The city of Seattle and the state of Maine have both done the humane and just thing by rescinding their mandatory retirement rules for employees over the age of 65. The variety in the health, endurance and quality of human beings is such that some ought to be encouraged to work until they're centenary and others ought to be put out to pasture on their 21st birthday.
The abolition of fixed-age mandatory retirement may contribute to the happiness and well-being of older workers, and it also may take a little of the pressure off the Social Security system, but it must shrink the job market for younger people. SInce we have no idea yet how many or what kind of workers may want to stay on after 65, we have no way of guessing what the effects will be.
In some industries, like auto, workers under age 65 are availing themselves of early retirement: on the other hand they had take J. Edgar Hoover out in a box, and William Paley, chairman of CBS, last saw 65 some years ago. Many corporations make even their topmost people go to Florida at a fixed age, but that would have to be cast aside if protection from age dicrimination is added to our list of civil rights. Is gerontocracy, a la China and Russia, a possibility?
The most important case in 10 years involving discrimination arises out of the age of the plaintiff, Allan Bakke. Bakke was the man who was turned down by the University of California Medical School at Davis. When he learned that, under a special admittance program, blacks with lower rating scores were accepted, he suederential admittance program unconstitutional, and the case has been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. Most people familiar with the facts believe that Bakke, who was over 30 at the time he applied, would have been admitted, not if he were black, but if he had been younger.
Medical schools are loath to take older students. They believe scarce places should not be allotted to people who will have fewer years to practice once they graduate, but such talk is writing in smoke. We've been able to expand and build new medical schools in the past 10 years with such alacrity that the fixers, administrators and arrangers in the profession are worried lest there be too many physicians. There is no practical abstacle to creating enough places so that boards of admission don't have to choose between an older, white Bakke and a younger, black Mr. or Miss somebody else.
According to some, choices can be made under the present arrangments without quotas and without injustice; just pick the most qualified. Unfortunately we're only able to distinguish between least and most qualified in the grossest sort of way. With his combined numerical rating of 468 there were 35 other students with the same score of one point higher than Bakke. you can't pick the best among students so closely clustered.
Nor need we adhere to a policy of acarcity that has all of us snapping and biting at each other for a chance to work or even to go to a vocational school. Fighting over places in school is especially inexusable because it is so easy and so relatively inexpensive to let in whoever wishers to try. you give diplomas only ot hose hwo deserve to be stamped with the seal of competence, howere. This is the least we can do in the face of the mournful numbers: fewer than 2 per cent of the doctors, lawyers, engineers and architects in our country are black. O.J. Simpson may star for Ren-a-Car, but how much have things really changed between him and Jackie Robinson? The quickest way for a black kid to get ahead is still to know how to do something good with a ball - base, basket or foot.
Blacks are at least temporarily reduced to the position of older people. They can vote, petition and plead, but the whites aren't afraid of them anymore. Prior to the 1960s the fears of the fire bell in the night, to use Jefferson's expression, was the bad emotion in every white gut. Then we had burn baby, burn, and the whites found out that the night dream of slave rebellion was worse than the actuality. Hence the dearth of emergency programs and handouts to buy off the looters in New York City.
White America knows it can tough out any long, hot summer black adolescents may heat up. In a not so long run, howere, nobody wins under an arrangement where there are always three grasping people for every two jobs. We must either ration work by spreading it out, i.e., something like the old four-day week idea, or we must learn to create jobs that are efficient, uselful and wanted, an art we have yet to master. If Snow White and the Seven (all over 65) Dwarfs can whistle while they work, America can too.