Lifelong Pursuits: Education and Reinvention

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Jennifer Pharr Davis is an author, speaker, and adventurer who was named a National Geographic Adventurer of the Year. She has shared her stories of exploration and resiliency with girls’ schools throughout the U.S. The following is an excerpt from her closing remarks at the recent Educating Girls Symposium, “Leading Schools, Leading Girls: Preparing for the Future.”


In order to receive the best education possible, girls must be given a transformative experience. It is not enough to memorize facts or learn how to think. They need to physically put their whole person—mind and body—in a place where they can fail, where they can feel, and where they can escape mounting pressures and deafening noise in order to find their own voice.

A 21st century education should teach girls they don’t have to have their lives figured out when they are eighteen—or twenty-one. Education and reinvention are lifelong pursuits.

  • Girls should have opportunities to discover that vision and direction have a greater reward than busyness.
  • They should be encouraged to engage in difficult conversations, so they don’t try to hide from them later on in life.
  • Girls need to able to share in the tragedies of their communities so they can learn how to heal.
  • And the sooner a girl can let go of a perception of control, the better she will be at responding to her environment.

As much as any academic course, a 21st century education should offer real life, real world, and real work components that are interwoven with a connection to the outdoors, compassion for others, and open access to spirituality, beauty, and art.

If you want a young woman to succeed, you can’t show her what to do or simply share the importance of a matter. You have to educate her with experiences so she can then build knowledge, confidence, and resiliency—one step at a time.


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