Object Lesson: The High School Yearbook

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2017-01-01
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Riney-Kehrberg, Pamela
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History
The Department of History seeks to provide students with a knowledge of historical themes and events, an understanding of past cultures and social organizations, and also knowledge of how the past pertains to the present.

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The Department of History was formed in 1969 from the division of the Department of History, Government, and Philosophy.

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In the fall of 1984, high school senior Beth Ellsworth and her yearbook staff were facing a tough task: how to tell the story of the good things that were happening at Harlan Community High School, while at the same time acknowledging the pain that they and their classmates were feeling in the wake of the agricultural crisis that was sweeping Iowa. While the obvious choice would be to focus in on a big event that was happening that year, or to do a “sign of the times” yearbook, none of that was particularly appealing. After all, in small-town Iowa in 1984, “this isn’t really inspiring, this sign of the times,”as Ellsworth reflected. The staff made a decision.“The way things were going at that time were really not so great, so instead of shying away from that we opted to tell it like it was.” The result was a remarkable Farm Crisis document, one that reminds us that there is a great deal to be learned about youth culture, both within and outside of the school, from the seemingly simple high school yearbook.

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This article is published as “Object Lesson: The High School Yearbook.” Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth.2017, 10(2); 159-167. DOI:10.1353/hcy.2017.0022 . Posted with permission.

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Sun Jan 01 00:00:00 UTC 2017
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