Saturday, February 2, 2013

Schools Then and Now

Long ago children were lucky, and probably from wealthy families, if they were able to attend school. Then in America the public school system was developed so we would have an educated population capable of voting wisely in public elections. Schools were closed in the Summer because so many students were needed to stay home and work on farms during that season.

In my grandfather's day, back in the 1800s, there were no Kindergartens and most kids were considered adults and expected to work when they graduated from the eighth grade. By then they had been reading Shakespeare for several years, could recite the names of all the past presidents of the United States and write literary essays, but only knew basic arithmetic. In rural areas they had attended one room schoolhouses, and some areas still had those in the 20th century.

When I was a kid, in the 1940s and 50s, California schools were rated the best in the nation.

Students were expected to sit silently in class unless they raised their hands and were called on by teachers, and most of us did. The only homework we had before High School was to study for tests or complete work we hadn't finished in class. The schools provided all textbooks and supplies.

If it was raining during the lunch period one teacher would patrol the halls while students stayed in their classrooms and ate. One student from each class was responsible to report any behavior problems to that teacher, but troubles like that were rare. If a student was a serious behavior problem his (usually the kid was a boy) parents would be contacted and they would be expected to spank their child. Corporal punishment wasn't permitted in California's public schools.

Every teacher in Elementary School was required to play the piano for the weekly music class and lead her students in activities for Physical Education and Art.

There were no Special Education classes and learning disabilities were unheard of. Kids who couldn't keep up with their class would simply flunk the grade and be held back. Those with obvious disabilities would be institutionalized.

Now many teachers allow kids to chat in class and behavior that would have been considered a serious problem in the past is accepted as normal. Today's kids have to learn all kinds of science, social studies, and technology that even adults didn't know fifty years ago. But are schools better today than they used to be, or worse? What do you think?


Rena Jones said...

Great post, Janet. I wish I could answer your question, but I don't think I can. I've homeschooled my kids for the past 14 years. Before that, they were in private school, and I have to admit, even that was different than how it was when I was a kid going to school in the 1970s. Kids are expected to do so much these days, but ... do they?

Janet Ann Collins said...

Rena, I think that depends a lot on the kid, the parents, the school district, and the teachers.