Reclaiming a Conversation


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The Ideal of Educated Woman

Jane Roland Martin

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In this book Jane Roland Martin joins in conversation with five philosophers—Plato, Rousseau, Mary Wollstonecraft, Catharine Beecher, and Charlotte Perkins Gilman—about how women should be educated in an ideal society, and she draws out implications for the education of both sexes today.
“A timely and important contribution both to feminist theory and to the philosophy of education.”—Carol Gilligan, Harvard University
“Fascinating. . . . The juxtaposition of views, together with Martin’s critical comparisons, illuminates each account.”—Martha Nussbaum, New York Review of Books
“Martin’s careful work shows [that]. . . a serious effort to design ideal education for women makes it necessary also to rethink men’s schooling. This is an important book.”—Library Journal
“Martin has provided a uniquely valuable service to educators.”—Sandra Harding, Journal of Education
“This is a decidedly intelligent and well-written book.”—Margaret Canovan, Times Higher Education Supplement
“The book ends with questions rather than answers: how best can each of us reflect all things human in our own lives, and how can education prepare us to do so effectively? The great strength of Martin’s work is the historical resonance that it gives both to these questions and the understanding of their fundamental importance for men and women alike.”—Margaret Rouse Bates, Signs
Selected as an American Educational Studies Association’s “Critics Choice” book for 1986

"Reclaiming a Conversation fills a void in the study of educational philosophy and the history of educational ideas.  In no way stereotypical, Dr. Martin’s avoids traditional dichotomies and cliches, even as it remains open to current developments in women's studies.  Her conversations with great figures of the past open up  unfamiliar dimensions of educational thought and cannot but give rise to an enlarged contemporary conversation about how women and men ought to be educated." —Maxine Greene, Professor of Philosophy and Education, Teachers College, Columbia University

"In Reclaiming a Conversation Jane Martin takes from the history of ideas, Plato and Rousseau to the present, five portraits of the ideally educated woman.  In retracing for us the outlines of these five pictures, Martin allows each one to enhance and clarify the strengths and shortcomings of the other four.  The resulting matrix is a rich and subtle framework into which Martin weaves a wonderfully reflective essay on the place of women in society—real, imagined, feared and hoped for." —Gareth B.  Matthews, Professor of Philosophy, University of Massachusetts at Amherst

"Intellectual progress comes from asking questions other people have not thought to ask, and that is precisely what Jane Martin is doing in this intelligent and beautifully written book which raises fundamental issues for educational philosophy." —Anne Firor Scott, Duke University

"This book lives up to its own ideal, which might be called respectful radicalism. And it will certainly prompt its readers to continue the conversation about women's education that it so imaginatively reclaims."—Elisabeth Young-Bruehl, author of Hannah Arendt 

"Reclaiming a Conversation is a smashing book. It does far more than deftly examine how the education of girls and women has been conceptualized from Plato on, but shows us relevance for today of the questions raised in the past."—Bernice Sandler, Executive Director, Project on the Status and Education of Women

"Martin, a philosopher, considers the unexamined assumptions that control efforts to construct an education will produce the adults a society wants. . . . Her careful work shows the impossibility of just 'adding women'—a serious effort to design ideal education for women makes it necessary also to rethink men's schooling.  This is an important book."—Library Journal

"An erudite analysis, comparison and critique of five theoretical systems of female education from Plato to the early twentieth century.  The author ultimately synthesizes the various theories into her own recommendations for an education that satisfies the needs of both men and women."—Kirkus Reviews

"Martin constructs a lively exchange of ideas among [Plato, Rousseau, Wollstonecraft, Beecher and Gilman].  This fresh essay on women's place in society—real, imagined, feared, and desired —will prompt readers to continue the conversation it so imaginatively reclaims."—Fran Rosenberg, New Directions for Women

"Jane Martin has provided a uniquely valuable service to educators in demonstrating that we need not reinvent the wheel to begin thinking critically about what would be more desirable ideals and practices of education. Martin frames her study within the assumptions of contemporary feminist theory, and particularly focuses on the fundamental questions about women's and men's education which have been asked by Adrienne Rich."—Sandra Harding, Journal of Education

"Martin's book is valuable . . . because she brings a mature and rational approach to the sensitive problem of dealing with philosophical theories, some of which seem terribly sexist, unfair, or out of place in contemporary times."—Nathaniel Teich, College Teaching

"This is a decidedly intelligent and well-written book, which amply vindicates her work of reclamation."—Margaret Canovan, Times Higher Education Supplement

"[Martin] present[s] a perspective that is both attentive to real-world constraints and attractively visionary.  She knows that education cannot be 'created anew,' that 'as a social institution it has a history and traditions, and it is bound by economic and cultural constraints.'  But she also has confidence the 'long-standing assumptions can be discarded, and fresh vision can improve practice.'  Her careful and thought-provoking reclaiming of the vision of these five authors of the past contributes richly the that enterprise."—Nannerl O. Keohane, Women's Review of Books

"This is a wonderful book—warm, literate, thoughtful, and generous. . . . Reclaiming a Conversation reads like a good novel.  One cannot put it down easily and regrets coming to the end. . . . We could not ask for much more in a philosophical work."—Nel Noddings, Teachers College Record

"A first-rate piece of historical scholarship."—Christopher J. Lucas, History of Education Quarterly

"The book is very clearly written and as such serves to invite many kinds of readers into its dialogue.  One cannot fail to develop a respect for the significance of the conflicts that develop during the 'conversations.' As one reads Martin's work one not only discovers the void in the discussion of women's education, but one also becomes dramatically aware of the one-dimensionality of general theories of education that have worked primarily from assumptions about men's roles in society." —Glorianne M. Leck, Educational Studies

"Critically and imaginatively argued, this is a landmark essay . . . in the philosophy of education."—Ethics

"This book is so well written, and so mild-mannered in its tone, that one might easily miss its revolutionary intent."—Margaret Rouse Bates, SIGNS

"What is striking about this book is the seriousness it accords the female voice in philosophy and in education."—Harvard Educational Review

"An important new book in which she invites us to join her in a conversation about the ideal of the educated woman."—Brian Hendley, Canadian Philosophical Review

"One of the important tasks that Jane Roland Martin's Reclaiming a Conversation accomplishes is to prove the limitations of contemporary philosophy of education. . . . The significance of Professor Martin's book is that it conclusively makes the point that this is a restructuring we can no longer avoid."—Linda J. Nicholson, International Studies in Philosophy

"A timely and important contribution both to feminist theory and to the philosophy of education."—Carol Gilligan, Harvard University

Winner of a 1986 Critics' Choice Award given by the American Educational Studies Association
ISBN: 9780300039993
Publication Date: September 10, 1987
221 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4