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There was no standard or requirement for literacy; the boys in the upper classes were fluent in Latin, Greek, often French, with some Italian. They were heavily versed in the literary classics. Their less fortunate peers went to school when they could and often taught themselves after work.
Girls in the upper classes were literate and probably knowledgeable in light literature (poetry, novels, etc.) but were discouraged from learning anything more than "feminine accomplishments": playing the pianoforte, drawing, fine needlework.
Poor girls were lucky to be able to read, but often knew something the "better" girls did not: how to run a household.
These children were also raised with a greater presence of death. Dying in childbirth was fairly common and, since birth control was illegal and unreliable, childbirth was tough to avoid. It was rare for a mother, of any class, to raise all her children without one fatality.
Fathers were often killed in factory accidents--with no OSHA to monitor working conditions. The Victorians' repulsive methods of disposing of waste generated many of the fatal illnesses they suffered.
And many people died at their doctor's hands, being bled or "cupped" for all sorts of illnesses and complaints, or treated inappropriately for under-diagnosed symptoms.
I think this climate, in which responsibility was ever-present and mourning was big business, had to have a melancholy affect on children that, luckily, our children don't have.
The public schools, on the other hand, were free and mostly attended by the kids who were not rich. Boys and girls were at the same school. There was a class for each grade level with about 20 to 30 kids in each class.
n 1904, children were supposed to go to school until the age of 16; however, most kids never finished the 8th grade. They went to work in factories, farms and coalmines to help their families. Some went to high school and a few went to college. In those days, very few women went to college. Even the rich girls didn't all get to go to college.
From 1910 to 1940, high schools grew in number and size, reaching out to a broader clientele. In 1910, for example, 9% of Americans had a high school diploma; in 1935, the rate was 40%. By 1940, the number had increased to 50%.[ This phenomenon was uniquely American; no other nation attempted such widespread coverage. The fastest growth came in states with greater wealth, more homogeneity of wealth, and less manufacturing activity than others. The high schools provided necessary skill sets for youth planning to teach school, and essential skills for those planning careers in white collar work and some high-paying blue collar jobs. Economist Claudia Goldin argues this rapid growth was facilitated by public funding, openness, gender neutrality, local (and also state) control, separation of church and state, and an academic curriculum. The wealthiest European nations such as
Public schools were funded and supervised by independent districts that depended on taxpayer support. In dramatic contrast to the centralized systems in
In 1975 Congress passed Public Law 94-142, Education for All Handicapped Children Act. One of the most comprehensive laws in the history of education in the
No Child Left Behind, passed by a bipartisan coalition in Congress in 2002, marked a new direction. In exchange for more federal aid the states were required to measure progress and punish schools that were not meeting the goals as measured by standardized state exams in math and language skills. By 2012 half the states were given waivers because the original goal that 100% students by 2014 be deemed "proficient" prov ed unrealistic
The education and job world that young people are entering is so different from just 15 or 20 years ago, it’s not even comparable. For the first time in history we have a truly global economy and global competition. It’s completely the opposite of the Baby Boomers’ experience. Then,
People are all over the map with blame — bad teachers, lazy students, distracted parents, video games, junk food — which tells me no one has any real answer. I just know what I keep telling my kids: keep your eyes, ears and options open and your priorities straight because the only living you deserve is the one you earn.