Sierra writes about the impact of an English professor’s encouragement in opening her mind to her possibilities outside of the narrowly circumscribed life she was expecting from being raised in Christian patriarchy:

One evening, as Bill handed me a paper I’d written with his comments, he asked, “Did you ever think of being a professional writer?”

I stared at him, afraid to breathe. “Yes,” I stammered. “I’ve always wanted that. But how could I afford to live?”

“There’s more than one way to write,” Bill answered. “You could go to grad school. You could become a professor.” My eyes widened. I could become a professor? The borders of my world seemed to explode, running out in all directions like shockwaves from an earthquake. I could go to grad school? I felt like I’d just been told that I could go to the moon. I recalled the sign I had seen the previous year: “From Homeless to Harvard.” I could be that girl who overcame, who rejected the life laid out before her and forged a new one. I could make something of myself. Bill thought I could be that girl.

I thanked him dazedly, took my paper, and went home.

“How did you do?” My mother asked as I walked in, clutching the paper with my heart ringing as loudly as my ears. I looked at her and tucked my waist-length hair behind my ear, grinning. “I got an A.” And I went upstairs to think about how big the world had just become.

From the other side of this equation, I am a bit dispirited when I see how often perfectly good women philosophy students are shocked and skeptical when I tell them that they are doing great in class discussions and to keep it up and that they could even major in philosophy if they were interested.

Via Ophelia. Read much more of Sierra’s story here.

Your Thoughts?


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About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.