The Battlefield, 1951

Within one of the ten yearbooks I studied, there is a page titled “Profs Say Student Is The Grand Enigma—And Vice Versa” from 1951. On this page, there is a short “stream of consciousness” narrative of students from a professor’s point-of-view. The professor speaks with a jaded tone, asking,

 “Who ever conceived of the Saturday class anyway?”

Students are absent, reading magazines, or knitting, less prepared for the class than the professor himself.

 “Now, where did I stop after the last lecture? … 
  No wonder I can’t find the place, I forgot to prepare any notes.”

Since he cannot figure out where to begin, he declares there is a quiz instead! One of the students doesn’t understand, and he accuses her of writing letters last class. The professor belittles the students as they work on the quiz, thinking,

 “Show me three of them who know what a college education is all about… 
  wasted on the young.”

For my purposes within this blog, this page is a goldmine of information. The yearbook staff clearly had to elect to include this page that pokes fun at the professors since there are no similar pages within any of the other 1950s yearbooks (I have yet to investigate earlier yearbooks to determine if there was a precedent). The staff probably felt that this page would be easily relatable for many if not all of the students and alumni who would be reading it. The narrative is embellished, of course, to include stereotypes such as the “letter-writers, knitters, magazine-readers, manicurists, and nap-catchers who are called students”and the indifferent professor more inclined to do personal research then teach a class of students like the ones described above.
Even though this is not a serious piece, it does hold some indications of how students perceived classes to be—especially the Saturday morning ones. The professor would languish at the podem, calling roll and hoping that no one responds.

 “Adams, Amison, Bowers… absent… too bad more of them couldn’t be.”

Then as the professor tries to gather his thoughts about his lecture for the day, he realizes he had forgotten to make notes, because he was more concerned with his own research. After the quiz is given, he begins to think of all the things he needs to do,

 “Now, if I can just complete the story, it may sell…
  the roof needs fixing, so does the… There’s the bell.”

The narrative ends when the professor realizes that he just created more work for himself, because now he has tests to correct.
For our possible reconstruction of the 1950s classroom, this page offers insight into how some classes proceeded, especially under a professor with overwhelming outside responsibilities.


University of Mary Washington. “Profs Say Student Is The Grand Enigma—And Vice Versa.” The Battlefield 1951. Vol. 28, pg. 11.

IMAGE SOURCE: University of Mary Washington Archives.Battlefield, 1951. Vol. 28, pg. 11. (accessed February 6, 2012).

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