This is a story about a typical school during the 1960’s and 1970’s on until it’s demise in 2000. In this window of opportunity the author takes you through a close up and personal view of what was going on behind the scenes in a typical Junior HIgh School in Upper New York State. The Vietnam War was going on, the Civil Rights Movement, the Drug generation, the Free Love movement, and the public anti-establishment attitude.
After the New York City public school teacher strikes in the 1960’s many parents fled the city and moved upstate New York to find a community where their children could get a good education without the politics of New York City schools, the teacher strikes and the gang violence. Highland School District was way upstate near the Canadian border, seven hours north of New York City. Recent factories opening and an increase in park and recreational jobs attracted many New York families to move to Highland, New York.
The uniqueness of this school district was that in the 1960’s it was 70% Jewish students attending public school and 8,000 move Jewish students attending private Yeshiva schools for Girls and Boys separately. Highland school district was one of the top five school districts in New York State but decline over the years due to an influx of immigrant students from Haiti. What began as domestic jobs for Haitian women developed over 40 years into Haitian children, grandmothers and grandfathers and husbands moving to Highland, New York for work as domestics. In the 1960’s Haitian women worked for two dollars an hour making them the cheapest domestic labor available. By the 1980’s they were getting paid $10.00 an hour working as nannies and maids. The Jewish students grew up and went to college and their parents downsized and sold their homes and moved into condos in the next towns over from Highland. The Haitian student population rose from 10% in the 1960’s to 60% by 2000 and became a major reason for declining test scores due to reading and writing lack of comprehension by the immigrant Haitians and the Highland School district inability to communicate with the Haitian community at large.
One chapter is dedicated to Sex in schools during the 1960’s and 1970’s. The free love movement, mini-skirts and a sexual awareness revolution was in full force in the 1960’s and 1970’s in American. Highland school district in upstate New York was a reflection of the values of the times. When the students realized they had certain rights they revolted and fought the establishment by dressing differently, discarding previous dress rules and discarding previous proper behavior rules. When students were no longer required to dress appropriately the teachers followed the same trend and stop wearing ties and jackets to schools. Many younger teachers report to their school in a t shirt with an anti-war slogan on it and jeans and sneakers. Administrators could do nothing about it at the time since individual rights came first and education second.
Many students sought refuge in the drug generation by experimenting with Marijuana, speed, and even heroin. Getting high was the trend of the generation of the 1960’s and 1970’s. Schools were not prepared to be anti-drug enforcers. Students thought it was “cool” to take drugs and experimented with their friends. Parents were shocked to learn that their sons and daughters were hooked on cocaine or marijuana, even after they were caught in school or in public. The drug generation was of epidemic proportion during the 1960’s and 1970’s with an attitude of “tuning in and dropping out.” This novel tells the story first-hand how schools in Highland New York and the teachers and administrators were totally unprepared to deal with this major problem and how racial prejudice played a part when students were caught using drugs in schools.
There is a lesson to be learned from the early 1960’s and 1970’s that schools reflect the attitudes of society and cannot change those attitudes unless they are prepared to do so with extensive preventive training for the teachers and the administration. Schools hiring security guards to enforce anti-drug rules and to quell violence in schools came about as a result of the inability of the schools to deal with the problems of the 1960’s and 1970’s. Unfortunately, security guards were not created until the 1980’s long after the problems had developed.
The Junior High is available on Amazon.com, published by Xlibris publishers Nov 2012