October 15, 2011

Science Class in 1942

Apparently, my grandmother spent a significant amount of time trying to find something in her apartment last week. She succeeded, but unearthed some other long-lost items as well. This is her old Science notebook from around 1943, when she was 17 years old.

What's immediately striking is that the content of Science classes doesn't seem to have changed much; I remember learning the exact same thing (basic plant biology) in junior high. But this was before glossy textbooks with color photographs and handouts -- if you wanted to retain anything, you had to write it all down.

What's different is the use of katakana mixed with kanji. Today, we use katakana to write a word that is derived from a foreign language, but in her day, they were used in the way hiragana is today.

The illustrations contain hints of color, which suggests a certain playfulness. After all, this is the girl that drew this picture in class.

Seeing the notebooks, my grandmother remarked, "I did fairly well in school, but I was never at the top of my class. But no-one was telling us to study hard. It would have been trouble if we decided we wanted to go to university."

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