In the 1950s with the Cold War at its height practicing air raid drills and building atomic shelters, there was also the significant educational factor of ‘streaming’.
As America needed the best and brightest the average or below average child needed to be separated from the intellectually gifted so they could not distract them.
With America’s Enemy turning out brilliant minds, there could be no pandering to the slow brain, hence, every school had its bright class, the second bright, the average and the dunce. And no one cared how the child in dunce class felt.
Physical activity was important, as America needed a strong population. Kids were encouraged to play outside, even in the snow. To ride bikes, skate, climb, swing, run. In those days the only ‘sit’ activity beyond homework was television, and parents were taught to limit their children’s exposure. “Go out and play!” was ordered.
Kids were skinny because of all the activity, and there was no such thing as ‘junk’ food. Parents discouraged their kids from drinking soda. These were the same kids who were raised on formula, as in those days the parents were malnourished due to shortages. The breast was not best.
There was racism and segregation, which was being dismantled. This is because the best and the brightest were required, regardless of complexion.
For although suppressed, it was known to those in power that many non-whites had solved problems and their intellect was needed, this is why so many Afro-Americans worked for NASA.