A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

by Mary Wollstonecraft

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In "Vindication of the Rights of Woman," what are the criticisms the author makes about the education system?

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You might like to consider the Introduction of this brilliant essay to see Woolstonecraft's main concerns and criticisms of the education system which she argues is to blame for so much of the state that women find themselves in. The end result of the education system, the author argues, is that women's minds have suffered:

The conduct and manners of women, in fact, evidently prove that their minds are not in a healthy state; for, like the flowers which are planted in too rich a soil, strength and usefulness are sacrificed to beauty; and hte flaunting leaves, after having pleased a fastidious eye, fade, disregarded on the stalk, long before the season when they ought to have arrived at maturity.

Wollstonecraft here compared women to flowers in a metaphor that is used to argue that education has produced a society in which women focus so much on beauty that they forget "strength and usefulness." As a result, they fade and wither far quicker. This situation is of course a result of education:

One cause of this barren blooming I attribute to a false system of education, gathered from the books written on this subject by men who, considering females rather as women than human creatures, have been more anxious to make them alluring mistresses than affectionate wives and rational mothers.

The main criticism of education therefore is that it is patriarchal and because of this has presented a view of women as needing to focus on beauty on becoming "alluring mistresses" rather than on the other, far more important roles that women occupy.

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