Nancy Briskay Cornell Lipsius
Nancy (Briskay Cornell) Lipsius graduated from college in her early 70s and dreamed of attending seminary.
I was asked how my schooling was different from the schooling of today and I’m afraid, being very nervous when speaking in a group, that I really did not touch on the real differences.
Although certain subjects were taught differently than present times, it was the times and the attitudes that were different prior to World War II.
I can only touch on this subject from my own experience in my own family and school system and my particular group of friends. And when it came time for high school it was my parents who selected my direction. Not too many girls at that period of time expected to go on to college but my parents expected me to progress from high school to the University of New Hampshire to become a Latin teacher. I was not consulted as to what I would like to do, just as my parents made all my choices up to that point.
That started my first rebellion. I did not want to become a teacher. So then the only other choice I had was to become a secretary and it was off to business school to gain the skills which I have been using regularly since that time.
My parents also made other choices for me. My friends were selected on the basis of not being Italian—Jewish—Rumanian—Polish—Irish—or black. So that meant my contacts were limited and restricted. It was this kind of attitude that limited learning processes—made book learning so much more important than learning from people. How many times have I heard, “Don’t talk with her—she dresses funny” or “Don’t talk to him—he smells bad.”
My reading material was chosen for me and, I must admit, that because it was chosen for me, I started to dislike reading. However, at every opportunity I could be found reading “True Confessions” under the cover of night and a flashlight—a magazine secretly passed among my friends and stealthily brought to my bedroom. I remember my mother reading “Of Mice and Men” and my father burning it in the furnace because he didn’t want such “filth” in his house.
In our Social Studies classes discussion was discouraged and those few students who tried to promote discussion were firmly removed from the classroom.
I think my educational experience was limited also because the majority of my teachers were elderly women, single, who were teaching only for the financial security and not because they were excited about opening up our minds to the world around us or imparting interesting knowledge.
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