“School days, school days
Dear old Golden Rule days
Reading and writing and arithmetic
Taught to the tune of a hickory stick.”
Although I corrected the spelling errors from the original lyrics, the song, “School Days” was written in 1907 by Will Cobb and Gus Edwards. Chuck Berry put a modern spin on the song with these lyrics:
“Up in the morning and out to school
The teacher is teaching the Golden Rule
American history and practical math
You studying hard and hoping to pass
Working your fingers right down to the bone
And the guy behind you won’t leave you alone.
Ring, ring goes the bell
The cook in the lunch room’s ready to sell
You’re lucky if you can find a seat
You’re fortunate if you have time to eat
Back in the classroom, open your books
Gee but the teacher don’t know how mean she looks.”
When I was a child, elementary school went from kindergarten to 6th grade. Junior high grades were 7th and 8th. Finally, high school went from grade 9 through grade 12. Elementary, junior high and high school were all milestones in educational, physical and emotional development. All through school administrators carry out mandated drills. There are fire drills and school bus fire drills. However, a ridiculous exercise was the Civil Defense Drill.
After we used the atomic bomb in World War II and during the days of the Cold War, President Truman formed the Federal Civil Defense Administration. The program was an indoctrination and one of false hope, playing on the fears of the public. To launch the FCDA program, the government incorporated the use of newspapers, advertising firms, cartoon characters, actors and films distributed to schools. School children from my era are all too familiar with the “Duck and Cover” drills and brainwashing we were exposed to. From first to third grades we were instructed to climb under our desks and cover our heads and faces to protect us from flying objects due to a nuclear blast. Once in fourth grade, our teachers made us line up at our lockers, tuck our heads into our chests and clasp our fingers behind our heads. Finally, by 1963, President John F. Kennedy realized this was an inane program and dismantled these silly drills.
In elementary school we heard the click clack and thud, thud, click clack of the upright piano being rolled down the hallway and into our classroom. It was the signal that music class was to begin, but then, the question lingered. What instrument would the teacher hand out to me? I only wanted the tambourine, maracas, or finger cymbals. I never wanted to be dealt the dreaded hand of the wooden blocks, wooden sticks, a tone block, or the wrist jingle bells. Those were make-believe instruments and I wanted the real thing. On rare occasions, the teacher would bring in a record player and spin a 45 rpm vinyl record. We would all try and mimic the song being spun. Our instructors must have died with laughter watching our antics.
Prior to the age of Smartboards, teachers used the always reliable blackboard. It was a badge of honor if you were one of the chosen few to be selected by the teacher to take the erasers outside and clap them together to try and rid them of chalk dust. The mere thought of going outside during school hours was a thrill, even if it only lasted for a few brief moments.
As we progressed in school our subject courses became more varied, as were extracurricular activities. Our minds and bodies were expanding by leaps and bounds. Technology, as we know it today, was woefully antiquated. Textbooks with plastic overlays were amazing. Flipping the pages over one at a time gave a student the ability to visualize the earth’s layers or see organs in the human body. Of course, being in possession of these marvelous books also meant we were charged with their care. For many of us, that meant we had to make our brown paper bag book jackets in order to protect the covers. State-of-the-art electronics consisted of overhead and slide projectors, and reel-to-reel movie projectors. I would visualize the teachers as mad scientists or monsters when the bright, hot bulbs of the overhead projector reflected the shadows on their faces. It was inevitable that sooner or later the film in the movie projector would jam up and the frustrated instructor would put out the call for assistance to the Audio-Visual department.
For some strange reason, it seemed as though the students in Audio-Visual wore black pants, white shirts, donned black framed glasses with tape holding the stem in place, and of course, the pocket protector for their pens. Almost all of them had brush cut haircuts. I would guess that many of these young students went on to become the future IT people in a more modern world. Today, these are the individuals we envy for their computer prowess and technical knowledge.