What School Days Used to Look Like

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11. Separate entries for boys and girls

Some schools had separate entries to school for boys and girls. In some schools, they were kept apart during class as well. Separating the genders in school has been a controversial issue. The Department for Education has warned educators that it might be unlawful to separate boys and girls, even for religious reasons.

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12. Shorter school years

The standard school year today is 180 days. In the past, it was a lot shorter. In the 1869-70 school year, it was just 132 days. The biggest reason for the shorter school season was that in rural America, kids were needed to help work on the family farm and harvest the crops in the warmer months. The school year lengthened as laws were passed in the early 20th century that restricted child labor.

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13. School lunches

School lunch programs varied from district to district in the United States well into the 20th century. Philadelphia and Boston were the pioneers in school lunch programs in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. But it wasn’t until 1946, that the federal government got involved. That year, Congress enacted the National School Lunch Act, in the name of national security, to “safeguard the health and well-being of the Nation’s children and to encourage the domestic consumption of nutritious agricultural commodities and other food, by assisting the States, through grants-in aid and other means, in providing an adequate supply of food and other facilities for the establishment, maintenance, operation and expansion of nonprofit school lunch programs.”

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14. Speed reading introduced

Teachers were allowed to be more innovative in the 1960s, and many turned to the speed-reading techniques espoused by Evelyn Wood, a teacher in Utah who briefly rose to fame. The approach focused on reading groups of words instead of individual words. Besides an increase in the pace of reading, readers also had better retention. Among the champions of Wood’s techniques was President John F. Kennedy, who sent members of his staff to Wood’s reading institute in Washington, D.C.

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15. Little security

There was very little security presence in schools in the past. Today, there are metal detectors, sophisticated locking mechanisms, cameras, and security guards in schools, in the wake of mass-shooting tragedies at Columbine, Parkland and Newtown. The National Center for Education Statistics reported that in the 2015-16 school year, 94% of the nation’s public schools had controlled access to school facilities by locking or monitoring doors during school hours.