Research Log #2

In continuing my research with the course catalogs, I focused this week on the bulletins from 1950-1954, specifically looking at the graduation requirements for the four different types of Bachelor’s degrees offered during that time: Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Science in Home Economics and Bachelor of Science in Health, Physical Education and Recreation. At the core of each degree was an identical set of core requirements that had to be achieved in addition to major specific classes, very similar to the general education requirements we use today. However, unlike the system we now use, the requirements were classified by academic discipline rather than over-arching theme. To get a BA, students had to complete 12 English credits, 12 foreign language, 6 history, and 8 natural science, plus 6 credits from math or fine arts, 6 from political science, sociology, philosophy, psychology or economics, and 6 from health or physical education. These 56 credits were added to 36 major required credits and 34 elective credits, totaling 126 overall, 6 more than the minimum number needed to graduate today (MWC Bulletin XXXVII, 1950-1951). All Bachelor of Science programs had virtually identical requirements to the BA, but they required the foreign language be modern, preferably French or German, and that math be selected over fine arts.

After looking at the graduation requirements, I looked at the specific majors and classes that were offered. Students could major in Art, Biology, Chemistry, Dramatic Arts and Speech (an early version of a theater major), Economics and Business Administration, English, French, German, History, Latin, Mathematics, Music, Philosophy, Political Science, Psychology, Spanish or Sociology. There were also interdepartmental degrees in Pre-Medical Science, American Ideals and Institutions (an early American Studies) and Early Humanities. Education, geology, physics, astronomy and home economics classes were also offered along with a variety of languages, like Russian and Portuguese.

However, throughout the 1950-1951 catalog, I noticed that despite some changes in title, almost all of the degrees offered have persisted to the current day, with only one exception: Home Economics. I decided to focus my attention on this major for several reasons, mainly because I feel that we can learn the most about the different values of the time by examining the one degree that the modern university has deemed no longer relevant. So I looked at the individual classes offered for the Home Economics department to see what subjects went into the major. There were only 12 classes listed for 1950-1951 and included topics like Textiles and Clothing, Foods and Nutrition and Home Management and Economics. Many of these classes promised to teach the basics of how to run a home, care for a family and operate on a budget, and many included fees, presumably to cover the costs of materials for in-class demonstrations and practice (pg 101-102, Bulletin XXXVII).

In the next bulletin from 1951-1952, the Home Economics major had nearly doubled in the number of classes offered. “Textiles and Clothing” had been expanded into Clothing Selection, Personal Clothing, Family Clothing and Dress Design, and many of the earlier classes have been similarly sub-divided. Only three entirely new classes are present: Household Equipment, Home Management Residence and Family Relations. The major also requires students to specialize in a sub-category: Food and Nutrition, Clothing and Textiles, Family Life or Teaching Vocational Home Economics (pg 109-114, Bulletin XXXVIII). This suggests that an increased demand within the field required there to be more specialized classes to better educate students within their specialty. This is supported by the number of students graduating with a BS in Home Economics; 5  graduated with the degree in 1950 but by 1953 the number had doubled to 10 graduates. (Bulletin XXXVII, Bulletin XL)

Comments are closed.