Online ISSN : 2187-5278
Print ISSN : 0387-3161
ISSN-L : 0387-3161
Feminism and Education : the Public and the Private Aspect
Ryoko Kimura
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2000 Volume 67 Issue 3 Pages 302-310


The aim of this paper is to clarify first how feminism treated the distinction between the public and the private aspect in modern society, and then to examine discussion of recent years concerning feminism and public education. The first wave of feminism, typified by the movement for female suffrage in the early 20th century, claimed an equal right to take part in the"public"sphere, assuming the modern definition of"public". However, the second wave of feminism from the 1960's onward, had doubts about the division between the public and the private aspect. "The personal is the political", a famous slogan of the second wave of feminism, expressed criticism about distinction between the public and the private aspect, criticizing presence of sexism in the"private"area as well as in the"public". The second wave of feminism tried to make an issue out of the power relation dominated by men, which was prevailing through the whole life style then. At present, feminism is said to have won recognition in the Japanese society. In the discussions of recent years, some were skeptical if the feminism, which used to be anti-establishment, was now standing by the side of the establishment, the power. In connection with education, feminism has criticized sexism in schools and demanded that the learning environment for girls be improved. Such a movement has influenced various stages of education from elementary to higher education. As a result, it developed into a situation, which could be termed as the"institutionalization"of feminism into public education under so-called"equality of the sexes"or"gender-free education". For the second wave of feminism that criticized public education itself, the institutionalization of feminism into public education was internally an inconsistency. Feminism developed a unique methodology of learning-teaching process. The methodology it emphasized, for example, refused passive learning under the conventional hierarchical teacher-student relation, aimed to establish a learner's self-direction, and realized a process of consciousness-raising based on the principle that"the personal is the political". The idea that boys and girls should learn equality, freedom and liberation from the viewpoint of feminism unavoidably contradicts the situation at school where there are unbalanced power relations between teachers and students. Under such contradictory circumstances, what will be the future of an education that aims at equality between men and women? The assignment for the gender and the educational research from now on is to demonstrate the actual state of the educational promotion aiming equality of the sexes now in progress and to elucidate what such promotion has brought to the educational front.

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