A Tyranny of Choice
In the freshman composition class I teach, I have students read an essay called "The Tyranny of Choice." The essay posits that students in the U.S. are offered so many choices that they have become paralyzed, less likely to be focused than in times with more rigid standards. Now, I am a believer in multiple intelligences and honoring many paths to knowledge. I do not advocate for rigid, cookie-cutter educational systems. However, I have noticed the same phenomena with my students. Too many choices seem to lead to disassociation, perhaps because education is seen as less special or valuable. I like to think there is a middle ground.
Recently, I have been engaged in dialogue with other women my age- late twenties to mid-thirties- and we have been discussing a similar circumstance in our lives. Many of us are still stumbling, trying to decide about careers, marriage, kids, aging parents etc. We do not live in a country anymore that promises
hard work will reward. We have degrees and titles, but we can't find jobs. Still, we are women we believe in love or we want to. But we don't know if we believe in marriage; we've witnesses our parets divorces, our grandparents sufferin unhappinesses. We are caught in limbo searching for the "right" answer that will bring us that happy, successful life we've been promised.
In the essay I teach my students, there is a passage that speaks to this searching for the "right" answer as part of the problem. Students are desperately afraid to make a wrong decision, so they can't decide what to do. Are we the same? Is freedom paralyzingly to a certain sect of women in the U.S? The conundrum is that of education: certainly we do not advocate fewer freedoms. This is especially poignant when we think about all of the severely oppressed women of the world. We are supposed to be fortunate in this respect. So where does that leave us?
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this, women of the world. I am particularly interested in hearing from women who are fighting for their basic freedoms. I know that these types of conversations can be touchy, and I ask in the spirit of collaboration. Many thanks.