Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Superbright? No Home Ec for You!


I am following Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court with interest. I think it is especially significant that she is reported to be pragmatic and open minded. Partisanship is the lethal logjam in our political system.

However in an article in today’s New York Times, there is an incredibly obnoxious quote from one of her former classmates at Hunter College High School that really got up my nose:

“There was no driver’s ed, there was no home economics, you didn’t learn to type,” said Jennifer Raab, the president of Hunter College, who attended the high school a few years ahead of Ms. Kagan, who graduated in 1977. “You were reading great books, and you were going to college. You were going to lead, you were going to give back.”

Excuse me?

So to be a leader as a female you don’t type, you don’t drive and you don’t know how to cook?!?! Because you are too busy reading great books and thinking lofty thoughts? And doing those homey, girly things precluded going to college?

ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

This from a college president?!?! Do you actually know any women?!? Oh Jennifer, your vision is so limited.

I have read great books while nursing a baby and cooking dinner at the same time. I have thought great thoughts while typing and driving (not at the same time). I went to college. And nursing school. And graduate school. I have been a leader in the business world and in private life. I have given back in ways that I choose not to talk about, because I believe crowing about them diminishes them. I have raised four human beings who will do much good in this world. Including one who may just be a Supreme Court Justice himself one day. So I don’t have to be, to borrow a phrase from my fellow blogger J.D. (An aside, President Raab’s biography on the Hunter College page states she worked for two of the nation’s most prestigious law firms; my son works for one of the world’s most prestigious law firms, Morgan Lewis. And I am not above being an obnoxious jerk about it either. )

The Times describes Hunter College High School as “a school of ultrabright girls.” Ultrabright and ultradeficient in life skills apparently.

I feel pity for a woman who sneers at other women who choose a different path and utilize different skills then she does. President Raab’s statement reeks of condescension and derision and is alarming coming from an educator. Perhaps it was taken out of context and I am doing an Emily Litella and I will have to end with a smiling “Nevermind.” But somehow I don’t think so.

Elena Kagan may be an outstanding choice for the Supreme Court. I wish her nothing but good things. But I have more respect for the accomplishments of women like me, anonymous single mothers who work multiple jobs while juggling a million responsibilities. Elena Kagan has only had to be responsible for herself for 50 years. Yet it is held out as an example of her single-minded brilliance that she would forget to turn her car off when she got out of it at night. I find that dead scary.

Thank God she never had children.

So Jennifer, I have to say, from a superbright but apparently underachieving woman, your implied values are truly disappointing. I hope yours are not a reflection of Ms. Kagan’s standards.

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9 comments:

The Mother said...

Okay, maybe it's me, but I don't find that statement offensive.

I would have recoiled in horror if I had been required to do home ec or typing.

(Yes, I cook and type, but I did not waste solid classroom time on it. The MEN didn't, either.)

I agree, wholeheartedly, with the sentiment Ms. Raab is promoting--women should be educated exactly like men. What they do in their personal time is up to them.

Pricilla said...

I graduated in '77 as well and was required to take a home ec class. I chose to take typing; not because I was planning to be a secretary but because my father - who typed so quickly and so accurately it was scary - told me that it would come in handy no matter what I did.

And he was right.

Who could have forseen the way we are all tied to our computers now and I am sooooo happy I can type.

My comment on her nomination was that I felt it was only fair that the Supreme Court should show a balance of the demographics of the country - there are more women than men so why shouldn't the court start reflecting that?

Marie said...

It's probably not you but me. I think it's fascinating that you got the message that women and men should be educated equally and I didn't see that at all.

I absolutely agree all education should offer the same opportunities. But that is my point. I feel as though she implies that being superbright, on a leadership track, precludes any interest in those other things. I feel as though she is disdainful of those things, which is unfair.

You weren't interested, and you are superbright, but there are those who are smart leaders who are interested in home ec and typing.

Marie said...

Pricilla, you must have left your comment while I was writing mine.

I am hoping her comment was taken out of context, because typing is such a practical skill. And sometimes you just need to do boring practical things while waiting for greatness. lol

Interesting perspective on the demographics. It sure will be a different court with more women than men. That day will come eventually.

A Lawyer Mom's Musings said...

I've been watching this nominee, too. Ann Althouse has posted some very interesting stuff about her, from her performance during oral argument before the Supreme Court as solicitor general, to the her days in high school when she was the only girl who smoked.

As for the woman from Hunter . . . well, let's just say I wasn't bowled over by her modesty.

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Jen said...

I wasn't offended by this but then I haven't read the whole article. I took home ec because I needed a credit, I took typing with the boys because we had to.

It is an interesting quote and I can see the implications you saw. I have been giving back for as long as I can remember. In fact, I'd like to do a little taking.

Marie said...

Lawyer Mom: She is an interesting person, without a doubt. I really hate the pack mentality searching for every thought and flaw. It doesn't matter what she thinks about gun control and abortion. It's all about the constitution and she appears to be an excellent constitutional scholar.

And President Raab does think highly of herself and her fellow alumnae, doesn't she?

Burning Moon: Thanks for stopping by.

Jen: Thanks for making a good point about the original article. I added a link to it in my posting.

Amen to the 'taking'. You have my full authorization. lol

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