Back to School!


Scurlock Ebony (Magazine) series (Cardozo High School), by Scurlock Studio, Scurlock Studio Records, It’s that season again, and I can’t help but reminisce about cool new lunchboxes, crisp notebooks, and the smell of leaves, as everyone starts a new school year. A quick browse through our photographs is like a tour through all aspects of school life. For some, it’s the excitement of starting school for the first time.

Kindergarten Classroom in Burdine, Kentucky, from the Consolidation Coal Company

For others, it’s a chance to pursue adult career dreams (plus, art school was one of the few places women were welcome to get advanced degrees in the 19th century).

Olive Rush and Corcoran School of Art class, Unidentified photographer, c. 1890.

School has always been a place where truth and knowledge are defined and delimited. The Scopes Trial reminds us of ongoing debates about what can or cannot be taught in the classroom.

Tennessee v. John T. Scopes Trial.

But school is also about expanding our horizons (talk about a hands-on field trip!)

A Group of Schoolchildren and Their Teacher Observing Tortoises at the Zoo, 1899

and developing new skills (how about learning a new sport, like cricket?)

Group of Men, Hindu Cricket Players, in Costume with Cricket Bats

But some aspects of school aren’t as great—like getting school portraits taken.

Veterans High School Center Groups, Scurlock Studio (Washington D.C.), 1963

And for me, school also brings up unfortunate food memories (like Sloppy Joes in the cafeteria, or technicolored Jello salads at PTA meetings!?!)

Eleventh Annual PTA Dinner with display of food in Tupperware containers

But fortunately, you can always rely on a few universally-celebrated aspects of school—like recess!

Schoolhouse and grounds with vine-covered shelter and little folks playing

Does the beginning of fall bring up any poignant school memories for you?

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