Archive for Thursday, September 17, 2009

Generational gap

September 17, 2009

As I browsed through the Council Grove Rural High School yearbook from1960, I kept comparing teenagers from that long-ago era to today’s youth. Yes, there are many differences in the young people, but the more that I thought about it, maybe the biggest difference is in schools.

Let me clarify this: in 1959-60 I was a crew cut, fresh faced, young first-year teacher at Council Grove Rural High School. I enjoyed my experience as a teacher, however, the pull of the newspaper business and, yes, more money ended my career in education.

Well, maybe I should say it was postponed since I now do substitute teaching.

At CGRHS, I taught two classes of junior English, one of senior English, a speech class and a journalism class. In addition, I was freshman football and basketball coach, and I was paid $4,400 per year.

My duties also included being advisor to the high school newspaper and yearbook. I also had to direct a one-act play. As you can see, it was a much heavier assignment than a teacher would expect today.

On the other hand, the curriculum wasn’t as intricate as it is today, either. Also, the staff was much smaller than today. Since it was a “rural district” there was no superintendent of schools. The high school principal was in charge, and he answered to the board of education. Both he and the school counselor taught at least one class.

At that time, you only needed 16 credits to graduate from high school. The requirements included three years of English, some math and social studies. The young people weren’t nearly as challenged as they are today with a 24-credit requirement including more math and science.

Going through my one and only yearbook, I noted that appearances have changed. All the teachers were “dressed up” every day.

The men teachers always wore suits or sport coats with ties, while the women teachers wore dresses and heels to work. Maybe the only exception was the physical education teacher who wore sweats.

The same was true for students, too. All of the girls wore dresses and while the boys wore jeans, they had sports shirts with collars.

The young people I taught were far more neatly and conservatively dressed than today. On the other hand, far more teenagers smoked then, largely because the link between tobacco and health problems was unknown.

While discipline has always been a challenge, I believe that modern teachers have to spend more time making sure the class is in order than in the old days. Back then, if kids didn’t want to be in school and were a problem, they were gone, and no one cared. After all, there were lots of good jobs that didn’t require much education, and that is simply not the case today.

I remember we had student debates about the 1960 presidential election with young people supporting Lyndon Johnson, John Kennedy or Richard Nixon. In my opinion, if there is one area that is much worse now than 50 years ago it is popular music.

In those long-ago days you could actually enjoy listening to music. Souped-up cars were popular. Yes, there was illegal drag racing and while drugs weren’t known in this area, there was a lot of beer drinking at weekend teenage parties.

I came across my picture and was shocked at how young I looked, and then it dawned on me that the young people I taught in 1960 were now in their mid to upper 60s. Yes, times were different then, and I wonder what education will be like in 2059.

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