Monday, May 10, 2021

'His Careful Attention to Fashion'

As usual when I'm looking looking for something else, I happened on something more interesting, a curious document titled Information Relative to the Appointment and Admission of Cadets to the United States Military Academy, West Point, N.Y. This edition was published in 1942, with the war already underway. In the “Validating Examinations” section is a sub-section titled “English Grammar, Composition, and Literature.” Take a look at what the U.S. Department of Defense considered essential knowledge for its future Army officers. In the multiple-choice section, applicants are given four options for identifying twenty book titles and authors, including:

 Tale of a Tub: (1) a satire on religion (2) a travel story (3) the history of a glutton (4) on early navigation.”


Moby Dick is a (1) detective story (2) whaling story (3) history of a drug addict (4) book of early experience in the form of an autobiography.”


Essays of Elia was written by (1) Elia (2) Stevenson (3) Robert Benchley (4) Lamb [obviously, a trick question].”


Samuel Johnson is known for his (1) early dictionary (2) his careful attention to fashion (3) his love lyrics (4) his French novels.”


Subsequent exercises are devoted to basic grammar. The final section calls for applicants to write an essay of at least three-hundred words on one of the following subjects:


“1. What I have gained from reading Shakespeare.

2. Why I have selected the Army as a career.

3. How the depression affected my home town.”


Nige said...

Whoever came up with that Johnson question clearly had a sense of humour...

rgfrim said...

Notwithstanding the aimless simplicity of this document the West Point graduates among the junior officer corps who commanded the armor unit where I served as a draftee medic 1968-1970 were among the more honorable of a generally sorry assortment (cf. Lt. William Calley, an ROTC product at a time when other college graduates had other interests).

Thomas Parker said...

I have a set of books - ten or twelve volumes - that were published for kids in the 50's and 60's. It's called "The Young Person's Shelf of Books." Myths and legends, animal stories, stories from history, that sort of thing. One of them is a book of poetry. The final section of this book for children is for "further exploration" or something like that. It would put most contemporary anthologies to shame.