Crabby Old Lady has been silent for a long time. Apparently, she is making up for her absence with a second screed this week and who knows if there will be more.
On Monday, Crabby Old Lady was advised that she is ineligible for a volunteer position with an organization in her county because she lacks a college degree.
No, she’s not going to give you details because she has to live in this county, there may be other kinds of opportunities in the future and she does not want to make enemies. But she has got her knickers in a big-time twist over this.
What’s a college degree worth, anyway? Grade inflation has been growing for so long, it has been decades since there was any way to know if students actually learn anything. But Crabby is getting ahead of herself.
It’s true. Crabby Old Lady did not go to college. And if you want to be literal about it, her formal education lasted only nine years.
In the middle of fifth grade, when that class was overloaded with students, she was promoted with several others to sixth grade which was less crowded.
But Crabby didn’t get off free. In addition to her regular sixth grade classes, she was required to study everything in the second half of fifth grade and the first half of sixth grade with a special teacher. She passed all those tests with A’s, although Crabby suspects this is where the Greek and Roman gods may have slipped through the cracks.
Nowhere in school did she study those and forever since then she has been confused about which gods are whose. (These days when such questions arise, she thanks every one of them for Wikipedia where she can get a quick answer.)
Jumping ahead to high school, in the summer between Crabby’s sophomore and junior years, her parents divorced and she moved from Oregon to California with her mother. It took only a few weeks that fall to figure out that there was nothing in any of her classes that she hadn’t already learned.
So Crabby, bored out of her teenage skull and more deeply affected emotionally by the divorce and move to a new community than she understood at the time, became a world-class, successful truant. She showed up at just enough classes to stay out of trouble and figured out a dozen ways to leave most of the classes she did attend shortly after arriving.
For test days, she spent a couple of nights at home catching up with the texts and made it through her two final years of high school with A’s and one B. It’s not that Crabby is all that smart; the classes in history, science, math, Latin, etc. were that easy and most of it was not new to her.
It may have helped too that she spent a lot of the time she was supposed to be in class reading books she had checked out of the town library, especially on history and politics but some Nancy Drew too. (Crabby checked these out on weekends so the librarians wouldn’t question why she wasn’t in school.)
It’s a shame that happened. From the first day of kindergarten, Crabby Old Lady loved school. She couldn’t wait to get there each day to find out what amazing new stuff there was to know and until the move to California, school never let her down.
After graduation, Crabby could have commuted to Berkeley. It was cheap for California residents then and Crabby’s mother would have supported her at home for those four years.
But here’s a little secret she did not tell anyone for many years. Crabby was so cripplingly shy in those days that when she imagined herself driving across San Francisco Bay and needing to ask someone, a stranger, where the campus administration building was, she was terrified – and defeated. (If you’ve never suffered shyness you have no idea how debilitating and confining it can be.)
It was far less frightening for 16-year-old Crabby, who was more comfortable with adults than her peers, to get a typing job (with grownups) in San Francisco.
Throughout her career in radio, television and later, the internet, no employer questioned Crabby’s lack of a college degree. She left that line blank on the formal applications and still got the jobs.
That doesn’t work anymore. Even the lowliest, entry-level positions require a four-year degree and often a graduate degree. But how much do these kids really know? From Crabby’s personal experience when she was still working, sometimes not much and frequent reports on the declining quality of education at all levels is dispiriting.
So as a result of 21st century requirements, Crabby has been rejected out of hand only for her lack of a degree and she is furious about it. It’s not like Crabby ever stopped learning. She has always had a wide range of interests and is a quick study when she needs or wants to know something. She’ll put her autodidactic education up against a general college degree any day.
By the way, that word, “autodidact,” is usually applied with bit of a sneer as though one cannot be adequately self-taught. But among well-known autodidacts are Thomas Edison, Leonardo da Vinci, John Stewart Mill, Herman Melville, Ernest Hemingway, Frank Lloyd Wright, Mies van der Rohe, Buckminster Fuller and Jane Jacobs.
And two of the most successful technology titans, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, are Harvard dropouts.
But Crabby has been locked out of an unpaid, volunteer position in an area where she has a great deal of knowledge because some rule or unknown official has rejected her as uneducated. Blast them!
At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Jackie Harrison: Snakes, Snails and Little Boy Tales