The entire school experience was better years ago than it is now, and for that, I feel sorry for anyone attending school these days. Everything from the curriculum to the school buildings was better.

Let's take the school buildings first. They are monstrosities. Today's schools are way too big and too impersonal. Neighborhood schools were far superior. Back in the day, you knew everyone in school because you all lived in the same neighborhood. I walked to the Lincoln Elementary School with my friends. At the end of the school day, I walked back home with them again. By being so close to home, we were able to go home for lunch each day.

The "old school" old schools had windows in every classroom. We hear today about the need for air filtration systems in the new-fangled schools. Many classrooms today have no windows or windows that only roll open a tiny bit. You can't see out of them, and you certainly can't get fresh air from them. At Lincoln School, our air filtration system was half a dozen or more huge windows that provided plenty of light and fresh air. I think that's why we were healthier back then.

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The curriculum was better then, too. We learned to read, write, do arithmetic, appreciate geography and social studies, and how to write in cursive. There were no lectures on human sexuality, revisionist history, or global warming. There were also no paraprofessionals. An elderly woman armed with nothing more than a 12-inch ruler could easily handle a class of 35-40 students with no trouble at all.

We also began each day with the Pledge of Allegiance, a salute of the flag, a patriotic song, and a silent prayer if we chose. We learned about patriotism and what it is like to be a proud American.

Between clapping erasers and washing the blackboard, we learned our lessons. There were no political agendas and no indoctrination. School shootings were unimaginable. It was a much simpler time when I went to grade school in New Bedford in the 1960s, though the realities of a changing world were inching closer and closer.

As schools across the SouthCoast re-open for the 2021-2022 campaign, I wish everyone great success and good health. I only wish that today's students could experience what school was like when I was a kid.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

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