13 Ways School Was Different In The 80's

by Joni Edelman for Ravishly
Originally Published: 
Old-School Roller Skates From The 80's

I went to kindergarten in the late ’70s (Yes, I am that old. Thanks for noticing). Things were so . . . different (Insert: “when I was a kid” here). And by different, I mean WE TOOK NAPS. I’m not even sure if it was better, worse, or just bizarre. But here are 13 differences between education in the ’80s and The Future (aka now).

1. The naps. A. kindergarten was only half-day (thus the afternoon cartoons on TV for us latchkey kids). B. there was still a nap. Even with the half-day. The teachers of the ’80s knew there was no damn way 20 kids could pay attention for four straight hours. NAPS. It was dim and there was a mat and you better not even try to get up. NAP.

2. Speaking of latchkey . . . We walked both to and from school. ALONE. And we wore our house key around our neck. We got home and ate Twinkies and watched TV and talked on our corded phone and never did homework. No one thought this was a bad idea.

3. Speaking of homework . . . One page. Two on a heavy day. If you had math and writing on the same day, it was perfectly acceptable to cry about it.

4. Hair (and hairspray). Group of girls in the bathroom with a hair pick and a can of red Aquanet (purple if you were hardcore)? Normal. BIGGER IS BETTER. At some point there were even curling irons that were CORDLESS. Yeah, we brought those too. Administration couldn’t be bothered with fire hazards or possible personal injury. Oh, you gave yourself a third degree burn? BOOM. Natural selection.

5. PE. Physical education. I understand if I confused you with the use of an acronym you aren’t familiar with, because THERE IS NO PE NOW, well, not PE like there was. In PE in the 80s, we pelted each other with dodgeballs. Ruthlessly. Get hit in the face? Too bad. Remember Red Rover? Yeah. You’re going down. NATURAL SELECTION.

PE, Part 2: PE teams. When we played a team sport (like baseball — shudder) there were “captains” (of literally nothing) that got to pick their teams. The two teams would take turns humiliating — er, picking kids (I think you can see where this is going). Me = dead fucking last. Every. Time. Natural sports selection.

6. Hot Lunch. There was lunch. It was hot. It was actual food. Someone cooked it in a kitchen. “Someone” was a lunch lady named Alice. She wore a hair net and an apron and a smug expression. And there was dessert. Amen. Kids who got into mischief were punished by way of a rubber spatula and a giant trash can to scrape dirty plates into. You did not want to get in trouble. That job was gross.

7. Cold lunch. If you had a parent who loved you, they made you lunch. You got to bring it in either A. a metal lunchbox or B. a brown paper bag. If you had a brown paper bag you were poor, and everyone knew it. If you had a Strawberry Shortcake lunchbox? Automatic advancement to top of social hierarchy.

8. Attire. There were two kinds of kids: Kmart and not Kmart. There was no middle of the road (i.e. Target). You either wore Guess jeans and an Esprit shirt (collar starched and popped) and Reeboks, or you wore some ugly-ass, ill-fitting jeans from Kmart and no one spoke to you — except the other kids who wore jeans from Kmart. The Club Of Sad Jeans.

9. Milk. You could actually buy just milk to go with your brown paper bag lunch. If you weren’t poor, you paid a dime, and if you were poor you had a sad little blue card. Even if you weren’t in The Sad Jeans Club, everyone knew who was poor. It wasn’t very good for social standing. Or self-esteem.

10. Self-esteem. No one cared if you had any. Get it somewhere else. We don’t do that here.

11. Curriculum. If, by the end of kindergarten, you knew the whole entire alphabet, and could actually write it? Basically Einstein. IQ TESTING. STAT.

12. We played marbles. No one was afraid of choking. (NATURAL SELECTION.)

13. Spanking. Yeah. That happened. Going to The Principal’s Office was pretty much like walking the Green Mile.

I still can’t play team sports.

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