Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Shoeless Mia Henderson and the Privilege of Education

Perhaps you saw my facebook post this morning. My sweet nine year old Mia got all the way to school before noticing that she'd forgotten to put shoes on her feet. In my effort to 'teach her a lesson' I let her know she wouldn't be able to go to class until she had shoes. She had to walk up and into the school barefoot and wait in the office until a kind friend brought her a pair or shoes....


Yesterday at Brite Divinity School we celebrated the 'Convocation'. This is a beautiful recognition and celebration of the start of a new academic year and a naming of new students, faculty and staff. In one of many speeches, someone casually spoke the phrase 'privilege of education'. My friend Walter leaned in and repeated the phrase 'privilege of education'...

Today in class, while discussing postcolonial theology (see past blogs for more definitions and links), we got into a hot discussion about the shortage of women working in theological settings. Is there a real problem? Is the academic world still dominated by 'white men'? Is there a real effort happening to change that?

An important piece of the constructive effort of postcolonial theology is to create space in the academic world of theology for the voices, stories, and wisdom of women on the margins- those women living in formerly colonized areas.


This left me thinking about a few things (I promise this will come together!)....

We can say we value the knowledge and wisdom and experience of people, and we can name underlying issues of racism, classism, sexism-

but until we address the systemic, religious, economic, and cultural forces that keep women in poverty, keep women as primary (and at times solitary) caretakers for all in their family, and as often as women are continuously violated and exploited-- there will never be enough freedom of time and energy for women to actually share their experiences... to bring light to their wisdom, to reflect theologically, and to develop genuine relationships of mutuality.

We live in a world where women represent 70% of the poor population, where too often women's time and energy is spent fully on fighting for survival, trying to make ends meet.

As a person who lives a very comfortable and supported life, I still struggle through so many days. I wonder how in the world can women 'on the margins' find time and energy to fit into traditional systems of knowledge and academic education?

Education surely is a privilege.

Mia got to go to school today. Unlike half the children on the planet, her feet were nice and safe in borrowed pink puma tennis shoes....

I drove off to sit in an air-conditioned building to discuss theology and church history.

What a privilege.

How can we share this privilege to create more space for the valuable voices and wisdom of women?

Some information on women, education and poverty around the world:

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