Going to school 50 years ago was very different from today. Many students used a school bus to get to school, or were driven by their parents. If students were close to the school they could walk.
In elementary school, discipline was strict. A teacher could punish a child without getting in trouble from the parents, by sending them out to stand in the hall for a period of time, or making them stand in the corner. A teacher could also strike a student, but that practice was becoming obsolete. Children were not allowed to chew gum, talk out of turn, interrupt, or be a distraction to other students. Getting sent to the principal’s office was the worst thing that could happen to a child.
Girls wore dresses and boys wore pants. The dress code was strict; children had to be clean and tidy, and the boys’ hair had to be short. Report cards were issued at various times of the school year, and the teacher would give an “S” for “satisfactory” or an “N” for “non-satisfactory” for performance not only in academics but also in cleanliness and citizenship.
There were public schools and private schools, the private schools for the most part being Catholic. Today there are many private schools that are not religion based. 50 years ago, Catholic schools and boarding schools were considered to offer better education than public schools. Students at a private school wore uniforms instead of their everyday clothes. As with today, private schools were expensive and many of the wealthier children attended private schools. There were no alternative schools, but there were special schools and classes for disabled students.
Class sizes depended on whether or not the school was urban. Since had been a Baby Boom and therefore more children, new schools had to be built as class sizes increased. The average class size in a town or city was about 20 students per class.
Racial tensions were at a peak 50 years ago in schools in the South and the East. Black and white students had been segregated and the beginning of desegregation had begun. Black students began to enter white schools, and in the beginning it was terrible for the blacks. The white students treated them like animals or worse with little intervention from teachers or staff. Over the years, that changed in most parts of the country.
The high schools of 50 years ago were also strict in terms of conduct and dress. Female students wore skirts and dresses and boys wore slacks. Boys could not wear jeans to school. Clothing had to be clean and pressed with no rips. The skirts and dresses had to come below the knee. High school sports were popular, and the high schools of 50 years ago offered football, basketball and baseball. Going to a school game was a family event when one of the boys was on a team. Girls did not have sports teams in high school.
High school curriculum 50 years ago included Home Economics for girls, where they learned to cook and sew, and trades classes for boys, such as wood working and welding. Art classes were also offered, with the basics of drawing, painting, and pottery. Students brought lunch from home or they bought lunch from a café near the school during lunch hour. School lunches were just beginning in many parts of the country. A typical lunch for a student 50 years ago was a sandwich, a piece of fruit, cookies and milk in a Thermos.