on past efforts or thought for girls’ empowerment through education (and possibly activism), then I will also have something to say in my research.  It also might be taking a Latin American turn–I just can’t deny the hold it has on me.

Even as I was researching, I allowed a shred of doubt to sneak into my thoughts.  Is this really the most important thing I can someday do in the world?  Maybe it’s unrealistic, but I’ve put a lot of importance onto the thesis as being my ticket into what I do next.  Based on the experiences I’ve had the first three years of school, I had imagined myself working with refugees or displaced people, clean water access, microfinance, who knows what?  So am I right in what I’m doing?  Doubt is scary, it’s probably best to store it in a box somewhere and take out the next time I clean out my stuff or move.   

Individual Update

Hey group, love the new background!

Alright so it is time for me to write that individual progress update that I have been planning on writing all week.

I am about 97% sure of my thesis topic, although I am sure that it needs to be narrowed down and specified. I want to research, learn about, and write about the way the education can be used to work toward the elimination of violence against women. When I was abroad in Ecuador, I spent my last month doing my independent study project on the issue of domestic violence- something that I have always been passionate about. Every day for three weeks I went to what is called a Comisaría, a place where women can go and report domestic violence and seek legal action. It was unbelievably frustrating to be there and I felt like these women were just treated like numbers in a system and that nothing was actually being done to prevent this problem. When I interviewed people, they all said basically the same thing- that education is the only way we can solve this problem. However, nothing is currently being done to educate anyone about anything relating to the topic. And in the past 20 years, the incredibly high statistics of domestic violence in Ecuador have not changed at all. So by picking this for my topic, I will be tying together two things that greatly interest me.

So obviously this general correlation between education and violence against women is way too broad of a topic. I need to narrow it down to either a specific area of the world or a specific type of education. Perhaps the way that young children are taught about the issue, or the way that women learn about their rights. Something that greatly interests me is the way in which the education of young boys and men is incorporated into the solution. So my goal for this next week is to start researching. I need to narrow down my topic and I would like to find at least three legitimate sources to start reading by next week. I would also like to get better at navigating word press and at reading other groups’ blogs.

Sticking to it

YAY GRACE!  Some of the things related to the zero (a clumsy blog layout) were my fault–we had them there but our theme was ugly so I changed it and didn’t fix the other stuff too.  That should be resolved now.  We’ve created a facebook to our communication can be more rapid-fire in term of meeting times in such.  As other discussions that should be included on the blog come up, we’ll make sure they get pasted over.  Easily 90% of the discussions have been about how to use wordpress and where to meet, but, as reflected in the blog assessment section, we were also pretty surprised at the zero we received.  We did, in fact, document what has been discussed at our group meetings.  Much of what came out of them was a nothing in the sense that nothing had been decided for sure and that all we had decided on was to think more.  Well, we’ve thought almost a whole month now and it’s time to get real.  Grace took the lead and here I go too.

I really want to expand on the research I did while I was abroad and synthesize it.  In the first post we did on Sakai, I said that it had to do with “empowerment/activism/civic engagement of adolescent girls to promote sustainable/responsible/grassroots change in their communities.”  Reading that today it’s still completely accurate.  I want to look at how “empowerment” of young women has been treated.  The golden bullet is always education, which is inherently focused on what they can do and be in the future (in Amnesty, we just heard a presentation on Girl Up, whose catchline is “you see a girl, I see the future).  However, that does nothing for their present, and, in addition, prepares them only to be integrated into the system that excluded and discriminated against them in the first place.  So yes, let’s talk about empowerment, let’s talk about giving an education that builds the skills a girl needs to choose her life, but let’s make that an education for activism that allows them to take matters into their own hands and to question why they’re in the state they’re in in the first place.

To back all this up, I have research from Perú about how former young child domestic workers learned about the conditions that had put them in that position and were able to start projects in their communities to work with other children at risk of the same.  They also attended international conferences on the topic, performed, talked to policy makers, and were to coordinate with local leaders as well to take appropriate measures (this was obviously run by an NGO with very good international connections that helped it win a grant from Anti-Slavery International).  These girls were all 15-19 years old, I believe.  I wrote a case study on the group and analyzed from the perspective of empowering (there’s that word again) actors who have lived or live the issue that one is trying to address.  I even emailed Nick to retrieve a Rao/Walton reading from 101.

In Ecuador I researched the civic participation of young women.  Surveys showed that young people in general looked favorably on “democracy” but not “government.”  There also was a sort of myth around who the ideal citizen is, in most cases an impossible ideal.  I researched a little on the history of women in the public sector and on the feminization of the field of economics (not totally pertinent to this, but it’s part of the journey).  I learned that in Ecuador, voting is obligatory over the age of 18, but they will actually allow 16-18 year olds an optional vote.  In another class, I wrote a proposal, much like the case study I did in Lima, for an organization in Quito that I felt relied on gringo volunteers too much.  It was giving to the community but doing nothing to inspire self-driven change.  I gave surveys to girls aged 12-18, asking them how they typically spent their time, what they personally would work on in their community, and if they even felt they could make a change and have it be received well (that was an awful run-on).

I have not forgotten Ghana.  There, I observed the Girls’ Empowerment and Exploration Club, a club for adolescent girls to encourage them to continue their education on to high school and teach them skills and confidence to be great in whatever way they choose.  It was there I think that the spark was lit to work with young women for me.

I have those experiences and readings to pull from as well as a book I read this summer, Rebel Girls, about girl activists in the Americas.  It analyzes how they construct their girl/activist identities, how they make decisions, their relationships with adult activists, and much more.  I will be pulling a lot from it, especially using its bibliography for further reading.

concern: It’s hard for me sometimes to separate what led me to a research topic from the topic itself, or, in this case too, I kind of have a conclusion already.  I might need help solidifying what I focus in on. (this is a call for a help: when/who/where can this be addressed?)

Goal: Sift through Rebel Girls and past research/experiences to figure out what I have.

Goal: Figure out what the “dominating literature” is on girls’ empowerment (and activism?).  Do some major JSTOR and Club Phil searches.

Updates from Grace

Okay, here is where I’m at:

As much as I have your back and support you Lynnzie, I absolutely deserved a 0 on our blog assessment. Part of that is beyond my control as I missed a substantial amount of time being out of state. That being said, a lot could have been accomplished beforehand.

The most challenging part about being a GST major is the amount of autonomy that goes alongside it. It’s a blessing and a curse. Specifically in the context of writing a group thesis, there is so much room and opportunity to explore different subtopics. Frankly, because I am yet to find a specific topic, I’ve de-prioritized the thesis altogether. This changes now.

I realized this morning that 1) this thesis isn’t going to write itself and 2) a topic isn’t going to just appear on my computer screen, I have to actively go out and search, research, analyze, question, explore. So, that’s what I did.

This morning I started off simple. I typed into jstor “education in southeast asia” and history of Indonesia”. I’ve been fascinated in Indonesia for some time now, specifically because of linguistic overlaps with South Africa that I was exposed to while studying abroad. I went into this thesis with the hopes of incorporating this interest in language with education, but I’m starting to veer off a bit. And I think that’s okay.

When researching today, I found out the education system in Indonesia (and all of Southeast Asia) took a big hit with the Asian economic crisis of 1999. So, going off into a direction of government funding for education, shifting from public to private education, etc could be interesting.

On the other hand, I also read a lot about the presence of Islam in the Indonesian education system. It would be interesting to explore the role religion plays in education, the activist groups that have emerged because of this, the implications this has for women in education, etc. There are a lot of avenues to explore, which is comforting. (One of my initial fears was that I’d become ‘trapped’ in a topic that I wouldn’t end up liking; just from today I realize how many topics there are out there that I have absolutely no idea / background with, which makes for a really interesting research experience.

To sum up:

In the next week I hope to hone in on a research topic, whether it be the Southeast Asian’s relationship (or Indonesia- although that research may come later) between economy/ government spending and education, or the impacts religion has on education. In the meantime I will still research language etc but I don’t see that as being a main component of this research paper.

Personal goals:

Read, research, write. In 1 week I hope to have at least 5 concrete sources with annotated bibliographies explaining how this source will validate/supplement the overall theme of my section of this thesis.

Try and create a first draft of a research question/ thesis so I have guidelines as to what I’m specifically focusing on while researching (this will help to weed out superfluous information)

Communicate with the group.  I think we all have amazing ideas and could really benefit from working together, but it’s been difficult with classes/work starting to pile up. I know there’s been action on the facebook group about getting together Sunday- I definitely think we need to. Not only do I need to figure out where I’m out but I need to keep track of how my ideas align with the overall theme / everyone’s sections.

So, I deserved the 0. But next week I’m getting a 4.


In discussing and collaborating as a group we were able to touch upon what we thought a safe space was and what is important aspects in it.

Autobiographies are going to help us get to know each other and contribute a lot to making that safe space (keep them for next year!).

Dialogue-judgment vs. condemnation

We always make judgments; after talking to another student, we made the distinction about condemnation. (more in below about openness to being challenged)

Stay open-minded-we have a wealth of experiences that we all know are very valuable to us, but we need to be open to being challenged about them as much as we are excited to also share them. We also need to remember that when we do challenge each other, it’s for the good of us all so that we can grow and be more aware of both ourselves and what we’re discussing.

We need to find a balance between being confident in what we know and feel and being flexible. We need to be careful about, as tom said, judging ourselves. If you’re judging yourself, it’s a step away from the learning community because you are distancing yourself from the group by telling yourself you are more or less, that you have to come off in a certain way to the group. We need to find unity in truly being ourselves and being flexible and willing to contribute to other people’s growth.

Another challenge might be to really listen to what the speaker in class is saying, rather than jumping ahead to prepare your response too quickly. This will be really important in a class that is so big-it’ll be difficult for all of our voices to be heard sometimes.

It’s sometimes hard to distinguish what the safe space is really trying to establish. Is it in inhibiting a challenging aspect between peers and students in the class or is it allowing a space where we feel confident in questioning our classmates? In order to make sure this space is “safe” in the terms of an optimistic place of growth for not only us as students but also our “authority”, you know what I mean, as well. Like everything stated above, a safe space can be a place of growth for us as students once we leave our judgments and generalizations at the door.

Meeting space



Did you know that the carpet in Slavin has letters on it?  This is the ground we walked on for our meeting today, the very letters we first learned while becoming literate in our early education.

Fears, Hopes, Expectations

I pretty much won’t be here for the rest of the week (sister’s wedding, you know the drill) so I won’t be able to meet with the group to discuss our collaborative hopes/fears/expectations. That being said, here is a synopsis of my fears/hopes/expectations going into this thesis group.

I fear that my anxiety will get the best of me and impede me from doing the best possible work I’m capable of. But luckily I started integrating yoga into my life because I’ve found some semblance of sanity. I also had an eye-opening experience last semester when I realized my biggest angst fests and freak outs are trivial in the grand scheme of life. That being said, I fear I will pick a topic to explore and months down the road regret that decision. To combat this fear I’ve decided to stay broad in the next few weeks. I’m extremely interested in the effects multilingualism has on the education system in a country, specifically focusing on South-east Asian countries. There is a lot I can do with this and I anticipate it will overlap well with other themes of our group (ie: empowerment in education).
I hope we create an awesome thesis and bond in the process. I expect this and I look forward to this. I hope we can integrate our unique abroad/life experiences to better the entirety of the paper and research.

The concept of creating a safe/judgement free zone is something that’s been brought up several times in the past few weeks. It was interesting to hear tom, Leah and Kara turn the idea of judgement upon ourselves and ask us to look introspectively at the concept of judgement. I like to think I don’t judge people, at least I try my best not to, but I judge myself all the time. Although I like to think I’ve gotten better, I still question what I say too frequently out of fear it’s inarticulate or off-topic. I also apologize for my opinions too often. Maybe it’s a gender thing. Maybe not. But it IS something I can/will conquer.

Have a wondaaaaaful week!


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