Recently, two of my granddaughters graduated from high school. As I sat through the ceremonies my mind wandered back to my high school days. I have some great memories and some harsh disappointments.
Discrimination is not new; we are just far more aware of it today. Back in the ’50s, when a teacher said, “Jump,” we asked, “How high?” I was discriminated against, not for the usual things, but because I was female.
If this happened to one of my girls, they would have come home and complained. If this had happened to one of my granddaughters, their parents would have taken on the school board. This happened to me in the 1950s, so I just dealt with it.
It was senior year and my first day of school at Bushy Park High School in London, England. Its claim to fame was that the buildings, Quonset huts, had been Eisenhower’s headquarters during World War ll.
I was in Physics class.
The teacher had textbooks placed on each table. He asked his students to put their names in the back of the book after he called out their name. Then he would record the number of each book. He picked up the extra books and mine. My name was not called.
Then he assigned lab partners. I was not given one.
Then he asked if anyone had any questions, and I did. I raised my hand and was called on. The only time all year, I might add. Why not a textbook or lab partner? Rather than answer me, he asked why I was in his classroom. So I told him, “I had this class on my schedule for this period.”
“Blonde cheerleading types do not last in my class, so let’s save ourselves a lot of time and effort and leave my class today.”
Now if ever I had a character flaw it is that I would never, ever accept anyone telling me that I was incapable of doing anything.
The next day I showed up again. I had an unregistered textbook but never had a lab partner. (I returned the book to the shelf at the end of the year.) I was never called on or acknowledged in that class all year. On my report card I got just a dash, no grade. As the year was ending I started to sweat it out.
I needed four years of a science in order for it to qualify as a major. I only missed one question out of 100 on my finals. He gave me an A for the year.
On graduation day he finally said something to me. “Miss Grigg, in all my years of teaching you have been the only student that had the nerve to challenge me. Others would never have come back after the first day.”
I think that was a compliment.
Margaret Griffin has lived in Sun City Hilton Head for 15 years.