Education is Dangerous!

"People are difficult to govern because they have too much knowledge." -Lao-tzu (604 BC - 531 BC)

One of my favorite Black History figures is the African-American writer, editor, and activist, Frederick Douglass. Douglass, like many during that time, was born into slavery, but decided, rather than die in slavery as well, he would run away to the North. He beat all odds and succeeded in making it North and there, made more than one drop in the sea of American History.

Douglass, himself, did not date this journey to freedom from the moment he decided between life in the North and death in the South; instead, he dated the beginning of his escape to freedom back to when he was just a child. As a child, he was sent to Baltimore to serve a relative of his owner.
"The frequent hearing of my mistress reading the Bible aloud, for she often read aloud when her husband was absent, awakened my curiosity in respect to his mystery of reading, and roused in me the desire to learn… in an incredibly short time, by her kind assistance, I had mastered the alphabet and could spell words of three or four letters." (1993, 56)
The wife of his master's relative, Ms. Auld, was from the North, and she had a rather liberal stance on racial matters. As such, she began teaching Douglass how to recognize the written word. One day, though, he overheard the master of the house and his wife arguing. It ended with the master forbidding his wife to continue her lessons of Douglass. In that day and age, it was not only illegal for her to be doing so, but, as Douglass recounts the master saying, it was dangerous, "for if he learns, it will forever unfit him to be a slave!"

This was the beginning of his flight to freedom as the seed was already planted. He continued to teach himself to read, and, once his mind was freed, he sought to free his body as well.

You see, Douglass, a bright young man, knew this truth in his heart: learning and the self-awareness that it brings unfits us from second-class citizenship, it unfits us for oppression and unwitting servitude.
“For want of knowledge we are killed all the day long.” (1955, 307)
Why? Because learning raises questions. Questions in our spirits, our hearts, our souls, our deepest intellect, opening up the ability to question those dangerous practices that are engrained, without reason, in our society: why things are the way they are, why they cannot be changed, why there seems to be no valid reason behind those practices!

Let me explain: if you are able to truly educate a person to her options, she starts wanting those options.. and if she starts wanting those options, she starts seeking those options and people who will support those options. And if they start wanting, and seeking those options and people to support those options, then those women have a good chance of getting those options.
"Mankind have a great aversion to intellectual labor; but even supposing knowledge to be easily attainable, more people would be content to be ignorant than would take even a little trouble to acquire it." - Samuel Johnson (1709 - 1784)
Recently, I worked with a woman who, at our first meeting, was excited to learn all she could about her options, having just learned of doulas and independent childbirth classes. At our second meeting, she was reserved, diminutive, and resigned. Her doctor let her know, at her last appointment, he would not work with a doula, and said that independent childbirth classes were 'dangerous'.

His reasoning? Doctors could not control what was being taught, and thus, she might get 'notions' for things that simply could not be. WOW! What a throw back.

The beautiful mama and I remained friends, but she did not use me as a dangerous accomplice (doula) and didn't take those dangerous classes. She ended up with an induction at 39 weeks and 1 day, an epidural at 3cm, a cesarean for FTP, and a 'too big baby' that weighed in at 7lbs 2 oz.

I am not saying that every woman who researches the benefits of alternative birth will want one, but I am saying that, if she truly and non-biased researches the benefits of alternative birth and parenting options, she will make more informed, more personally tailored choices that will build confidence in her, her family, and, most often, they are the healthier and safer choices.

Educated families are a threat: they are a threat to the American way of birth and parenting. And well they should be because the all American way is simply not working. We are a dysfunctional society with dysfunctional birth and parenting practices. We should be questioning these practices, because they simply don't work out for healthy outcomes.

So, if you consider danger and threat to be synonymous, then yes, education IS dangerous. But for me and my family? No. For the powers that be and societal norm? Yes!

For additional research, some pioneers in the childbirth and childbearing/sexuality field:
and so many more...

Frederick Douglass, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass. Avenel, NJ: 1993.
Frederick Douglass, Life and Writings of Frederick Douglass. New York: International Publishers, 1955[1975].


Sarah M said...

I just wanted to say thank you for your wonderful blog. I took 1 child birth class and it was horrible. Since I am due in May it has been hard to find a new one so I have been doing a lot of my own research. Your blog has great resources and you have made me feel comfortable about giving birth. So thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Sarah said...

Thank you for this. I can relate to the reference of the friend who did not go with the "dangerous" option of having you as her doula and taking classes. You could have been describing my own recent experience with a friend.

My friend just had her baby this week. . . induced, c-section after around 24 hours for failure to progress. Her first birth was a c-sec as well, and I so wanted to support her in giving birth to her baby this time, but we had such differing views and she ended up doing everything the same this time, and I believe that is why she had another section. Not going into all the specifics. . . the subject of this post really says it all--she refused to educate herself on her options and the risks/benefits and she reaped what she sowed.

In contrast, another friend of mine also gave birth recently and also reaped what she sowed. She was so hungry for information and very thoughtful of all she could do to make herself succeed in the unmedicated birth she wanted. She ate well, studied up on her options, took a thorough and informative class, practiced relaxation and she did an amazing job of giving birth--and got the birth she'd worked toward (despite the occurrence of several anti-ideal things that were totally out of her control)! She was so satisfied and excited, and practially shouting from the roof-tops that she'd done it--and I loved that! Her confidence will only build and she will transfer that confidence to others as well.

The contrast is so clear to me, but I don't think many women realize how much of what they experience with their births has to do with the choices they make (not just birth choices--even in pregnancy). I wish the underlying reason were more obvious to others. Instead, my friend thinks her body is broken, and will most likely never believe any differently. So sad to me. I so wanted to see her have a better birth, but she would not put any effort toward such a goal--left it all to chance. In my opinion, she cheated herself out of a wonderfully positive experience (no matter what happened) by not educating and preparing herself.


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