Bitter Milk Research Proposal

Pages: 4 (1347 words)  ·  Style: APA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Teaching

Bitter Milk

Grumet, Madeline. (1988). Bitter Milk. University of Massachusetts Press.

% of all the nation's teachers are female: so why have women's values had relatively little impact upon shaping the professional values and ethos of pedagogy? This is the central question asked by Madeline Grumet in her 1988 book Bitter Milk, which offers a feminist and feminine-centric view of the teaching process. Over the course of Grumet's work, which is half-memoir, one-quarter theory, and one-quarter history, Grumet advocates a non-patriarchal form of teaching. Unlike some teachers, who resist the characterization of teaching as 'women's work,' Grumet embraces it. Rather than separate women's nurturing and reproductive qualities from their roles as teachers, Grumet advocates linking a teacher's status as a mother or potential mother with her role as an educator. Grumet does not state outright that women must be mothers to be teachers, but she does suggest that the feminine experience has a unique perspective to offer children in the classroom. When children receive such a woman-centric perspective, in contrast to the male perspective they receive in the rest of their cultural lives, teaching can become a truly radical political act, rather than to merely serve the values of patriarchy.

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The status of teaching as underpaid 'women's work' is a historical development, not a natural state of affairs: in the 19th century, young boys of the elite received the benefits of the teaching of a schoolmaster, and even taking into consideration rural schools and the teachers of the very young, in 1840 women only made up 60% of the teachers in the U.S. With the decline in professional status for teachers came an upsurge in female teachers: expanded access to public education and the need to educate the swelling ranks of immigrants caused many young women to be drafted into the profession. Public education and the education of the very young lacked the prestige of higher learning, and hence teaching became largely women's work.

Research Proposal on Bitter Milk Assignment

Although women were not supposed to enter the ranks of the professional classes, teaching was usually presented as a kind of half-way step between girlhood and marriage. By 1910 more than 80% of American teachers were female, very often women fleeing the ranks of motherhood to seek some sort of independence (Grumet 1988, p. 43). But women, as mothers and teachers, have contributed their biological and metaphorical labor to institutions that have fostered female subordination. Essentially, female teachers have unwittingly become part of the mechanics of oppression. Women are called upon to use standardized methods of indoctrination that stifle children's creativity and love of learning and which has no parallel with the way women instinctively teach their own children. Throughout her book, Grumet parallels the experience of teaching with the experience of mothering, to stress how both facets of her life are interconnected, even though scientific methods of teaching might suggests that they 'should' be different.

Women often consciously or unconsciously reinforce male values in the classroom. Even simply favoring louder and more boisterous boys can subtly undermine girl students' confidence, and women are no more immune from falling into the trap of favoring male values than are male teachers. The curriculum is transmitted independently of the body of the teacher. Women teach a curriculum that favors male writers and historical figures and favors competition rather than collaboration. As women enforce these norms that subvert non-patriarchal ways of knowing, the process of education becomes a kind of oppressive scheme, where resistance is almost impossible once the teacher becomes part of the institution. The educational system has used women, just as the state has used the educational system to validate oppression. The state, Grumet suggests, strives to have it 'both ways.' Those who deal with young children are primarily women, but male administrators tell these women what to teach. Teaching is devalued as a profession because it is feminized, but teachers are not allowed to bring their feminine ways of knowing to the classroom. Instead of learning at a mother's knee, now students are subjected to dittos and standardized tests… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Bitter Milk" Research Proposal in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Bitter Milk.  (2009, November 27).  Retrieved January 16, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Bitter Milk."  27 November 2009.  Web.  16 January 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Bitter Milk."  November 27, 2009.  Accessed January 16, 2021.