Back-to-School Through the Ages

Take a look to see how back-to-school has changed from generation to generation.

Back-to-School Through the Ages (Kimberly Farmer via Unsplash)

The sunny days are dwindling down, stores have started their sales, and it’s almost fall. Which means back to school season is back. This year the kids going back to school are either in Gen Z or Gen Alpha but here’s how back to school has changed through the ages from generation to generation. 


Born in 1946 to 1964, post war, and through the height of the civil rights movement Boomers experienced parents with traditional gender roles, segregation, and lack of technology. In their classrooms you’d find children with uniforms on, chalkboards, and not a lick of technology, rather textbooks. Hence why we have Boomers who can’t download a PDF. Plus, corporal punishment was a norm in schools until 1977 where most states outlawed it.    

Gen X  

Gen X born in 1965 to 1980 to Boomers and those in the Silent generation.There was a major shift from the way Boomers grew up. Gen Xers grew up in working parent households and many of these kids were latchkey kids, coming home to an empty house. Those in Gen X had some computers in school, had calculators, got themselves to and from the bus stop and came home, marking the end of an era.

@bynkii2 #stitch with @connielou54 ♬ original sound – john


This microgeneration between Gen X and Millennials had an interesting back to school season. These kids were in school around the time Google was founded, but didn’t have a ton of internet access. In their working parent households, going to school through the coveted 90s with all the new fangled gear these kids had a mix of both worlds.  


Born to boomers from 1981 to 1996 these are the 90s kids. This generation experienced 9/11 and the Great Recession. During this time school consisted of computers and the internet but not as it is today. These kids also had dunkaroos packed in their school lunches which have made a comeback


Sandwiched between two generations we have Zillenials, these kids grew up with both a Millennial and Gen Z mentality. They are super comfortable with technology allowing them to use tech as an important classroom resource. They also experienced a lot of the same events as both generations forming a similar worldview and school environment. Though they are now out of school back then they had a nice mix of technology but also off screen time and had some of those iconic lunchbox snacks. 

Gen Z 

Gen Z born to Gen Xers from 1997 to 2012. Gen Z experienced the elections of both Obama and Trump influencing the school environment. They also experienced a post 9/11 and 2008 financial crisis world. Today most of Gen Z is in highschool. Back to school right now looks like classrooms filled with technology, kids having digital textbooks, and more nutritional school lunches thanks to the Healthy-Hunger Free Kids Act that passed in 2010. 

Ayushree Dahal (she/her) is a Bay Area based journalist.

Edited by Nykeya Woods

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