We Know Better and We Should Do Better

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I vividly recall my first job interview after graduating from college. I had filled out hand written applications to a number of nearby school districts and I had my fingers crossed that somebody would give me a call. Back then I had to attach a photo to the upper corner of my application which also asked for information about my religious preferences. Since I knew that every district required women to wear dresses or suits with panty hose and dress shoes, I had purchased a navy blue suit and a fresh pair of hose in a neutral in case I landed an appointment. 

I was over the moon when someone finally called. I mentally prepared myself for the kind of questions that I thought I might have to answer to demonstrate my skills. On the appointed day I nervously smoothed my skirt as I drove over hoping to keep it from getting any obvious wrinkles. My heart was almost jumping out of my chest as I waited in what was then called the Personnel Department. 

Finally I was ushered into an office where a commanding looking man sat behind a desk motioning at a chair where he wanted me to sit. He was a friendly sort who kept the situation at a chatty level. He began by complimenting my perfume which I found to be a bit strange, but I let it go. Then he pulled my application out of a manilla folder and paused for a moment to scan its contents. 

He first noted that I was Catholic and then proceeded to tell me that there had been a time in the not so distant past when I never would have had an interview much, less a job offer. He babbled on about how they had one school year when there was a shortage of teachers so they hired a couple of ex-nuns. The two women were such phenomenal educators that they changed their mindset of the district about the value of Catholics as teachers. Once I told him that I had gone to Catholic school for twelve years, he appeared to be ready to hire me on the spot, but instead he continued the interview.

The next focus of his attention was on my appearance. He actually mentioned how much he liked my suit and the fact that I had worn panty hose for our meeting. He noted that many women came looking like they were going bowling or had just finished cleaning house. He thought they my care in dressing myself was a good indicator of what type of person I would be in the classroom. I sat silently letting my thoughts stay inside my mind least I accidentally utter them and lose any chance of landing a job.

He was a wealth of information including telling me about a Catholic church near where he lived that had been burned down three times before members of the Klan gave up and let it stay. Amazingly he did not seem even remotely interested in finding out my philosophy of teaching or how I might handle classroom management. The fact that I had graduated Summa Cum Laude did not appear to matter to him either. Nor did he inquire about the various awards I had received as a student. He did mention that he liked my attentiveness to his statements and then he gave me a bit of history of his own climb up the career ladder in the district. 

That was my very strange interview, with him congratulating me and assuring me that he was going to call several principal to recommend that they hire me. Indeed I had requests from principals for interviews almost as soon as I got home. I ended up working in a great school with an inspiring principal, but I was still stunned by the nature of my initial meeting with the Head of Personal. Even before such topics became commonplace I found myself wondering how he had had the audacity to speak about my clothing and personal grooming, not to mention discussing my religious background in detail. 

Of course I would eventually hark back to that interview when I was earning an advanced degree and studying labor law. I knew that my experience would never happen in more enlightened times. At least this is what I believed, but when I watch the hearings for Supreme Court nominees I cringe. It seems that our Senators seem to think that it is more important to know someone’s views on religion than to discuss their knowledge and skills as a judge. They would rather ask unrelated medical questions than delve into the individual’s resume. It was not like this in the past when most nominees were approved quickly and with overwhelming majorities. Now instead of asking what strategies they would use to reach fair decisions, the inquisitors want to know the individual’s political philosophies and spread innuendo about their work history. 

Somehow the hearings have become sideshows rather than showcases for the talents of the nominees. They are opportunities for bloviating senators to grandstand and pontificate rather than politely listen to the candidates. It is sound and fury signifying nothing. 

I would like to see more rationality, decorum, and meaningful questions driven by critical thinking than what now takes place. Our Senate is turning the process into just as much of an insulting joke as my first job interview was. I never said how demeaned I felt by the patronizing and invasive comments of the man who had the power to decide my fate. Such a situation should not have happened then nor now. We the people need to speak out and let our senators know that we want to see professionalism and respect; not a devolution into times when impropriety was deemed okay. We know better, so we should all do better.

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