The first time I ever heard of Maya Angelou was in my Womens’s Studies class at Modesto Junior College. That was in the late 80s. I was an “older” student hoping to learn something that I might be able to use to earn more money in the work force. Since I had no idea what I wanted to major in, I opted for Liberal Studies.
Lately, I hear too many pundits compalin that Liberal Studies (including Women’s Studies) are nothing more than a waste of time. They claim there is nothing valuable to be learned in taking classes like these. They argue the main reason to go to college is to get a better paying job when we graduate.
I beg to differ.
Liberal Studies gave me a well rounded education. I was required to think for myself and give supporting evidence for all my arguments. Studying the writings of women like Maya Angelou taught me that single women can achieve great things. She had the same struggles most single mothers face and she didn’t portray herself as perfect. She always told the truth about herself.
Before I entered college, I went to public schools. I probably read the same history books you did. I never learned about women’s contributions. I grew up thinking men did all the important stuff. Let me rephrase that; white men did the important stuff. How surprised and eventually pissed off I was to find out that I was sold a bunch of propaganda that seemed to glorify a bunch of “rich white men.”
Now there are groups who don’t like the way history is taught today and claim that it focuses too much on “special interests.” Women, single mother’s, and people of color are not special interest groups. They are a part of American history and should be included. Kids need to “see themselves” in the pages of history books. They need to have role models and in order to do that, everyone who contributed something important needs to be included.
So sorry if that offends some, but if we are gong to teach kids history they need to learn all of it and not have to wait until they enter college to find out. Higher education taught me so much more than finding a better job. It taught me to ask more questions. To question my beliefs. To question authority. It helped me strive to become a better version of myself. Maya Angelou taught me to “try” to do it with grace. (I’m still working on that).
Ms. Angelou died today at age 86. She will be missed.