Education and Enlightenment
Much can be understood about a society by how it values and by how it distributes education. Athens of ancient Greece, for example, regarded the study of philosophy, drama, poetry, and art as a matter of great importance and therefore became a metropolis overflowing with culture. The city-state of Sparta, on the other hand, valued highly the study of war while deemphasizing the arts, leading it to become the great military power of Greece with few notable poets. The relationship between society and education can also be viewed in works of literature and essays, such as the film Educating Rita and the excerpt “Learning to Read” from Frederick Douglass’s autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. Both the movie and the essay deal with the perspective gained through education and how societies affect their education systems. In Educating Rita the audience is introduced to Susan White, a married 26 year old working-class hairdresser. After reading a novel Susan is so inspired by the work she chooses to take the author’s first name, Rita, and to pursue an education in literature. As Rita’s studies progress and her mastery of literature expands she becomes increasingly disillusioned with her working-class live. Rita begins resent the resistance she receives to her becoming “an educated woman” from her father and husband and dreams with a greater passion to find that better life she believes literature will grant her. This is showcased during the scene where Rita describes a revelation she had during a night out at a pub when she is with her mother, father, and husband. The pub is
lively with loud music being sung when Rita notices her mother crying. Rita asks her mother what the matter is to which her mother responds, “There must be better songs to sing”, a reference to both their situations. Also evident in the film is how English society structured its educational system in the 1980’s. During that time...
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