Archive for the ‘education’ Category

Dear sunscreen appliers,

The Lazy Scholar is happy to return to these webpages after a protracted journey through the land of end-of-semester labor—paper grading and dissertation prospecting, to be precise. There are still some seniors milling (and drinking) around campus, biding their time until commencement. But so far, I haven’t spotted any yearbooks—that tried and true token of upward academic mobility.

If I remember correctly from my own bright college years, I didn’t get my yearbook until many weeks after graduation, too late to have friends fill up its pages with earnest remembrances and congratulations. I know I got more use out of my high school yearbook, but all I can think about right now is that weird color section inserted by the printers to commemorate all the important events and hit movies from the previous year. That color insert (here’s one energetic promo) also sadly exposes how generic most yearbooks actually are—they typically reveal less about any single place and time than they do about the art and sometimes artlessness of nostalgia.

To prove, and complicate, my point, the digital archive fortunately overflows with scanned yearbook collections. So, in classic yearbook fashion, I offer you this list of class notables.

Most Likely to Be Mistaken for a Leiber and Stoller Song

By 1901, University of North Carolina’s students renamed their yearbook from the stodgy Hellenian to the downright silly Yackety Yack. That sense of humor can also be detected in the 1911 volume, which features cartoons beneath every class photo. Herbert Ray Ray (yes, Ray Ray) was evidently something of a cad, to judge by his portrait (right), which features girls hollering to him from a seminary. Other students didn’t fare quite so well: Harry Meyer Solomon‘s entry imagines him as an aged and balding king, with a requisite hooked “Hebrew” nose. John Harris meanwhile is nicknamed “Fatty John,” weighing in at 185 pounds (apparently it was standard to list everyone’s weight).

Most Haunting Mascot

The eerie owl of the Hinakaga, yearbook of Carroll College, Wisconsin.

Best Dressed

Duke’s 1950 Chanticleer features this photo of their famed blue devil. He would have no place in the trippy yearbooks of the 70s, edged out by artsy photojournalism and images of long-haired hippies.  And don’t forget quasi-Buddhism. The 1975 Chanticleer features one spread devoted to Desire, one to Becoming, and another to Sensation.

Most Industrious

The students pictured in The Aggie, yearbook of the University of Minnesota Northwest Agricultural School.

Most Likely to Excite Fans of The Office

University of Scranton yearbooks galore.

Most Optimistic

The Crispus Attucks school was founded in Indianapolis in 1927 as an all-black high school, but began admitting white students in 1967. The spread below comes from the 1972 volume.

Runners Up

The Owl and The Panther Prints, yearbooks of Western University of Pennsylvania and University of Pittsburgh.

The Key, high school yearbook of Marysville, Ohio.

There are more superlatives to designate, but I’m afraid my own search for lost time has come to an end. But if you have any other yearbook links to share, please add them to the comments section.

Yours in pomp and circumstance,


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Battle of the Textbooks

Apparently while I was on vacation, the Texas Board of Education moved to add a dose of conservative (and evangelical) historiography into the state social studies curriculum—Milton Friedman! Phyllis Schlafly! Jesus! As Sam Tanenhaus noted last Sunday in the New York Times, some of their revisions are more controversial than others. What matters more is how that content is spun, and which other stories are edged out. 

All that got me thinking about school textbooks, and how previous textbook debates played out. So off I went to the digital archive to see what I could uncover. 

One of the best resources I’ve found is the University of Pittsburgh’s Nietz Old Textbook Collection named for historian, textbook collector, and Dewey disciple John Nietz. Among the 140 digitized books, you’ll find such gems as The Illustrated School History of the United States by the delightfully named G.P.Quackenbos (image right). Texas historians will be disappointed to note the 1857 book makes no mention of the Founders’ religion

A few other sources to note: William Alcott’s Slate and Black Board Exercises,  The Ladies’ Reader : designed for the use of schools and family reading circles, and Lessons in Hygiene.

You’ll also find much to peruse and enjoy within Harvard’s new and rather extraordinary reading history exhibit, which includes many textbooks from the Gutman Education Library.  Among my favorites is the handsomely illustrated Stepping Stones to Literature, including the not-so-sensitively titled story “The Truthful Little Persian.”

And don’t miss the 1802 American Preceptor, by Caleb Bingham, Dartmouth man and “author of the Young Lady’s Accidence”‘; Tales of the Deaf and Dumb, with Miscellaneous Poems; and from 1866, The Freedman’s Spelling Book, pictured to the left.

I’m short on time but not on sources, check out the Library of Congress’s 19th Century Education collection, and for the religiously-minded, MSU’s Sunday School Book archive.

Come back next week for Passover and Easter!

Pedagogically yours,


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Dear dawdlers,

Forgive this lazy scholar, returning after a prolonged sabbatical. Not that I have not been working, researching, and blogging, too—albeit on another site. (You can read some of those less lazy dispatches on Post-Post-Jew). I even watched the entire first season of Heroes. So you can tell, I have been productive. But I’m happier still to return to these pages and to you dear readers, for another semester of academic detective work, uncovering even more ways to get work done without leaving home.

Bringing education and entertainment to audiences where they lived was also a chief goal of the Circuit Chautauqua, the subject of today’s post. The University of Iowa library hosts Traveling Culture, an incredible collection of brochures and recordings from a local outpost of the Circuit Chautauqua, which brought performances and lectures to small towns around the country from 1904 to 1932. (Read a great introduction here). The digital collection is a remarkable window into American popular culture at the start of the twentieth century before movies and radio took off, ranging from a production of Les Miserables (decades before the musical) to Israel Zangwill’s Melting Pot.

And so many all-male quartets!

Be sure to listen to some of their 300 sound recordings, including bird impersonators, dialect comedians, and singing preachers. It’s a little like watching an episode of America’s Got Talent.

You can also read more about the origins of the circuit in The Chautauquan monthly magazine, digitized on Google.

Yours in pedagogy,


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