Opinion: “Receiving” versus “claiming” an education

Felicity Bosk

Students claiming their degree

When asked, “why are you in college?” most would reply, “to get an education,” but what does that response really mean?

As the first generation high school graduate and college attendant of my low-income family, I take my education very seriously. Even though I currently have not declared a major or minor, I think that it is imperative that young women such as myself does not simply attend college just to receive a degree. Each young woman on a college campus should be proactive in her education in every aspect.

Through the Women and Gender Studies course I am taking this semester, I have learned that there was a great struggle in order for women to obtain rights. Around 1960, women were lucky if they could make it into a university, which sadly was hardly an education. Around this time period, women were mainly in college as a means of finding a man to marry. After said marriage, she would drop out to raise a family. Even after this era, women have fought for the right to obtain an education that is sufficient to produce a salary that she could support herself off of. Rather than going to school to be teachers or nurses, today women can seek a degree in anything that they choose. They could be a lawyer, architect, graphic designer, or a multitude of male dominated careers. However, to this day in a number of career fields women are still paid less than men.

Knowing that young women can achieve a degree that is equal to that of our male counterparts is something that I fully appreciate. Needless to say, I come from a low income family and it is monetarily difficult to support my efforts in college. Regardless, I was always pushed to better myself and further my education. It makes my parents, and myself, very proud to say that I am being a successful college student.

The chance to be a college student is something to be cherished and not wasted. To be in college is not enough. One must be active, alert, and dedicated to this amazing opportunity we have been given. Adrienne Rich in her article “Claiming and Education” differentiates taking action and being acted upon in one’s education:

“…you cannot afford to think of being here to receive an education; you will do much better to think of yourselves as being here to claim one. One of the dictionary definitions of the verb ‘to claim’ is to take as the rightful owner; to assert in the face of possible contradiction. ‘To receive’ is to come into possession of; to act as receptacle or container for; to accept as authoritative or true”

I could not have stated this better if I tried. Throughout my college career I have noticed a number of students who are not fully dedicating themselves to their studies. Furthermore, I have seen students from low income families who, by means of a scholarship or financial aid, have the opportunity to get their entire education paid for by outside parties, who still throw away their education. Some of said associates I have downheartedly watched as they completely drop out of college. This is maddening.

Conclusively, I am not saying that college cannot be fun or exciting. It is important to include some spice and experience new things. However, I am saying that if a young person has the opportunity to claim an education, it should be taken very seriously. Be honest in and dedicated to your studies, learn all there is to learn, and put the work in. Claim the fruits of the labor that this educational opportunity has offered to you.

Work Cited

            Rich, Adrienne. Claiming an Education. 2012. Women’s Voices Feminist Visions. 5th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2012. 23-25. Print. Feb 13. 2013.

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