Friday night, one of the women who lives in our building in this retirement community passed away peacefully in her sleep. She was ninety-three. I knew her very slightly, but liked her enormously because of the wry, wicked smile she wore and her ironic commentary on the passing scene. Yesterday afternoon Susie and I attended the graveside memorial for her at the cemetery of a local synagogue. Her son and one of her granddaughters spoke at length about her, and for the first time I learned a good deal about her early life.
She was born in New York City in 1925 and attended Hunter College, earning a degree and then for many years teaching Elementary School. As I listened to the stories of her early life, I reflected once again on how rare it was in those days for anyone, man or woman, actually to earn a college degree. In 1947, the year she would have graduated, only 4.7% of American women had a Bachelor’s Degree, a number that did not rise very much for decades. Twenty years later, in 1967, only 7.6% of women had BA’s, and even now, seventy years after she graduated, it is still the case that two-thirds of adult Americans, male or female, have not completed four years of tertiary education.
The recent college admissions scandal, involving among other things a bribed Yale Women’s soccer coach and purchased SAT scores, once again focused our attention on a handful of elite schools, ignoring the other 4,500 college and university campuses in America that award Bachelor’s degrees, and consigning to media oblivion the two-thirds of the population who do not have a degree from any school, however far from elite it may be. Even Bernie’s call for free college tuition, which so scandalizes TV commentators, does not touch the almost 50% of young men and women who do not so much as enroll in a four year higher educational institution, let alone graduate.
I have cited these statistics many times on this blog, statistics that are readily available and not by any stretch of the imagination concealed from view. I am repeatedly struck by how little acknowledgement of them there is either on the left or on the right.
Well, enough ranting. It was a moving funeral service.