YA short story, 1970s, boy flunking out of college

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YA short story, 1970s, boy flunking out of college

Editat: gen. 18, 10:41am

Looking for a short story that would have been taught to a seventh or eighth grader in the late 1970s. Plot involves a boy struggling to make it in college and failing. He is working nights to pay his tuition, I remember a passage about wearing mirrored sunglasses to class because he was so exhausted that he could not stay awake.

SOLVED: It is a short story called “A Student in Economics,” George Milburn. First published in 1933. The author was well known in the 1920s and 1930s, but is now largely forgotten.

oct. 9, 2020, 12:19pm


oct. 9, 2020, 9:43pm

I read it at about the same time, but can't help you with either title or author. An additional element, the one class he was passing was Spanish. He knew it from working with migrants on a farm. The end of the story has the Spanish instructor asking him a question, but he's asleep so gets an F which flunks him out of college.

Editat: oct. 11, 2020, 10:29am

Thanks! I started out thinking that the story had been in my seventh or eight grade language arts textbook. But I have been looking for this story for a long time, and I am starting to think that if the story had been in a textbook, it would be more well known and I would have found it by now. So now I am thinking maybe it was in a magazine. Other than Junior Scholastic, I can’t think of what magazines they might have given us at school. I have a few copies of Junior Scholastic from the same time period. They were mostly news and issues oriented- no short stories.

oct. 11, 2020, 2:48pm

Can't help you with where I read it either. But, on the theory that more info may prompt someone else's memory, here goes.

Story was very short, only a few pages. I remember three scenes, and I'm unsure of the order on the first two scenes.

Scene 1, in academic advisor's office. Info dump. Student and advisor exchange information. Kid's flunking everything except Spanish. Why he knows Spanish. If Spanish grade goes down, he'll be dismissed from the school. He's working a full time job, and can't sleep, study, and attend classes with remaining time. In class, props head up with arms and dozes with sunglasses on.

Scene 2, working as waiter at campus restaurant. Near end of shift, frat boys leave his tip in coins stuck to congealed food on the plates. Either busboy or dishwasher tells him tip is there. He responds you can have it if you want it.

Scene 3, Spanish class as described. Story ends with everyone leaving at the end of class with him still asleep unaware of what happened.

oct. 11, 2020, 3:22pm

Thanks, I do remember the scene with the frat boys - you have a great memory!

oct. 14, 2020, 11:49am

Do you share my recollection that the sunglasses were mirrored, not just dark? I have been using “mirrored sunglasses” as a search term.

oct. 17, 2020, 7:18pm

No memory of which it was. Sorry.

Editat: gen. 17, 11:32am

>Found it!

“A Student in Economics,” George Milburn. First published in 1933, making it older than I thought. The author was well known in the 1920s and 1930s, but is now largely forgotten. Somehow the story must have made its way into my seventh or eight grade literature textbook. I found it using Google books, and then found a condensed version online. I also ordered an anthology that includes the story from ebay. The glasses were amber, not mirrored, and the story does not refer to them as sunglasses, only as amber colored spectacles or glasses, which is why I was not having any luck using “mirrored sunglasses” among my search terms. I was using “Spanish” in my search terms when I found it, so thanks for that recollection!

gen. 18, 2:02pm

Congrats 👏.