What School Days Used to Look Like

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1. Teachers had more authority

Teachers were respected authority figures who meted out punishment to unruly students to enforce discipline. Sometimes that punishment could be physical, such as rapping students on their knuckles with a ruler or a pointer. Corporal punishment was ruled constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1977, leaving it to the states to make their rules. Punitive physical measures are still legal in 19 states. The criticism of the practice is that it is disproportionately applied to African-Americans, boys, and those with disabilities.

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2. Fewer teacher assistants

The number of teacher assistants, who give students additional help with subjects, has grown dramatically, and will continue to do so. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of teacher assistants is projected to grow 8% from 2016 to 2026 because of an expected increase in student enrollment, along with state and federal funding for education.

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3. Longer walking to school

Young people roll their eyes when their elders tell them they had to walk miles to school. But that was a reality years ago when America was a more rural nation, families had one car if they had one at all, and bus service was limited.

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4. Different curriculum

Teachers taught algebra and geometry, biology and chemistry, science, reading, writing, history, geography, and languages like French, Spanish, and Latin. They still learn all of those, however, the curriculum has been augmented by additional math courses such as trigonometry and calculus. Literature has been broadened to include more works from people of color and women. Language selection now includes Mandarin Chinese, Japanese and American Sign Language.

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5. No technology

The biggest difference between school days today and what they used to look like is technology. Virtually all students have access to the internet at home or they can access it at the local library. Students go online on personal computers, laptops, cellphones, tablets, and iPads, among other devices. Much learning is now done online, and technology has accelerated the pace of education. Of concern is the digital divide, also called the homework gap. Students lacking technology are put at a disadvantage.