** American school types

School Clothes: United States--School Types

America has a very decentaralized school system. As a result there are many different types of schools. American state schools are called public schools. There is no national system or required national standards. Each state has its own separate school system. The national or Federal Government does maintain some schools, such as schools on Indian reservations and military bases, both in America and overseas. There is also a wide variety of private schools of many different characters. The largest private system is the parochial or catholic system. There are many other private schools. Some of the most prestigious are based on the English system. There are also many military schools. In recent years, Christiannacademies have become increasingly important.

Grade/Class Age Levels

One difficulty readers have in following school trends in different countries is the different names used forthe various class "forms" or classes. The term in America is "grades", not to be confused with the same term used to describe the marks assigned to assess performance. There are no confusing terms used like forms and further complications such as "the upper fifth". With few exceptions, the classes throughout America are grade 1 through 12. Grades 1-6 are elementary school, grades 7-8 are juniior high or middle school and grades 9-12 are senior high school. Some times grade 6 is placed in middle school and grade 9 in junior high school. A few private schools have afectations like using forms instead of grades.

Figure 1.--The junor boys at this high school near Washington, DC are mostly wearing below the knee knickers with argyl knee socks. The photograph was reportedly taken in 1920. Notice two boys are wearing long pants.

Public Schools

Public education has a long history in the United States. Early Federal land legislation had provisions for assigning land parcels for school as did the Homestead Act of 1864. The principal of free public education was well established in America at a time when the British conceived of public education as dangerous or only appropriate as charity schools for indigents. The clothing worn by boys at these schools reflected their ordinary dress, as few boys had multiple clothing changes. School wear at most American public schools (state schools not private schools in the British sence) has generally reflected American overall clothing trends. The clothes in rural and urban schools could be quite different. American children in the early part of the 20th century dressed more formally for school than children do today--at least in urban areas. Public school children, however, have never worn uniforms. Elementary school schildren by the 1920s generally wore what they wore at home, but usually better clothes than for play. Actually parents would normally purchase a new clothes for children in August. Those clothes would be saved for school wear and last years school clothes would be used for play. One of the most significant development in American school wear was the gradual adoption of jrans as schoolwear. By the late 1940s jeans (called dungarees at the timer had become prevalent at many public schools. Yonger boys during the 1950s and 60s might wear short pants. None of the girls until the 1950s commonly wore shorts or pants, except perhaps for camp wear. Girls only wore dresses. Most boys in public schools by the second or third grade (7-8 years old)--or even younger--insisted on long pants. Most American elementary schoolboys in the 1960s wore long pants to school. There was some regional diversity. Boys in California were more likely to wear shorts than elsewhere, but boys in most areas wore longs. Boys attitudes toward short pants began to change in the 1970s. Except for younger boys, shorts were no longer commonly worn for dress wear. Boys began to think of shortds as casual wear. This has generally changed since the late 1980s and 1990s. Primary (elementary) age boys of all ages now commonly wear shorts to school in the warm weather. Secondary schools have had dress codes which varied over time. Secondary schools through the 1930s tended to have much stricter dress codes than is the case today. Until the 1940s, completion of highschool was not something that to which all children aspired. Many children from low-income families did not go to highschool. Thus attire was influenced by the social-level of the students.

Private Schools

America has an early tradition of public education. There werealso private schools. Un fact, there were several types of private schools. Some followed English traditions. Dor reasons we do not fully understnd, there wre qyute a number of military schools. And as immigrants from Catholic countries bgan immigrating, we also see parochial schools. With the tragic declkine of the public school system in the late 20th century, we see agreater interest in private schools, both religious and secular. While most American boys did not wear school uniforms, some schools did require school uniforms. Parochial schools, elite British-oriented schools, and military schools all required uniforms. The largest portion of the private school sector is the very large parochial (catholic) school system which did require children to wear uniforms, although quite basic ones as until after World War II, the Catholic ethnic communities were generally low-income Americans.

School Sizes

American schools vary greatly in size And this has changed over time. Early schools and even in the 19th century could be very small. Actually smaller than Europen villge schools. This varied as to the type of school. The really small one-room schools of course meant primary school, but town high (secondary) schools could also be reltively small. Until after World War II, only a small fraction of children attended secondary schools. Given that ealy america was largely Protestantvand the Government from the very beginning of the Republic made a commitment to public education. more children attended school in America than any other country except perhaps Germany, Still schools were small because most people livd in rural areas and had no way of traveling large distances to get to school. Thus you had to have a lot of small achools to make schooling accessable. The result was the iconic one room school. A good example is the School No. 8 in Blackhawk Country, Iowa. They had 11 childten. These schools had to be phased out after World War II as they were very expensive to operate. The same was true of secondary schools, but they had to be located in towns, so there were no one-room secondary schools. This is why many rural primary schools had eight year (grade) programs. This meant children until the mid-20th century had to live in or move to towns. My dad in the 1910s had to move away from home on the family farm to attend secondary school (North Judson) and my grandparents opposed the idea. My mom lived in a town, but her high school graduating class was only 16 boys and girls in Mulberry, Indiana (1920s). When I sent to High school in Andandale, Virginia there were some 2,000 students and nearly 500 in my 1961 graduaring class. High schools of this size are today fairly standard, but there are schools of nearly 9,000 students.

Home Schooling

Home schooling is not a new phemnomenon. Children from wealthy families for centuries were taught by tutors. Public schools, a system to educate the entire population. Public schools feveloped first in Protestant Europe. Thy were deceloped in the United stastes from an early stage. As private and public schools developed, home ttoring declined for all but the very rich. We notice the first home schooling curriulum from the the Calvert School (1907). It was for Kindergarden as they were at first not widely available in public schools at the time..


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Created: June 5, 1999
Last updated: 9:11 AM 10/19/2015