Desks Through the Decades: How School has Changed


Kami Huff, Staff Writer

Every August, everywhere across America enters a “back to school” phase. Stores begin advertising school supplies, clothing prices drop, and school-age children and teachers prepare to return to the classrooms. The question, however, is: “Was it always the same?” The answer to the question in mind is yes and no.

The truth is that high school has changed quite a bit throughout the decades. Many senior citizens would agree that high school back when they attended had many different algorithms than high schools now. That being said, many things were also the same. For example, high school cliques, stereotypes, and awkward teenage phases are just as prevalent now as they were in the ‘80s. Teenagers still look forward to their days of driving around town and gaining independence. The excitement simply looks different in present times.

Before the class choice options of AP, honors, CCP, etc., choosing classes was simple: everyone took the same courses no matter their learning pace. The evolution of different types of courses being available is a benefit for today’s generation. When returning to school in the ‘70s, high school students did not have to worry about being the only freshman in a “junior” course or the only senior in a “sophomore” course. Everyone was in the same boat, which led to boredom for some and struggle for others, yet it did keep consistency. Teachers and districts today are very determined to provide abundant success to students and fully prepare them for whichever post-high school route they choose.

Teachers across the country have started incorporating technology into their teaching styles starting around the late 2000’s to early 2010’s. In the words of Dover High School sophomore Morgan Karam, “The teachers I have are great with technology! For example, they use it for many study resources like Quizlet, Kahoot, and many other education sites!” Many have even created digital versions of textbooks. Before then, everything was much more simplistic. There was no Google Classroom, Kahoot, Quizlet, or even Google. Students then solely relied on chalkboards, notebooks, and textbooks from libraries for all school needs. They had to put much more effort into studying and work. Therefore, today’s generation should be grateful for the opportunity to have more time for play and less time for work. 

Another example of ways that school has changed is school dances. The concept of wanting to be asked to homecoming and the dream of prom is still as present today as it was then, but dress prices have increased, dances have become more formal, and it seems to have a higher significance now than it did before. In the words of 1974 Union Local graduate Bonnie White, “Back in our day, you had to have a date and there was no going with a group of friends. If you didn’t have a date, you didn’t go. Kids today have the advantage of being able to go without judgment. Homecoming clothes were like church clothes. The dresses nowadays seem like our ball gowns in my time.” School dances are more significant now than ever before, which simply adds to the fun and takes away from modern complications and societal issues.

While today’s generation of high schoolers have many advantages, their parents and grandparents didn’t. There are also harmful effects that come from generational innovation changes. Many high schoolers today struggle with basic conversation and interaction skills and are incapable of realizing the simplistic joys of life due to our consumption of technology. We spend our time fighting for “equality” and fail to realize the true hardships generations before us endured.

Sexism in the dress code, learning level discrimination, and racism are three hot topics in many modern teenage minds. While they are true issues that need to be continually addressed, oftentimes teenagers today take for granted the drastic improvement that has been made since our parents and grandparents were in school. Teenagers of the 2020’s should be thankful for no white and colored segregation in schools, multiple educational choice options, and equal views to male and female students from school staff.

To expand, many students at Dover High School argue over ripped jeans are a dress code violation and that the tank top rules are discriminatory against females. While this does have some truth, female high school students in the olden days were prevented from wearing any clothing besides dresses and skirts at all. Now, all girls (and boys) are prevented from doing is wearing pants with tears and exposing our shoulders. Many things that are normal today were considered taboo long ago, and the current generation overlooks this.

To sum up, returning to school is a process that everyone has had to either endure or be rewarded with⎻depending on how one views it. Today, however, we are lucky to live in a society where returning to school is something that all teenagers can take part in together without drawbacks. Returning to the classroom no longer has to be scary for the reason that someone may be a different race or sex, but instead because of normal social anxiety reasons. So, when backing school supplies each year for a brand new year of school, remember that it is okay to live simplisticly sometimes and to embrace the modern world while remembering the past. It’s important to remember that at the end of the day, a high school student then is just as much of a high school student now, no matter what generation one grows up in, and every student deserves the right to enjoy their high school years.