Thursday, October 15, 2009

Reading: An Occupational Hazard

Librarians process books, recommend books, weed books, and a billion other things with and without books, but we generally don’t actually READ the books.  Well, certainly not at work anyway. (If you’re in library school and are under this impression, GET OUT NOW!)  So I have found it to be a serious “occupational hazard” as a colleague referred to it, that when an interesting title crosses my desk, I crack it open, peruse the contents, and occasionally get so engrossed I have to share.  I’ve fallen victim to this temptation many times as I’ve been assessing and processing  some of the older books that were weeded from the stacks and will now be added to Special Collections.  I want to know what people in 1919 thought of “The Junior High School” and if a title is “Children Are Like That,” from 1930, (the year my dad was born), I want to know, Like What??  So for your enjoyment, I bring you some excerpts from my rogue reading on the job.  (The second is my favorite.)

From “Children Are Like That” by C. Madeleine Dixon:

“Mrs. Brown has a little girl, Marjorie, who is three.  She wants her to have a good life.  Mrs. Brown goes to endless lectures and conferences.  She becomes voluble in phrases emphasizing “habit training,” “a dynamic attack on life,” “purposeful activities,” and “future citizenship.” It takes your breath away.  Meanwhile she doesn’t know her own little girl very well and what her real needs and interests are. She hasn’t time.
Mr. Smith knows quite well how he’ll grow John.  When he’s five he’ll start in public school and learn to read and write just as Mr. Smith did as a child –yes, he’s decided to send John to the same college he went to. Glad he’s got a boy.  A boy can have the same sort of life he had –he doesn’t know so much about girls.”

New parents of today would totally dig this advice! Reading 3 year olds and violin virtuoso’s of 6 are so last millennium.  Co-parenting, co-sleeping, co-t.v. watching, and all things to get involved and know your kids are what parents seem to be into now.  This book is all about that, and believe it or not, readily available on Amazon or better yet, at your library.

My favorite for being outdated, and one I doubt you could find outside of a Special Collection, is “The Junior High School” by G. Vernon Bennett.  Hold on to your seats ladies and keep in mind that this was published during the height of the suffragist movement.  From the sub-chapter titled “Education of girls;”

“It is important that she should have an ideal environment in which to mature her body.  We insist on this to such a degree because almost the opposite has been true –the girl’s physical development has been neglected and her mental development has been overstimulated, to the great detriment of the race and to the great unhappiness of the individual girl. We mean, of course, that the over schooling of girls has lessened their chances of marriage at the proper time for women to marry; and that home and society have combined to educated women in senseless styles of dress, in vicious dietary habits…
“The junior high school attempts sensibly to give physical education of the right sort.  A good diet, exercises, proper elimination, sleep, and dress are the principal positive factors; moderation in study, in social functions, in physical labor, in standing, and climbing stairs is the principal negative factor. 
“Next in importance comes the vocational education of girls for the vocation that is to engross thirty years of their life… --home making.  In school, girls are taught domestic science, sewing, and home economics. They are given lessons in buying, shopping, detecting shams from realities, resisting the solicitations of salesmen of goods not needed; they are also taught how the government can assist in the training of girls for home life by eliminating the economic conditions that draw, or drive girls into the industries.”

Okay, I admit that I, and many people I know, could probably benefit from a course in, “resisting the solicitations of salesmen of goods not needed,” but I’m trying to imagine HOW “proper elimination” is taught.  Would that course begin with, “Ladies take your seats so we can begin?”  And then, who is going to do all the “standing , and climbing stairs,” if I’ve gone over my moderated allotment for the day. I don’t know, I don’t know! I’m just glad I don’t have to overstimulate my brain with too much wonderment.  Well, back to my industry!

Coming up: James McBride, and Part Two of my trip to the NLM 

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