Over the next several days, millions of children and teenagers will head back to class. There, they’ll learn important skills in math, reading, and doing holiday themed word searches and busy work.
And as parents, teachers, and students get their school supplies and classrooms ready, it reminds me of a few of the ways school has drastically changed, just since I was a student (which was not all that long ago.) Sure, math and history hasn’t changed much. But there are all kinds of things that used to be commonplace in every school, things that kids don’t even know they’re missing!
Five Things These Kids Are Missing In School
Computer Lab “Teachers”
Kids today have grown up so immersed in technology that they pretty much know how to program their own video games or send suggestive photos of themselves by the time they’re in fourth grade. And they can pretty much count on their teachers to know as much about computers as they do. Ten or fifteen years ago, it was a different story with the adults. As schools cobbled together funding for computer labs, students were subjected to the agonizing weekly ordeal of an old schoolmarm trying to teach them to “double-click,” because that was as far as she had read in the owner’s manual. Unbeknownst to the teacher, all the students were deftly playing The Oregon Trail or SimCity the entire time.
Students today don’t know what school was like pre-Columbine. Near the end of my school career, schools were installing cameras and keypads on the doors. A week before graduation, I was hauled to the principal’s office for using a keycode to get in a door I was not supposed to know, a code which, unbeknownst to the administration, was known to 25% of the student body.
Students today take it for granted that schools are locked down, and while security seems cold and intimidating, there is an upshot. No more mommies waltzing right down to little Johnny’s classroom because he forgot his lunch and embarassing him in front of everyone. Missing lunches will be confiscated at the door, searched and x-rayed, and delivered by campus police.
Silence is Golden…and Mandatory
For centuries, learning was done in cold, dead silence. The only background noise available during math time was that gross kid making farting sounds with his armpit, or someone throwing up in the hallway.
Now, students expect that their entire, mundane days should have a soundtrack like a dang movie, provided by their iPods. Kids complain that they cannot “concentrate” without their “music.”
The irony is schools do not allow students to wear clothing that references to drugs, violence, sex or other inappropriate topics. However, all these topics are just fine for students in the privacy of their own eardrums. iPods are to teachers what TV is to busy parents. They placate children so they don’t need attention. And with all the busywork that students do, they have more hours than ever to pump sexist, violent, anti-social messages into their heads.
Reading, Writing, and Corporate Sponsorship
It used to be that students went to school to learn about math, science, and writing. Now they get some of this, but they also get valuable corporate propaganda!
Just as I was in high school, the trend started of putting vending machines in schools. Suddenly, high schoolers had a little more “choice” in spending their lunch money.
But it turned out, the vending machines came at a price higher than the snacks. Suddenly, school assemblies were “sponsored” by Coca-Cola and other mega-corporations. Their one purpose was to propagandize a captive audience of stupid kids, to turn us into loyal consumers.
It wasn’t just vending machines. Every TV in every classroom existed in exchange for students being forced to watch a propaganda reel each morning, thinly disguised as “news” (which was where Anderson Cooper and Lisa Ling got their starts.)
Cloudy with a Chance of Concussions
Finally on my list, the one area of school that seems to have gone backward in technology…
Kids used to enjoy the thrill of injuring themselves on all kinds of dangerous playground equipment at schools. Merry-go-rounds, slides, jungle gyms, they all offered a myriad chances for broken bones and delightful schoolyard contusions.
Recess today in a lot of schools resembles something like recreation time in a prison yard, where students are issued a half-inflated ball and told to “play” in a parking lot or a bit of grass. If playground equipment exists, it’s not nearly as fun as it used to be. After all, half the fun of recess used to be never knowing when the fun would end with someone bleeding!
That’s it for my list. How else has school changed since you were a little munchkin walking the halls?