Faulkner Shouldn't Have Wasted Two Years Of Her Life

Posted: August 28, 1995

I was reminded last week, when Shannon Faulkner quit The Citadel after spending her week there in bed with heat exhaustion, of a woman I knew casually back in Philadelphia.

This particular woman decided, at the age of 35 or so, that she wanted to be a carpenter. Not only a carpenter, but a member of the carpenters' union.

It was harder in those days for a woman to find her way into a trade union than it is now, but this particular woman pursued her ambition passionately, and with a distinct relish. She spoke of it constantly, and became, over the months, even more tiring to be around than she had been before.

And so, under as much of the spotlight as she could attract, she carried the fight for women's equality right to the enemy's heart - and in fairness, the trade unions in Philadelphia could be a scary collection of human beings in those days - and after a little while, they let her in.

The woman became a carpenter's apprentice, and went to work.

And that was when she realized that carpenters have to work outdoors sometimes, even when it's cold, and they have to get up early in the morning.

If memory serves, she lasted two or three days and then quit, comfortable in the knowledge that she had opened doors for the other women to follow.

Demonstrating, if nothing else, a profound misunderstanding of what opening doors is about.

Shannon Faulkner, of course, shouldn't be held to the same standard. Mostly

because, at 20 years old, she is still only a kid.

On the other hand, you have to pause a moment, I think, and ask yourself what this was all about. Ms. Faulkner, after all, has spent the last two years of her life in the public eye, fighting her way through courts in order to invade the previously all-male territory of The Citadel.

I do not think it's being unkind to observe that she seemed to enjoy that.

Having finally won her court battle, however, she showed up for the first day of school looking like Chester Buckle, who was the softest, palest, weakest kid in my high school class and possibly in the history of secondary education. And like Chester Buckle, there was no hint in Ms. Faulkner of anything hard or tough beneath the softness.

This in the humid, 100-degree heat of Charleston, S.C.

There are, of course, all sorts of ways that people are hard beneath the surface, but any sort of real toughness grows out of the same trait: a willingness to be uncomfortable.

And if we observed anything over the last couple of years about Ms. Faulkner, it was that she was not uncomfortable in the public eye. That she thrived in a legal confrontation and its attendant publicity, which would have made many other young women self-conscious and timid.

cw0 And perhaps there is something to be said for that. Women need access, and, speaking personally, I don't want some military school dip who never had an idea of his own deciding what my daughter can and can't do on the basis of her sex.

On the other hand, I would hate to see my daughter dedicate two years of her life to being anybody's symbol. Not unless there was something at the end that was worth the two years to her.

Public funding of single-sex education can't be - or shouldn't be - an issue worth two years of a young person's life. There just isn't enough of it around to worry about. Like the lawsuits you read about every year when one small town or another puts up a Nativity scene at Christmas, the battle does not need to be fought; the principle does not need protecting.

And having said all that, let me also say that the demonstration at The Citadel after the announcement of Faulkner's resignation - cadets running around hugging each other in the rain, praising the lord Jesus and mugging for the television cameras - speaks volumes about the discipline of that institution, as well as its spirit of Christianity.

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