Research Log #3

For this week’s research, I looked at the next 3 years of course catalogs, 1954-1956. I continued to look at the Home Economics department, hoping to establish a pattern across the decade of classes offered; however, based on our group discussion on Thursday, I also began to look through the entire catalog for references to technology in the classroom and for any classes that could be considered “machine classes”, ones that focus on mechanical skills or the use of technology.

I found several interesting things about these two areas of emphasis. First I noticed that there were very few classes listed in any department that explicitly mentioned anything related to mechanics or technology. Some of the physics department’s offerings might have touched on those topics, but the actual class listings didn’t refer outright to using technology or mechanics in the classroom; they were usually more along the lines of “Electricity and Magnetism.” It was in fact the two “Economics” departments, Business Administration and Home Economics, that mentioned any classes that fit the mechanical category. Home Ec. 333, Household Equipment, is written up: “problems in the selection, use and care of electrical and non-electrical household equipment. Evaluation of lighting and wiring plans” (Catalog XLI, 1954-1955). In the 1955-1956 catalog, Home Ec. 333 had been expanded to include gas equipment and the “development and evaluation of an individual’s home kitchen” (XLII). This suggests an increasing emphasis on mechanical skills that related directly to the domestic sphere; the fee of $7.50 (the most expensive in the department) seems to show that students actually used some of the equipment they learned about in class.

The other department that offered explicitly stated mechanical classes was the Economics and Business Administration department. Four classes were offered under the heading of “Commerce”, which taught students basic and intermediate skills in shorthand, typewriting and gave them “a working knowledge of dictating and transcribing machines, duplicating devices…calculating machines and miscellaneous office appliances” (Catalog XLI). The Commerce classes were not offered in 1955-56, but reappeared in 56-57, so they might have been in a sort of trial phase at the time. Both of these offerings seem to suggest that more domestic and feminine mechanical skills were more commonly accepted and provided better selling points for prospective students and their families than some of the technology and mechanical work that happen in somewhere like the Physics department, which isn’t directly mentioned. Perhaps this is because it was assumed that a student would recognize that they would be using technology in a class like that and the school didn’t need to directly tell them.

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