• Jared Warren

Student Life in the 1920s

The social and cultural innovations of the 1920s ushered in a new and affluent youth culture that embraced new means of leisure such as the automobile, movie theatres, radio, and wearing the latest in fashion, much to the consternation of the adults who viewed the flapper and jazz age as too immodest and libertarian. Girls now wore short skirts, cosmetics, and bobbed and marcelled hair, while boys replaced stiff collars for soft ones, and suit jackets for multi-coloured sweaters. Some adults were positively shocked when the Charleston arrived on the scene, and principals were now forced to deal with students smoking in the school-yard and drinking at dances. The more conservative values of the older generation were seemingly under threat.

In an effort to preserve moral fibre in students in an era of dramatically shifting social values, educators emphasized the importance of extra-curricular activities to provide an appropriate and controlled outlet in which teenagers can expend energy in a wholesome way. Advocates likewise argued that extra-curricular activities encouraged good citizenship and proper conduct. In short, the proliferation of student organizations, clubs, assemblies, and sports teams that emerged during the 1920s occurred with the aim of building character in and fashioning respectable adults out of teenagers away from the influence of the perceived social disorder of the 1920s. Despite the variety of student activities during this period, high school students were still expected to obey school rules that were, in some cases, more strict than in previous decades, including rigid regulations on attendance, student dress, and hair styles.

GCI Basketball Team, 1922. Prior to the 1920s there were very few girls' sports teams consistently offered at GCI. (GCI Archives).


Robert M. Stamp, The Schools of Ontario, 1876-1976 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1982), pp. 112, 116-117.