A month ago today, I set off on a singularly impractical journey, across the country to San Francisco for the International Association of Gerontology & Geriatrics 21st (quadrennial) World Congress.
I am a playfulness coach, not a gerontologist, geriatrician, clinician or statistician. Yet there I was, this time a month ago, at Somerton station getting on a train down to 30th Street Station & then a 2nd train down to Philadelphia International Airport. Heading west for reasons that I could not express to myself let alone other, a trip underwritten in total by friends & family because John & I are temporarily without clients, therefore income. Practical people would be saving every penny for September’s BIG school tax bill, not waving goodbye to each other as I headed out to the City by the Bay for scholarly presentations on all manner of elder care.
But I have never been practical. Chronically successful – yes. And all of those successes were fully rooted in the decidedly impractical.
Take my college education. My career goal since my tweens was to teach 7th Grade at our local elementary school. Which was why, when I was a college sophomore, I was hauled into the Dean of the Education Department’s office – if I wanted to teach, WHY was I getting my degree in Religion & Philosophy (with a minor un History) instead of, like other wanna-be educators, an Ed degree? See, back in the mid-’70s, as it had for decade upon decade, our local college only offered the two degrees – Ed for teachers, Religion & Philosophy for guys going onto take ministerial training at the Theological School.
“Girls don’t take that degree,” I was told. Except – I did.
As diplomatically as possible, I explained to the Dean, also Head of the Ed Dept, that I believed teachers needed to have as broadly-based an education as possible, that the Ed degree was too restricted to “The Teaching of...” courses rather than mind-massaging history, english, psych, science courses that couldn’t be squeezed into the Ed program’s possibilities. I explained that our small college offered a large number of exceptional professors, so why should I go to West Chester or the University of Delaware, when one of the best colleges was right in my own back yard. I talked about coming back for a 5th year of Ed courses, which he thought was totally nuts – why not get my degree in Ed & come back for a year of enrichment classes? “Because, Mr. Gladish, if I got my Ed degree & a job was available, I’d take it & skip the extra courses.”
He thought it was totally impractical, a waste of my time. But I went ahead & did something beyond his ken, without his blessing.
Was hauled back into his office before graduation.
“Are you still planning on coming back for a year of Ed courses?” he grilled.
“You understand that taking that extra year, getting those classes, is no guarantee you will get a job teaching?” he continued.
I took a deep breath before stating what was, to me, the obvious.
“You do understand that if I do NOT take the extra year & classes & a job does open up, I definitely WON’T get it.”
He did not like my response. Again, he thought it was utterly impractical, a waste of my time. And once again, I went right ahead & did it.
Fast forward a year & I was getting ready to teach 6th Grade. Four years later – was teaching 7th. All on a Bachelor’s degree in Religion & Philosophy (with a minor in History) plus an extra year of “Teaching of…” classes.
Something I didn’t know at the time I was taking my impractical stab at my future that there was a lot of talk about expanding the course offerings, something that some of the more longtime professors & administrators resisted – “WHO would want to come to this college for anything but an Ed or pre-theological school degree?” was their argument. Well, there I was & at least one other woman (and high school classmate – the Class of ’70 clearly had its fair share of rebels), telling them in word & deed – “WE DO!”
When I graduated in 1975, what is currently Bryn Athyn College offered just the two degrees. In 2017, you can still take your degree in Ed or the equivalent of Religion & Philosophy – or you could choose one of two fields of study..
- The Human Society Major (HSoc) uses a multidisciplinary approach with anthropology, history, political science, and sociology studies included.
- The Interdisciplinary (ID) Majors allow students to complement their study with another chosen field.
Offering majors in…
- Fine Arts
- Human Society
- Political Science
- Advanced Interdisciplinary
Who could have guessed when I was so outrageously impractical in pursuing my heart’s desire LIFE that things would fall as they did? But one of the things I’ve learned for sure over my 65 years it’s that we should never rule out the power of the impractical.