Friday, March 11, 2011

New Math And Glory Days

Being a student in our educational system in the 60's and 70's, I was a Guinea Pig like my peers into some of the experiments are educators thrust upon us. New Math was probably the biggest fiasco in any school system. 1 + 1 was no longer 2. It was 1 + 1 = 2 - 1 = 1. All facts had to be proven. Forget a parent trying to help you with your homework. This fact strongly lead to its demise.

Administrators also tried to separate classes by grade point. In my 7th grade, there were 4 classes labeled 7A,B, C, and D. The theory being that the "Smarter" class wouldn't get held back by slower students. I was in the "A" class. Why? I don't know. I certainly wasn't a particularly smart student, nor did I have the attitude to become one. Our class had more misfits in it than any room in the school. They just got away with more because they knew the system better.

In my hometown of Struthers, Ohio, the schools were bursting at the seams with the large number of Baby Boomer Children. The steel mills were still going strong and the population was at an all-time high of about 17,000. Six elementary schools and one high school served the city's needs. An 8th grade building was used for a few years in the 70's to ease the overflow. Lyon-Creed School became notorious.

Kids entering 8th grade were hitting those famous years of Teenage Rebellion and hormones running amok. No longer were they bound by a class or two in a school of seven or eight grades. About 400 hell-raising 13 and 14 year olds were now in one building. It became a competition amongst the boys to see who could get the most paddlings, in the days of corporal punishment allowed in school. Three swats at a time were administered by the Principal or the teacher if they desired. The sound of the paddle and the subsequent yelp of a student as wood met pants bottom echoed in the halls, met with a snicker by all who could hear it.

I was the unofficial leader of getting the most cracks with twenty seven. The worst paddling I ever received was from a female teacher everyone knew as "Tootsie". Her years spent as a majorette, twirling a baton, gave her VERY strong wrists. Her swats about lifted me off the floor. Paddling did become a deterrent not to act up in her history class. Of course, to my children that attended the same school system, I disavow any knowledge of bad behavior.

The social experiment of a solitary 8th grade also lead to numerous altercations between students. Struthers was about 98 percent white and this was the first experience of many kids to share a classroom with black students. For those that inherited the bigotry of a parent, it was quite a learning curve to grant acceptance. More fights were between boys from different grade schools that didn't grow up together. The 8th Street Basketball Court was the usual gathering place for an after school brawl. about six blocks from the school that was far enough away that teachers were out of eyeshot to what was going on.

After much discussion, cajoling, begging, and down-right sucking up, our 8th grade was allowed to go to the high school on Friday afternoons for the Varsity Football Assemblies at The Struthers Field House. Football was King at that time and brought our community together. Struthers was undefeated for two seasons in a row. Standing room only was the norm at the home games and several buses took students to many away contests. One of my best memories was of us beating perennial powerhouse, Youngstown Cardinal Mooney, 7-6 at South High Stadium. Many of us "Boomers" reminisce about those days and wonder how we would have done if the state playoffs were held then. Each generation has their "Glory Days", I think those were mine.