DAVID YOSIFON and PETER N. STEARNS THE DECLINE OF ONCE-FERVENT STANDARDS is always an interesting historical phenomenon. "Stand up straight"; "Get your elbows off the table"; "If you're not careful, you'll grow up like that" once echoed through American homes. While the advice still lingers in obscure corners, there is no question that the American population has relaxed its collective backbone. Robert Bork used posture decline as the symbol for a larger decay of national standards in his recent book, Slouching towards Gomorrah,' In their heyday, posture concerns were partly symbolic, so it is not inappropriate to interpret their relaxation in the same light, without reducing the slackening of standards to a Borkian jeremiad. From another, less political vantage point, some contemporary doctors are wondering whether contemporary Americans have not pushed the neglect of posture too far, reducing their capacity to deal with injuries and painful back problems in an increasingly lengthy adulthood. Unquestionably, modern posture history provides another important chapter concerning the roles of discipline in nineteenth-century life and the growing informality of the twentieth century. While the origins of explicit posture standards have been fruitfully traced, their evolution has not gained historians' attention, yet it is at
The American Historical Review – Oxford University Press
Published: Oct 1, 1998
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