One fall afternoon … I was summoned to… a windowless room on an upper floor, where men dressed in crisp white garments instructed me to remove all of my clothes. … four-inch metal pins were affixed… to my vertebrae at regular intervals from my neck down. I was positioned against a wall; a floodlight illuminated my pin-spiked profile and a camera captured it. … I’d been told that this “posture photo” was … routine… Those whose pins described … erratic postural curve were required to attend remedial posture classes.

1995 New York Times by Ron Rosenbaum.

Comments

  1. #1 Matthew G. Saroff
    June 3, 2009

    This is not a surprise. I knew someone from Smith college who did her work study in the archives, and periodically came across, and was instructed to destroy them.

    They were common knowledge, though the thought that semi-nude photos of Barbara Bush and Nancy Reagan were at one point on file, gave cause for pause.

  2. #2 henry harpending
    June 3, 2009

    Greg this is just another one of a long sad string of fads that educationists have come up with. I am old enough to remember the school nurse, in junior high, coming around periodically to lecture about posture. She even had dolls with good and bad posture, right alongside her giant teeth to show how to brush.

    After all notice how poor children and bored children slouch. Must be the bad posture causing the bad behavior and failure to learn.

    My bet would be that in fifty years people will be laughing just as hard at affirmative action and diversity, the current fad (but being replaced these days by sustainability), as they do about posture these days.

    Henry

  3. #3 SteveN
    June 3, 2009

    I remember reading about this back in ’95. What surprises me is that it seems all the students sheepishly went along with it. Did no student simply refuse? Would the authorities of the school really have kicked a student out for refusing to take part in this?

    We might think of this as a Milgram experiment. How much humiliation will teens–and as teens tend to be quite uncomfortable about their bodies, this was a terrible humiliation–undergo if they perceive it is required by arbitrary authority?

  4. #4 Nathan Myers
    June 3, 2009

    The men involved didn’t care much, but the women, generally, did. The men, had they cared, might or might not have resisted. The women certainly cared, but manifestly didn’t resist.

    What does it mean that the only visible resistance arose at the University of Washington?