Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Shoeless scholarship

[“Girls w. their shoes kicked off as they sit at desks listening to lesson in classroom at New Trier High.” Photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt. Winnetka, Illinois, June 1950. From the Life Photo Archive. Click for a larger view.]

There’s something startling — to me, anyway — about the feet. If bare feet in class were ever a norm, the norm is long gone, I think.

Notice that no one is taking notes. That norm: not long gone. Perhaps the students are listening to a recitation. Or perhaps they’re just not taking notes. It’s June. No shoes, no notes, no problem. School will soon be out for the summer.

New Trier High School was the subject of a Life magazine article, “A Good High School” (October 16, 1950). The article describes what we see here as “shoeless scholarship,” “regularly indulged in, spring and fall.”

[In New York City and some other places, today is the last day of school. New Trier was done on June 7. The school is the subject of a Wikipedia article.]

comments: 2

Adair said...

No shoes, which surprises me, given the formality of the era, but on the other hand, they do seem very absorbed by whatever or whomever they are listening to. Every single face that I can see is focused on the front of the room. No one is glancing down at an i-phone or cellular phone hidden under the desk on their knees. That's a bit of what I miss in students today: even the brightest ones have difficulty focusing; there's very little sense of absorption or duration. They go nuts, for example, when I show them some of the early Antonioni films, with those long shots without physical action.

Michael Leddy said...

I think that students will sometimes — sometimes — find a film interesting just because it’s so different from contemporary blockbusters. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with reactions to My Dinner with André and Vertigo. My low point: showing the San Quentin Drama Workshop’s Waiting for Godot. Talk about writhing!

I sometimes think that everything I do in teaching is a matter of inculcating the habit of attention.