School Life in the 1950’s
School Life in the 1950’s was harder than today because the facilities were few and inadequate. Teachers were stricter and corporal punishment was still in use. They had fewer subjects and wealth, discrimination, sexism and racism meant they could only do certain subjects. After World War 2 there was a baby boom and as a result in the 1950’s schools were quickly filling up as the children enrolled. The enrolments increased as much as 30% over the ‘baby-boomers’ decade. In the year 1950 there were 166 437 existing elementary and secondary schools in the USA to educate over 29 million students. As the amount of students increased, the schools and resources declined. It was reported by the Office of Education in 1953 that there was a shortage of 345 000 classrooms, meaning overcrowding in 60% of America’s classrooms and up to 20% of schools failed to meet basic safety standards (statistics- www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1G2-3468301830.html 6/08/2013) School facilities were even more unpleasant for the coloured people of America. Their schools were separate from the white people and they were poorly funded by the government. “By 1950, the inequality in educational achievement between white students and minority students had increased since 1900, when very few Americans or and race or gender attended high schools, and formal education was only marginally a factor in national economic and social life”- historians Mondale and Patton. (www.illinoishistory.gov/Illinois%20History/Jan05-21Vargas.pdf 14/08/2013). This all changed in 1954; when a father named Mr Brown took his case to the United States Supreme Court declaring his daughter should be allowed to go to school with white children. “Mr Brown was upset that his daughter had to walk over a mile through railroad yards to get to a black school when a white one was only seven blocks away” (www.livinghistoryfarm.org/farminginthe50’s/life_12.html 14/08/2013). The United States Supreme Court declared a “Separate but equal” system (desegregation) in schools and made a start on ending discrimination in other institutions. The country school buildings were usually “made of wood with weatherboards outside and tongue-and-groove timber for the interior walls. Most schools were elevated on stumps to provide a rudimentary play area underneath, which was usually concreted. The rough-hewn stumps would be painted with tar to deter white ants, and constant checking of stumps, walls, toilets and even toilet seats for termites was part of the head teacher’s job”. Up the front of the classroom there were “two large blackboards, almost square in shape, fixed to the wall. Sometimes an extra blackboard would stand on an easel as well. A wooden cupboard with doors, known as a ‘press’, held all the class books and teaching materials. There was usually no other shelving” (www.starfieldobservatory.com/Nambour/Schooling.html 14/08/2013). The school facilities in 1950 were basic and inadequate and the students and teachers had to make do with what they had.
The schools of 1950 were lacking equipment but one piece of equipment was most certainly not lacking in most schools and that was the cane or ruler. Teachers used the cane to spank the disobedient and troublesome students and it was usually very effective – “I really can’t remember kids sort of stepping out of line very much because they knew that they would be getting disciplined severely. There was very little leeway, but then again, there were very little problems” – Student in 1950 (www.angelfire.com/falcon/hist232/interviews%20l.html 14/08/2013). The main reason students got spanked were: “talking or being disruptive in class, not lining up properly or being rambunctious either inside or outside the school” (www.angelfire.com/falcon/hist232/interviews%20l.html 14/08/2013). Teachers could cane across the hand or across the buttocks or often slap around the head without fear of punishment, as the offence was “caused” by...
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