That’s the way it was

I read recently in my hometown newspaper, the Messenger in rural Kansas, that in 1938, local men teachers received a salary of $1,386 a year and women teachers only $943. That’s a disparity of 32%.

This unjust pay discrepancy flew under my radar in the ensuing years of my boyhood, even though my father was on the school board and thus partly responsible for the practice.  All my grade school teachers were women, and as far as I know none ever complained.

After I had written this, a woman friend who still lives in that now-shrunken spot on the road, shrugged, “That’s the way it was.”

Many of my school friends look back on those long-ago days with sentimentality, as if growing up there was life’s grandest moment. And maybe it was if you were white and male. But to carry these myths about your hometown into adulthood, forgetting the racism, the barbarity, and the unfair pay to women, well, I can not see that as more than childish thinking.

This sentimentality for the past, I think, is one of the most crippling aspects in today’s America.

“That’s the way it was” doesn’t have to be “That’s the way it will always be.”



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