Saturday, May 22, 2010

An Education Revisited

Flo, Marion and Edith Nicholson, Quebec teachers. Marion went on to be union leader of PAPT. Flo taught all her life. Edith, without a diploma, went on to secretarial school, but also worked all her life.

I saw the movie An Education twice more last week, as I bought it off satellite and then watched it again with my sister in law. I think I like it even more now, it improves upon viewing. Even the bits I didn't quite like the first time (why was the other girlfriend soooo stupid?) seemed OK. And I like Dominic Cooper. He acts subtly just as Hornby writes subtly (except for the over the top dumbness of Rosalind Pyke's character.)

My sister in law, a contempary of the lead character played by Carrie Mulligan, wondered why the parents of Mulligan, such philistines, wanted her to get an education in the first place. (It isn't indicated in the movie.) Did they think she would find a better class of husband?

Was it just snobbery? It wasn't de rigueur for girls to be educated back then. There were not many work options for them, as the movie states. Emma Thompson's character (the headmistress of the school) has a funny line. "It's not only teaching, there's also the civil service."

No, it wasn't essential that a girl go to college in the sixties and it was positively odd in the 1910's, except for a certain upper class girl, the Wellesley girls, for instance, I mention in my book.

But the Nicholsons did believe in education, even for their daughters. Well, especially. Marion, I suspect, believed in an education as a means to an end and Edith loved to learn, period. (Marion jokes in a letter for Normal School (teaching school) "Most of my fellow students are looking for a pupil of one upon graduation."

Margaret, their mom had another reason for getting an education . "An Education is something no one can take away from you." She was the descendant of Isle of Lewis Scots cleared from the land in Scotland and forced to come to Quebec.

Edith Nicholson was my sister in law's inspiration. Dean (my sister in law)had a learning disability (as does my husband) and her teachers didn't expect much from her. "She's very pretty," they told her parents at parent's day. "She won't have a problem." But Edith, who worked as Assistant Registrar at McGill University and as the Assistant Warden at Royal Victorial College (girls' college) at McGill, encouraged Dean, altready a hard worker, to strive for excellence. Dean eventually got a PhD in Education.