Read CHAPTER V - KEEPING THE HIGH SCHOOL IN STEP WITH LIFE of The New Education A Review of Progressive Educational Movements of the Day (1915), free online book, by Scott Nearing, on

I The Responsibility of the High School

“Every pupil of high school maturity should be in high school atmosphere whether he has completed the work of the grammar grades or not,” insists Dr. F. E. Spaulding.  “Perhaps the high school course of study is not adapted to the needs of such children.  Well, so much the worse for the course of study.  The sooner the high school suits its work to the needs of fourteen and fifteen-year-old boys and girls, the sooner it will be filling its true place in the community.”  Such opinions, voiced in this case by a man whose national reputation is founded on his splendid work as superintendent of the school system of Newton Mass., bespeak the attitude of the most progressive American high schools.

The high school is not a training ground for colleges, nor is it a repository of classical lore.  As an advanced school it differs no more from the elementary school than the six cylinder automobile differs from the four cylinder car.  Though its work is more complex, like the elementary school it exists for the sole purpose of helping children to live wholesome, efficient lives.

II An Experiment in Futures

Children who get stranded in the seventh or eighth grades may have failed in one subject or in several.  Over age and out of place, they lose interest, become discouraged and at fourteen drop out of school to work or to idle.  In Newton, as in every other town, there were a number of just such children whom Mr. Spaulding decided to get into the high school.

“There they will be among children of their own age,” he explained.  “They may take a new line of work and acquire a real interest.”

“But they will fail in their high school work as they have failed in their grade work,” protested the doubters.

Mr. Spaulding, smiling his quiet, genial smile, tried his experiment all the same.  From the seventh and eighth grades of the Newton schools he picked the boys and girls who were fifteen or more at their next birthdays.  These pupils, seventy in all forty girls and thirty boys were transferred, without examination, into the high school.

“These youngsters were going to drop out of school for good in one year, or two at the outside,” explained Mr. Spaulding, “so I made up my mind that during that year at least they should have some high school training.  They went to the regular high school teachers for their hand-work; but for their studies, I put them in charge of three capable grade teachers, who were responsible for seeing that each child was making good.  I put it to the grade teachers this way:  ’Here are a lot of children who have got the failure habit by failing all through their school course.  Unless we want to send them out of our school to make similar failures in life, we must teach them to succeed.  Take each child on his own merits, give him work that he can do and let him learn success.’

“We gave these boys and girls twenty hours a week of technical work (drawing, designing, shop-work, cooking and sewing) and ten hours a week of academic work (English, mathematics, civics and hygiene).  Shop costs, buying of materials and simple accounting covered their mathematics.  Those were the things which would probably be most needful in life.  The boys got deeply interested in civics, and we let them go as far and as fast as they pleased.  With the girls we discussed hygiene, dressing and a lot of other things in which they were interested.

“When those children entered the school they were boisterous and rough.  The girls dressed gaudily, reveling in cheap finery.  By Christmas, to all appearances, their classes differed in no way from the other high school classes.  They all brushed their hair.  The boys were neater and the girls were becomingly dressed.[”]

Most of the seventy children stayed through the year.  Twenty-seven of the forty girls and seventeen of the thirty boys entered the regular high school course the next fall.  They were thus put into competition with their former seventh and eighth grade comrades, although they had had only two-fifths as much academic work as the regular eighth grade pupils.  There was the test.

Could these derelicts, after one year of special care, take their places in the regular freshman high school work?  After the end of the first quarter, a study made of the 800 children in the high school showed that on the average there were fifty-four hundredths of one failure for each scholar.  Among the twenty-seven girls from the special classes, however, there was but seventeen-hundredths of a failure for each girl, or one-third as many failures as in the whole school.  The boys made an even better showing.  Of the entire seventeen, only one boy failed, and in only one subject.

III The Success Habit

“We had given them something they liked and could do,” Mr. Spaulding concluded.  “They succeeded a few times, got the success habit, learned to like school, went into the regular high school course and succeeded there.”

As an illustration of the way in which the new plan works, take the case of James Rawley.  James was in a serious predicament.  Time after time the court had overlooked his truancy and misdoings, but James had taken the pitcher once too often to the well, and the open doors of the State Reform School stared him grimly in the face.

“It will be best for him in the long run,” commented the judge.  “Each month of this wild life makes him a little less fit to keep his place in the community.  He has had his last chance.”

Yet there was one ray of hope, for James lived in and out of Boston, a city located near the Newton Technical High School.  This fact led James’s custodians to propose to the judge that he give James one more trial, this time in the Newton Technical High School.  The judge, also of the initiated, agreed to the suggestion, and James, a dismal eighth grade failure, entered the Newton Technical High School in one of the special transfer classes.

Just a word about James.  He began life badly.  His mother died when he was young; and his father, a rather indifferent man, boarded the boy out during his early years with an aunt, who first spoiled him through indulgence, and then, inconsistently enough, hated him because he was spoiled.  Growing up in this uncongenial atmosphere, James became entirely uncontrollable.  He was disagreeable in the extreme, wild and unmanageable.

The people with whom James was boarding grew tired of his continued truancy and he was placed on a farm near Boston.  There, too, he was discontented, dissatisfied and disobedient.  Time after time he ran away to Boston.  He went on from bad to worse, falling in with vagrants, learning their talk and their ways, acquiring a love for wandering and a distaste for regularity and direction.  Taken into custody by the Juvenile Court, and placed on probation with a family outside of Boston, James again ran away to mingle with a crowd of his old associates in Boston.  It was at this point that the court decided to send him to the Reform School.  It was likewise at this time that some friendly people took him in charge, found him a home in Newton, and started his life anew in the Newton Technical High School, which James entered with a special transfer class.  Promoted to the regular freshman class on trial, James has renewed his interest in education and bids fair to make his way through the high school.

James is doing well in the Newton Technical High School.  Though he does not like all of the regular high school work, he has a full course, and is working at it persistently.  Heretofore school has never appealed to him in fact, he hated it cordially but the school at Newton offered him such a variety of subjects that he was able to find some which were attractive.  Since then he has been working on those subjects.

There are many cities in which every school door would have been closed to James, because he did not fit into the school system, but the superintendent of the Newton schools believes in making the school fit the needs of the boy.  A fantastic theory?  Well, perhaps a trifle, from one viewpoint; nevertheless, it is the soul of education.

IV The Help-Out Spirit

As a result of this special promotion policy, there are practically no over-age pupils in the grammar schools of Newton.  Instead of square pegs in round holes, the Newton High School can boast of sixty or seventy children who come, each year, in search of a new opening for which they are technically not ready, but into which they may grow.  After coming to the high school, two-thirds of them find an incentive sufficient to lead them to continue with an education of which they had already wearied.

The Newton High School, recognizing its obligation to serve the people, strains every nerve to enable boys and girls to take high school work.  The printing teacher pointed to his class of twenty.

“Only three of them do not work on Saturdays and after school.  They couldn’t come here if they didn’t work.  Hiney, there, was in a bakeshop all day at three and a half a week.  We got him a job afternoons and Saturdays that pays him three dollars.  That tall fellow will send himself through high school on the six dollars a week that he gets from a drug store where he works outside of school hours.”

“We aim,” added Mr. Spaulding, “to do everything in our power to make it possible for the boys to come here.  If their parents cannot afford to send them, we find work for them to do outside of school hours.”

That is virile work, is it not?  And the result?  During the past eight years the number of pupils in the Newton schools who are over fourteen has increased three times as fast as the number of pupils who are under fourteen.  The school authorities have searched the highways and byways of the educational world until one-quarter of the school children of Newton are in the high schools.

V Joining Hands with the Elementary Schools

The same result which is attained informally at Newton is accomplished more formally by the organization of the junior high schools which have sprung up in Berkeley and Los Angeles, California; Evansville, Indiana; Dayton, Ohio, and a number of other progressive educational centers.  The child’s school life under this plan is divided into three parts the elementary grades (years one to six), the junior high school (years seven to nine) and the high school proper (years ten to twelve).  The break, if break there must be, between the elementary and the high school, thus comes at age twelve and at age fifteen, instead of, as formerly, coming at age fourteen, when the temptation to leave school is so strong.  Then, too, the sharp transition from work by grades to work by departments is made easier because the junior high school combines the two, leading the pupil gradually over from the grade method to the department method.

Though the junior high school has so great a popularity, its work is eclipsed by the still more revolutionary program of those educators who advocate the complete abolition of any line between the elementary and the high school, and the establishment of a public school of twelve school years.  This plan, coupled with promotion by subjects rather than by grades, replaces the machine method of promotion and the gap between elementary and high schools by an easy, natural progression adaptable to the needs of any student, from the end of the kindergarten to the beginning of the university.

Superintendent Wirt of Gary, Indiana, has established such a twelve-year course in the Emerson School.  The grades, numbered from one to twelve, are so arranged that a girl may take half of her subjects in school year eight (last grammar grade) and the other half in school year nine (first high school grade).  In order to make the harmony more complete, Mr. Wirt places the elementary rooms, containing the second grade pupils, next door to the rooms which shelter high school seniors.  On this side of the hall is a kindergarten; directly across from it is a class in high school geometry.

The same plan, on a larger scale, has been adopted by I. B. Gilbert, principal of the Union High School, Grand Rapids, Michigan, which houses twelve hundred students.

“We have obliterated the sharp line of distinction between the grades,” declared Mr. Gilbert.  “The school, which is a new one, has a very complete equipment physical, chemical, and biological laboratories, two cooking rooms, dressmaking and millinery rooms, an art department, a woodworking shop, a forge room and a machine shop; the print shop, though not yet installed, is to be put in this year.  By bringing children of all grades to the school, we place at the disposal of grade pupils apparatus ordinarily reserved for high school pupils only.  At the same time, our equipment is in constant use and the cost of establishing a separate industrial department or school for the grades is eliminated.

“These are merely the surface advantages, however.  The real gain to the students is in other and most significant directions.  First, the abolishing of rigid grading allows each child to follow his own bent.  At the beginning of the adolescent period, when the old interests begin to lag, some new ideas must be furnished if the child is to be kept in school.  We provide that new stimulus by beginning departmental work with the seventh year (at twelve or thirteen).  Then, if the child shows any particular preference for any line of work, he may pursue it.  From the seventh grade up, promotion is by subjects entirely, and not by grades.  If a student elects art, she may follow up her art work for the next six years; similarly, a boy may follow shop-work, or a girl domestic science or millinery.  In order to fit the school more quickly to the pupils’ need, we make a division at the beginning of the eighth grade of those pupils desiring to take academic work and those desiring to take industrial work in the high school.  The latter group does extra sewing or shop-work twice each week.

“Again, we take all over-age and over-size pupils from the schools in this section of the city, and by placing them in ungraded classes, permit them to take the work which they can do.  Here is a boy who cannot master grammar.  That is no reason why he should not design jewelry, so we give him fourth year language, and take him into the tenth year class in jewelry design.  Yes, and he makes good, doing excellent craft work and gradually pulling up in his language.  By this means we make our twelve grade school fit the needs of any and every pupil who may come to it.

“We have a natural educational progress for twelve years,” concluded Mr. Gilbert.  “There is no break anywhere.  Instead of making it hard to step from grade eight to grade nine, we interrelate them so intimately that the student scarcely feels the change from one to the other.  The result?  Last June there were 152 pupils in our eighth grade.  Of that number 118, or more than three-quarters of them reported in the ninth grade this fall.  We have cancelled the invitation to quit school at the end of the eighth grade and our children stay with us.”

VI The Abolition of “Mass Play”

Thus the dark narrow passage-way from the elementary to the higher schools is being widened, lighted, paved and sign-posted.  In some school systems it has disappeared altogether, leaving the promotion from the eighth year to the first year high school as easy as the step from the seventh to the eighth grade.  After the children have reached the high school, however, the task is only begun.  First they must be individualized, second socialized, and third taught.

“The trouble with the girls,” complained Wm. McAndrew, in discussing his four thousand Washington Irvingites, “is that they have always been taught mass play.  Take singing, for instance.  A class started off will sing beautifully all together, but get one girl on her feet and she is afraid to utter a note.  The grade instruction has taught them group acting and group thinking.  I step into a class of Freshmen with a ’Good morning, girls’.

“‘Good morning,’ they chorus.

“‘Are you glad to see me, girls?’

“‘Yes sir,’ again in chorus.

“‘Do you wished I was hanged?’

“‘Yes sir,’ generally,

“‘Oh, no sir,’ cries one girl who has begun to cerebrate.  The idea catches all over the class, and again the chorus comes,

“‘Oh, no sir, no sir.’

“So it goes.  The bright girl takes her cue from the teacher and the class takes the cue from the bright girl.  They must be taught to think and do for themselves.”

Everyone interested in school children should visit the Washington Irving School (New York) and watch the truly wonderful McAndrew system of individualization.  In the office, you are cordially greeted.  You wish to see the school?  By all means!  But no teacher is detailed to serve you.  Instead, a messenger goes in search of the Reception Committee.  Two of the school girls, after a formal introduction, start your tour of inspection, if you are fortunate enough to be there at nine, with a visit to one of the assembly rooms, where, in groups of three or four hundred, the girls enjoy three-quarters of an hour each morning.  The word “enjoy” is used advisedly, for, unlike the ordinary assembly, this one is conducted entirely by the girls.

Each morning a different chairman and secretary is selected, so that in the course of the year every girl has had her turn.  The chairman, after calling the meeting to order and appointing two critics for the day, reads her own scripture selection, and then calls upon some girl to lead the salute to the flag.  The minutes of the previous day’s meeting are then read, discussed and accepted.  After fifteen minutes of singing singing of everything from “Faust” to “Rags” the chairman calls on the two critics for their criticism of the conduct of that day’s meeting.  Some special event is then in order.  On one Monday in December Miss Sage, head of the Biology Department, described the Biological Laboratory in the new school building.  After she had finished, the chairman rose.

“Will anyone volunteer to tell in a few words the principal points which Miss Sage made?”

Three girls were promptly on their feet, giving, in clear, collected language, an analysis of the talk.

After you, as a guest, have been conducted to the platform, introduced to the chairman, and given a seat of honor, the chairman turns to the assembly, with the announcement,

“Girls, I wish to introduce to you our guest of this morning.”

Instantly the whole assembly rises, singing blithely, “Good morning, honored guest, we the girls of the Washington Irving High School are glad to welcome you.”

The proceedings having come to an end, the chairman declares the meeting adjourned and you look about, realizing with a start that the girls freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors have spent three-quarters of an hour in charge of themselves, and have done it with interest, and with striking efficiency.  Continuing your journey, you find the process of individualization everywhere present.  Here a girl is in front of a class, directing the calisthenics which precede each class hour.  There a girl is standing at the front of the room, leading singing or quizzing in geometry.

“Yes, it was a wrench,” Mr. McAndrew admits.  “You see, the teachers hated to give up.  They had been despots during all of their teaching lives, and the idea of handing the discipline and a lot of the responsibility of the school over to the girls hurt them dreadfully, but they have tried it and found that it works.”

VII Experimental Democracy

The high school pupil, after discovering himself, must next determine his relation to the community.  It is one thing to break down what Mr. McAndrew calls the W. I. (Wooden Indian) attitude.  It is quite another to relate pupils to the community in which they live.  Yet this, too, can be done.  The school is a society incomplete in certain respects, yet in its broad outline similar to the city and the state.  The social work of the school consists in showing the citizens of the school-community how to enjoy the privileges and act up to the responsibilities of citizenship.  The Emerson School at Gary and the Union High School at Grand Rapids, organized into complete schools from the first grade to the end of the high school, are miniature working models of the composite world in which all of the children will live.

Particularly effective work has been done on the social side of high school organization at the William Penn High School (Philadelphia), where Mr. Lewis has turned the conduct of student affairs over to a Student Government Association, directed by a Board of Governors of eighteen, on which the faculty, represented by five members, holds an advisory position only.  The Association gives some annual event, like a May day fête, in which all of the girls take part.  It assumes charge of the corridors, elevators, and lunch rooms; grants charters to clubs and student societies, and assumes a general direction of student affairs.

“It really doesn’t take much time,” Irene Litchman, the first term (1912-13) President, explained.  “We like it and we’re proud to do it.  We used to have teachers everywhere taking charge of things.  Now we do it all ourselves.”  True enough, Madame President, and it is well done, as any casual observer may see.  Similar testimony is to be had from the sick girls who have received letters and flowers, from the children whose Christmas has been brightened by Association-dressed dolls, and from the girls whose misunderstandings with members of the faculty have been settled by the Student Association.

Each class in the Washington Irving High School (New York) gives one reception a term to one of the other classes.  In addition, an annual reception and play are given by the entire school.  The plays for these occasions are written, costumed and staged by the students.  Last year the reception was given to Mrs. Dix, wife of the Governor of New York, and the play “Rip Van Winkle” was acted by eighteen hundred girls.  Such organizations and activities lead high school students to feel social relationships, and to assume responsibilities as members of the social group.

VIII Breaching the Chinese Wall of High School Classicism

A high school education is included, by progressive communities, in the birthright of every child.  Since only a small part of these children are preparing for college, the school must offer more than the traditional high school course.  The principal of a great Western high school which housed nearly two thousand children, pointed to one room in which a tiny class bent over their books.  “That is probably the last class in Greek that we shall ever have in the school,” he said.  “They are sophomores.  Only two freshmen elected Greek this fall, and we decided not to form the class.”  Time was when Greek was one of the pillars of the high school course of study.  In this particular school, splendidly equipped laboratories, sewing rooms, and shops have claimed the children.  The classics are still popular with a small minority, but the vast majority come to learn some lesson which will direct their steps along the pathway of life.

Everywhere the technical high school courses are gaining by leaps and bounds.  The William Penn High School (Philadelphia), established in 1909, is to-day enrolling four-fifths of the girls who enter Philadelphia high schools.  In some cities, technical work and classical work are done in the same building; in other cities, they are sheltered separately, but everywhere the high school is opening its doors to that great group of school children who, at seventeen or eighteen, must and will enter the arena of life.

The technical high school has not gained its prestige easily, however.  The bitter contests between the old and the new are well portrayed by one dramatic episode from the history of the Los Angeles High School.  Mr. John H. Francis, now superintendent of the schools of Los Angeles, was head of the Commercial Department in the Los Angeles High School.  Despite opposition and ridicule the department grew until it finally emerged as a full-fledged technical high school, claiming a building of its own, a building which Mr. Francis insisted should contain accommodations for two thousand students.  The authorities protested, “Two thousand technical students?  Why, Los Angeles is not a metropolis.”  Mr. Francis gained his point, however, and the building was erected to accommodate two thousand children.  When the time for opening arrived it was discovered, to the astonishment of the doubters, that more students wanted to come into the school than the school would hold.  When Mr. Francis announced that students up to two thousand would be admitted in order of application, excitement in school circles ran high, and on the day before Registration Day a line began to form which grew in length as the day wore on, until by nightfall it extended for squares from the school.  All that night the boys and girls camped in their places, waiting for the morning which would bring an opportunity to attend the technical high school.

Though less dramatic in form, the rush toward technical high school courses is equally significant.  It is not that the old high school has lost, but that the new high school is drawing in thousands of boys and girls who, from lack of interest in classical education, would have gone directly from the grammar school into the mill or the office.

IX An Up-to-Date High School

The modern high school is housed in a building which contains, in addition to the regular class rooms, gymnasiums, a swimming tank, physics, and chemical laboratories; cooking, sewing, and millinery rooms; wood-working, forge, and machine shops; drawing rooms; a music room; a room devoted to arts and crafts; and an assembly room.  This arrangement of rooms presupposes Mr. Gilbert’s plan of making the high school, like the community, an aggregation of every sort of people, doing every sort of work.

Physical training in the high school has not yet come into its own, though it is on the road to recognition.  All of the newer high schools have gymnasiums, but the children do not use them for more than thirty, forty, or fifty minutes a week.  Sometimes the work is optional.  The West Technical of Cleveland, with its outdoor basket ball court, its athletic grounds and grandstand, in addition to the indoor gymnasium, offers a good example of effective preparation for physical training.  William D. Lewis of the William Penn High School sends all students who have physical defects to the gymnasium three, four, or even five times a week, until the defects are corrected.  These exceptions merely serve to emphasize the fact that we have not yet learned that high school children have bodies which are as much in need of development and training as the minds which the bodies support.

Several real attempts are being made to teach high school boys and girls to care for their bodies, as they would for any other precious thing.  Hygiene is taught, positively, the old time “don’ts” being replaced by a series of “do’s.”  In many schools, careful efforts are being made to give a sound sex education.  The program at William Penn, in addition to the earlier work in biology and in personal and community hygiene, includes a senior course, extending through the year, in Domestic Sanitation and Eugenics.  The course, given by the women in charge of Physical Training, deals frankly with the domestic and personal problems which the girls must face.  The time is ripe for other schools to fall in line behind these much-needed pioneers.

The course of study in the modern high school is a broad one.  Latin may always be taken, and sometimes there is Greek.  French, German and Spanish, Mathematics, History, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and Civics are almost universally offered on the cultural side of the curriculum.  In addition, girls may take dress designing, sewing, millinery and home economics; boys may take wood-working, forge work, machine-tool work, electricity, printing, and house designing; and both boys and girls have an opportunity to elect art, arts and crafts work and music.

In some schools the combination of subjects group themselves into definite courses, as in the Newton High School, which offers,

  The Classical Course. 
  The Scientific Course. 
  The General Course. 
  The Technical Course. 
  The Technology-College Course. 
  The Extra Technical Course. 
  The Fine Arts Course. 
  The Business Course.

Other schools, like the Indianapolis Manual Training School, permit the pupil, with the advice of the principal, to make his own combination of subjects.  Whether prepared by the school or by the pupil, however, the courses lead to college, to normal schools, to advanced technical schools, or to some definite vocation.  On one subject, progressive high schools are in absolute agreement, the course of study must furnish both culture and technical training in a form which meets the needs of high school children.

X From School to Shop and Back Again

The tendency toward vocational training finds its extreme expression in the so-called Industrial Co-operative Course in which boys and girls spend part of their time in school and part in the factory.  Note this legal document.  “The party of the second part agrees to place, as far as possible, the facilities of his establishment at the disposal of the School Committee for general educational purposes along industrial lines.”  In these words, the individual manufacturers of Providence, Rhode Island, who are co-operating with the school board for the establishment of the industrial co-operative course in the Technical High School, place their mills and factories at the disposal of the school authorities.  The plan instituted at the suggestion of the manufacturers themselves has won the approval of all parties during the two years of its operation.

The Providence experiment differs from those of Cincinnati and Fitchburg, Mass., in two respects, in the first place, the school authorities have a written contract with the manufacturers.  In the second place, they may decide what the character of the shop-work shall be.  The boy who elects to take the industrial co-operative course in Providence spends ten weeks in a shop at the end of his freshman year.  Apprenticeship papers are signed, the boy gives a bond, which is forfeited if he drops the course without a satisfactory reason, and for three years he spends 29 weeks in the shop and 20 weeks in school, alternating, one week in the shop, the next in the school.  For their shop-work the boys receive ten cents, twelve cents, and fourteen cents an hour during the first, second, and third years, respectively.  Though this wage is not high, it is sufficient to enable the boys to earn enough during the year ($175 to $250) to pay for their keep at home during their high school course.

At the present time sixty-two Providence boys are working part time in machine shops, in drafting rooms, in machine tool construction, in pattern making and in jewelry making.  In order to keep the scheme elastic, the school offers to form a class in any trade for which sixteen or more boys will apply.

The part-time course is primarily educational and secondarily vocational.  Since it may determine the character of the shop-work, the school is in a position to insure its educational value.  Again, the academic training is still received in the school, while the technical work, heretofore done in school rooms, is carried on in the fields of real industry.  As a supplement of the old time system of apprenticeship, the part-time school is an undoubted success, because it adds to shop apprentice work all of the essential elements of a high school education.

XI Fitting the High School Graduate Into Life

The high school has not done its full duty when it has educated the child, it must go a step farther and educate him for something; then it must go a step beyond that and help him to find himself in his chosen profession.  This vocational guidance which is filling so large a place in public discussions, may mean guidance to a job or it may include guidance in the job.  In either case children must be led to decide upon the kind of work for which they are fitted before they leave the school.

Jesse B. Davis, Principal of the Central High School at Grand Rapids, furnishes a brilliant example of this vocational directing.  Mr. Davis begins his work through the theme writing and oral composition of the seventh and eighth grades.  The purpose of the pupils’ reading and discussion is to arouse their vocational ambition and to lead them to appreciate the value of further education and training for life.  This study upon the part of the pupil is supplemented by talks given by Mr. Davis, prominent business and professional men and high school boys who have come back to finish their education after a few years of battle with the world.

The high school classes in English are small never more than twenty-five, and the work is so arranged that the teacher may get a good idea of the capability of each student.  To facilitate this, the English Department has prepared a series of essay subjects in the writing of which the pupil gives the teacher a very definite idea of himself.  Beginning with “My Three Wishes;” the pupil next writes a story about his ancestry; an essay on “My Church,” which explains his belief; an essay on “The Part I’d Like to Play in High School;” a study of “My Best Friend,” and finally an essay on “The Work of My Early School Days,” which shows the pupil’s likes and dislikes.  In addition to this, the teacher notes any physical defects eyesight, hearing, and the like which might incapacitate the pupil for particular vocations.  This data, together with reports from all departments on neatness, sincerity, ambition and other qualities is filed in the office.

During the second term of the freshman year papers are written on approved biographies, dealing in each case with the qualities, opportunities and education of the great one.  These essays, read in class, form the basis for a compilation of the elements necessary for success in life.

The work of the sophomore year begins with the preparation of a class list of professions, semi-professions and trades, a list which is checked with the permanent list kept by the department.  Succeeding classes thus discover the breadth of the vocational field, besides adding to the knowledge accumulated by their predecessors.

After completing this list, the pupils write a letter to the teacher, choosing a vocation and assigning reasons for the choice.  When the pupil cannot decide, the teacher assigns the vocation apparently best suited to the pupil’s capacity.  An essay on his vocation is then prepared by each pupil, showing first, what kind of activity and what responsibilities the vocation involves; second, its social, intellectual and financial advantages; third, the corresponding disadvantages; fourth, the qualifications and traits necessary to success in the vocation; and fifth, the reasons for choosing the vocation.  Then, under the advice of the teacher, the pupil writes to some man well known in the profession of his choice some lawyer, mining engineer, doctor or contractor explaining what he is doing, and asking for advice.  The generous responses given by men in all walks of life do much to confirm the pupil in his faith, or to make him see that his choice is an unwise one.

At the beginning of the junior year those pupils preparing for college send for the catalogues of the colleges which stand highest in the line of work in which they are interested, and write an essay, giving the comparative value of the courses offered by the various institutions.  By this means judgment takes the place of sentiment in the selection of a college.  While the college preparatory pupils are engaged in writing on their college courses, pupils who are going directly from the high school into business write an elaborate essay on the kind of preparation necessary for their vocation, the qualities requisite for success in it, and the best place and means of entering it.  Studies of the proper relations between employer and employed occupy the second half of the junior year.

The work of the senior year deals, in the first half, with the relation between a citizen and his city; the second half, with the relation between a citizen and the state.  The pupil has thus passed from the narrower to the broader aspects of his work in life.

The effectiveness of the work is enhanced by the organization of the high school boys into a Junior Association of Commerce (in an exact imitation of the Grand Rapids Association of Commerce), which meets in the rooms of the latter on Saturday morning; transacts business; listens to an address by a specialist, and then visits his works, if he is engaged in a local industry.  On the Saturday before Thanksgiving (1912), for example, Mr. VanWallen, of the VanWallen Tannery Co., gave the boys a talk on the tanning industry, then took them through his tannery, where they saw the processes of manufacture.  The business men of Grand Rapids, who are highly pleased with this practical turn in education, co-operate heartily in every way.  The boys are urged, during the summer months, to take a position in the work which they have chosen, start at the bottom and find out whether their beliefs regarding the industry are true.  Then, too, the Free Library makes a point of collecting books and articles on various professions and vocations, and placing them prominently before the students.  The English Department (with five periods a week) does other work, but none so vital to the pupils’ lives as this of directing them in the thing which they hope to do when they leave school.

The school may do more than direct the pupils in the choice of their occupations, by actually securing positions for them.  The head of the Commercial Department in the Newton (Massachusetts) High School has a card for every student, giving on one side a record of class work for four years, and on the other side a statement of positions and pay of the graduate.  New pupils are placed; old pupils are offered better opportunities.  Employers are interviewed in attempts to have them promote graduates.  Through this system, Mr. Maxim keeps in constant touch with the labor market and with graduates of his school.

Certainly the high school must prepare students for life.  Whether, in addition, it shall constitute itself a Public Employment Bureau, finding positions for students, keeping in touch with their careers, and assisting in their advancement, is a matter yet to be determined.

XII The High School as a Public Servant

Will the high school retain its present form?  Probably not.  If the Berkeley-Los Angeles plan prevails, there will be three steps in the public schools, from elementary to junior high, to high school.  If the Gary plan wins, there will be twelve years of schooling, following one another as consecutively as day follows night.  Whether the Los Angeles or the Gary plan is adopted, one thing seems reasonably certain, the high school will keep in close touch with life.

The high school is securing a surer grip on the world with each passing day.  It is reaching out toward the grades, calling the pupils to come; it is reaching out into the world, making places there for them to occupy.  The modern high school has ceased to be an adjunct to the college.  Instead, it is a distinctive unit in educational life, taking boys and girls between the ages of fourteen and nineteen and relating them to the world in which they must live.

The era of the high school course is being succeeded by the era of the high school boy and the high school girl.  First, last, now and always, the boys and girls, not the course, deserve primary consideration.  Whatever their needs, the high school must supply them if it is to become a public servant, responsible for training children of high school age in the noble art of living.