Thursday, February 28, 2013

Who? Me?

This short piece is nuanced, and it treats several issues, but among other things, it shows how thoroughly the masculine advantage in higher education (and especially professional education) has been put to rout (numerically, at least).

Along these lines, this week I’ve been reading Frank Deford’s wonderful memoir, Over Time, and he writes in several places about how things were when he came out of college in the early ’60s, at one point noting, “ 1962 it was hard for someone like me, the Ivy League Wasp, not to move to the head of the line, for certain rather prominent subgroups—notably the female gender and all racial minorities were not taken seriously at that time.” Ah, yes. I’ve often reminded myself that, way back in the pre-history that was my high school years, I won something called the Harvard Book Award. It was given to “The Outstanding Junior Boy,” and I was very pleased indeed. But if that award had been offered, as it is now, simply to the Outstanding Junior, I’d have been out of luck. Custom had conveniently removed half the competition, so the three or four or girls who made up the true pool of outstandingness in my class just sat and politely applauded.

A year or so later, I gained entry to the college of my choice, a place that was full of other outstanding junior boys, many of whom had truly first-class minds and strong work habits. But if the place had opened its doors five years earlier than it did to women like, say, the one who became my wife, I, with my good but second-class mind and unreliable work habits, would have been out of luck. Custom and prejudice, though, once again conveniently removed half the competition.

None of this, of course, was my doing. It never dawned on me in those days that I was a beneficiary of a great cheat (several great cheats, actually). But I know it now, and I think I’d be an utter cretin if I didn’t act (and vote) accordingly.

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