Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Finishing School

In my advisory last week we were did a lesson on the basics of college. I often forget how little ninth graders know about college beyond "It's more school after high school," so it was fun to hear things like their ideas about what a B.S. is. We got to talking about different degrees you can earn, which jobs require or indicate that you have what kind of degree, how long different degrees take, etc. For the most part I knew the answers (J.D. means Juris Doctor, right?) or was able to make up answers that sounded believable (med school is seven years, right?). But there was one question that left me stumped. Maybe you can help me out.

One student raised her hand and in complete earnest asked, "What kind of degree do you get if you go to finishing school?"

I tried to figure out exactly what she was asking. Was she asking if you get these degrees when you finish school? Was she talking about people who go on to get extra certifications after finishing their degree? Did she want to know if advanced degrees were different in Scandinavia? No, it seemed that she had heard of people going to "finishing school" for some type of legitimate education and she just wanted to know how that was different from, say, business school. Not wanting to embarrass her for trying to ask a genuine question about a quasi-educational institution designed to prepare women to play out subservient gender schema, I just pretended I didn't know what she was talking about and left it at that.

My question is what people this girl is hanging out with who talk about going to finishing school.


Roni said...

If I understand the concept of 'finishing school' correctly, the only legal piece of paper you could expect to saunter out of there with is a marriage license.

There's probably a certain segment of our society, namely the daughters of the Disney Princess Revolution, that are particularly interested in matters that once used to be only the domain of the elite or aristocratic classes of Anglo society. After all, this is the backlash that the women's lib movement has been fearing for a while: the commercial glorification of a gender-based social hierarchy run amok. It's probably only natural that the pendulum swing back that way after a few generations.

Whether your student is legitimately curious about social grooming as a life path or not would be an interesting line of enquiry to follow.

SWE said...

Not all finishing schools are created equal, I'd imagine. Generally I'd agree with the presented take on 'em.

However, I had a good friend back in Chicago whose parents subjected her and her sister to finishing school. She had very little good to say about the experience, except that it gave her a lot of confidence in social situations. I've seen girls get that at Girl Scout camp, too, though, so don't worry that we'll be signing Elise up. ;-)

However, I wouldn't mind a little systematic indoctrination regarding the benefits of good grooming and manners, not to mention non-skanky makeup and clothes. The first line of defense against the objectification of women is, after all, the confident woman.