In general, textbooks enthrall me. It’s less about the actual content and more about the freedom to write in and take notes in the book without guilt. It’s the invitation to be studious and to know the book is intended for more than just pleasure reading – not that there’s anything wrong with pleasure reading.
Any textbook is appealing, but there’s something special about old textbooks. There’s something romantic about the connection of generations created by students using textbooks for the same purpose over the course of centuries.
I found Active Citizenship by Woodburn and Moran at an estate sale over the summer and it is no exception to the old textbook rule. It belonged first to Jeanette Longfield, sometime between 1931 and 1933, and then Christian Jensen in 1934. Viewing their careful penmanship on the inside from cover of the book makes me wonder what their lives were like as they studied family and community life, the presidency, and political parties and elections in their eighth grade class.
- The book includes a copy of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, as well as critical thinking questions about “Our National Ideals,” including:
- “What is meant by saying ‘all men are created equal’? Is this literally true?”
“Why is education more necessary in a democracy than in any other kind of government?”
- “Do you believe in a policy of disarmament? Should America disarm if other leading nations refuse to do so?”
The final sentence in the National Ideals chapter encourages students to “commit to memory” the Preamble of the Declaration of Independence and all of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
The “Burdens of Society” chapter is especially… interesting… and includes a list of people in society known as “Defectives.” This includes idiots, imbeciles, and morons, and reminds us that words have actual meanings, even if they’re now slang terms and their actual meanings are watered down.
Another indication of how things were different back in the day when Jeanette and Christian were studying Active Citizenship? The chapter covering community protection discusses the role of police women, who were charged with “… preventing wayward girls from going wrong or bring[ing] them back to useful lives if they have fallen into bad ways.”
According to the same chapter, police powers of the day included inspecting hotel elevators, regulating the height of buildings, and requiring rest rooms for women and girls who “toil.”
There’s a lot of amusing information in this book, but also quite a few things that could still be useful lessons in today’s society. One of the final chapters covers rights and duties of the citizen, and reminds us we have a duty as Americans to improve our communities. This includes knowing our public officers and their duties, going to some trouble to ensure the community is well governed, knowing something of the history of the State and Nation, knowing the men and women who rendered distinguished service to the community, and saluting the flag of the republic and saying the Pledge of Allegiance.
All in all, this was a good find, for more reasons than it being from the earlier part of the twentieth century. There’s more recent copies of the book available, but this was the only one I can find online from the 1930s. If you think you’d like to add Active Citizenship to your collection of old books, historic books, or decorative books, check it out here.