Tuesday, June 09, 2009

A Year Among The Girls

In 1984, after I'd finished a disastrous year of Bible school, I opted for my first and equally disastrous year of University. Being an empathetic and frequently spineless lad, I figured the job of social worker was right up my alley. I mentioned my ambitions to my father, and he forwarded me to a parishioner who was high up in the mucky-muck of the province's social safety net. This man told me outright, "If you want to be an effective social worker, avoid the University Faculty of Social Work altogether. Take their Home Ec program, instead. Things like money management, nutrition, basic social skills that cultivate self-respect and respect for others, even aesthetics ... these are all qualities that our current system is sorely in need of."

This made sense to me, so I visited the campus and sought out the tiny Faculty of "Human Ecology" (ooo -- PC face-lift. Good sign!). I presented my transcript (fudging on the previous year, writing it off as "a year of travel") and was shoehorned into the program. The class that year was just over 80 people. Only five of us were guys.

A month later, my dad asked me how it was going. I was miserable, and not at all sure I could put in the full year. "Why not?" asked my father.

It was the professors, I said, particularly those in Hum Ec. "They talk down to us. They reduce everything to ridiculously simplistic levels. They treat us like infants. It's nothing like the courses we take in the Basic Arts."

My father was quiet for a bit. Then he said, "Well, I'd say you're lucky to know a little of how women have felt over the last 50 years."


Bookslut links to A.C. Grayling's huffy dismissal of Charlotte Greig's novel, A Girl's Guide To Modern European Philosophy. It's Greig's measured response at the conclusion that brings me back to that dismal year I spent "among the girls." I've not yet read A Girl's Guide, but I've put in my order. The very least one can say about Greig's book is that employing Kierkegaard's Fear & Trembling to explore the issues of gender and abortion is remarkably clever -- in fact, novel -- and potentially profound. I'm looking forward to this.

Update: Grayling seems to have taken a deep breath and posted a civil rejoinder. Civility? In the Thunderdome of Book Reviewing? What's this world coming to?


yahmdallah said...

Cool insight. (Of you and your Dad's.)

I took typing II in high school, because I was the slowest typist in the class, so thought the next class would help. It turned out it was really focused on "how to be a secretary" (and I was the only guy in there). It was taught by the same teacher who taught the initial typing class, and he was a lot less patient - and a lot more condescending - to the typing II class. I just put my finger on why.

Whisky Prajer said...

Typing Class ... *shudder* It's ironic how the one class I failed in High School gave me the one skill I rely most heavily upon in adult life (after cooking, I suppose).

Joel said...

after I'd finished a disastrous year of Bible school

...Sounds like there might be some interesting stories hidden behind that sentence. Was this covered in a previous post and I missed it, or is this material yet to be blogged?

Whisky Prajer said...

Well ... some disasters possess more drama than others. This was a standard-issue late-adolescent muddle. This post makes some mention of it. My roommate from that year just passed away, so I might take you up on the matter and say a little more.