Dating high in school
By 1920 most big-city high schools in the country were offering four high-school tracks: college preparatory, commercial (which prepared students, mostly young women, for office work), vocational (industrial arts and home economics), and general (which offered a high-school diploma without any specific preparation for future educational or vocational endeavors).
But most American high-school students were still following a college preparatory course of study, though few went on to college: less than 17 percent of 14–17-year-olds even graduated from high school.
Second, it claimed that since these new students lacked the intellectual ability, aspirations, and financial means to attend college, it was counterproductive to demand that they follow a college-preparatory program.
Such a hard-core regimen would force many of the “inferior” students to quit school, exactly the opposite of what the country wanted. The proposed solution to these problems was curricular differentiation, a policy that allowed students to follow programs and take courses suited to their interests, abilities, and needs.
While the Committee of Ten did suggest different programs of study for high schools (for example, programs specializing in classical languages, science and mathematics, or modern languages) and introduced the concept of electives to American high schools, its guiding principle was that all students should receive the same high-quality liberal arts education.
It is not hard to see where the battle lines would have been drawn, even then, especially as a wave of new immigrants was bringing tens of thousands of foreign adolescents to our shores. Stanley Hall, a noted psychologist and president of Clark University, denounced the Committee of Ten’s curriculum recommendations, because, he said, most high-school students were part of a “great army of incapables …
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Unlike the Committee of Ten model, in which all students followed similar college preparatory programs, in the model equal educational opportunity was achieved because all graduates received the same ultimate credential, a high-school diploma, despite having followed very different education programs and having met very different standards in the process.Yet the question of winners and losers in this debate about our secondary schools is, to borrow a phrase, academic.The reality is that, quite some time ago, our high schools were set on a course of diversification.Enquiries and requests to visit the archive should be directed to: Dr. Joy, School Archivist, Manchester High School for Girls, Grangethorpe Rd., Rusholme, Manchester, M14 6HS Email: [email protected] Terms and Conditions All rights in the Manchester High School for Girls archive website and its contents, including copyright and database right, are owned by Manchester High School for Girls or otherwise used by Manchester High School for Girls as permitted by applicable law.In accessing the Manchester High School for Girls website pages, you agree that you will access the contents solely for your own private use and not for any commercial or public use.