A problem that I see with a lot of contemporary Western feminism is that if society was as sexist as they claim it is this would be impossible.
In the last week of her life, my mother extracted a promise from me. “Make sure,” she said, “that Orion goes to college.”
I swore that I would, although I wasn’t at all sure how I’d make it happen. Even in the year 2000, average tuitions were almost 10 times what my own undergraduate school had charged 30 years earlier. I knew that sending my nephew to college would cost more money than I’d have when the time came. If he was going to college, like his aunt before him, he’d need financial help. The difference was that his “help” was likely to come not as a grant, but as life-defining loans.
“Orion,” by the way, is a pseudonym for my brother’s son, my parents’ only grandchild. To the extent that any of us placed family hopes in a next generation, he’s borne them all. Orion was only five years old when I made that promise and he lived 3,000 miles away in a depressed and depressing de-industrialized town in New York’s Hudson River Valley. We’d only met in person once at that point. Over the years, however, we kept in touch by phone, later by text message, and twice he even visited my partner and me in San Francisco.
A little more than a decade after I made that promise, Orion graduated from high school. I thought that with a scholarship, loans, and financial help from his father and us, we might indeed figure out how to pay the staggering costs of a college education, which now averages $35,000 a year, having doubled in this century alone.
It turned out, however, that money wasn’t the only obstacle to making good on my promise. There was another catch as well. Orion didn’t want to go to college. Certainly, the one guidance counselor at his 1,000-student public high school had made no attempt to encourage either him or, as far as I could tell, many of his classmates to plan for a post-high-school education. But would better academic counseling have made a difference? I doubt it.