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- American Journal of Education
- Similar authors to follow
- Public Education: High Schools | Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia
- Review of The Once and Future School: Three Hundred and Fifty Years of American Secondary Education
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American Journal of Education
Sign in via your Institution Sign in. Purchase Subscription prices and ordering Short-term Access To purchase short term access, please sign in to your Oxford Academic account above. This article is also available for rental through DeepDyve. View Metrics. Email alerts New issue alert. Rejecting that interpre- tation of the report, Herbst argues instead that the committee "failed to entertain seriously the opportunities and challenges of extending sec- ondary schooling beyond the traditional training of the mind to the training of the hand.
This is the conventional critique of the Committee of Ten, and it is as problematic now as it was when it was first used a century ago. If one dismisses a common curriculum, the only alternative is a differentiated one. When leaders of the increasingly powerful group of educational professionals confronted the problem Herbst identified above, they had no doubt where the Committee of Ten went wrong.
They "corrected" that error by introducing curriculum tracks, including vocational edu- cation, which were supposed to link the schools with industry and were designed mainly to train children of the working class. Ultimately codi- fied in Cardinal Principles of Secondary Education, this process of curricular differentiation contributed, as Herbst accurately notes, to a "thorough- going splintering of the student body" p.
Surprisingly, however, Herbst is more critical of how the ideas in Cardinal Principles were imple- mented then of the dominant ideas of the manifesto itself. He argues that educators went wrong by following only one part of the Cardinal. Principles' recommendations, placing more emphasis on programs that encouraged differentiation than they did on programs that would have unified the study body p.
This interpretation of Cardinal Principles lets educational professionals almostly completely off the hook in terms of contributing to the prob- lems and failings of the modern high school. More than parents anxious to pass on their class privilege or industrialists seeking skilled workers, professional educators were the leading force behind the creation of differentiated curricula and the destruction of what remained of the people's college.
Moreover, Herbst simply ignores the consistent state- ments by educators, especially in the s and s, that differentiated curricula were necessary because most of the new students coming into the high school were less academically and vocationally talented than previous groups. The class bias that Herbst decries was, in fact, a key component of the system that Cardinal Principles helped establish.
Similar authors to follow
From this perspective, Herbst is mistaken in seeing the Prosser resolution, which consigned 60 percent of high school students to largely worthless life-adjustment programs, as "a damning indictment of the comprehen- sive high school" p. On the contrary, it was the fulfillment of the comprehensive high school as envisioned by educational leaders who for almost four decades had assumed that most American secondary students were incapable of mastering rigorous, academic courses and needed courses that would entertain rather than challenge.
These interpretive problems crop up several times on the road Herbst takes to the engaging proposal that concludes his book. Nevertheless, his ultimate determination that the American high school is in deep trouble and sorely in need of reform is unquestionably accurate.
Public Education: High Schools | Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia
Moreover, his call for a dramatically new approach to educating young people that re- lies less on schooling and more on other forms of education is worth considering. These are ideas that have not been debated seriously since the destruction of the New Deal youth programs in the early s, and Herbst makes a compelling case for reviving that debate. He also pro- vides some good insights on the political as well as educational implica- tions that such a shift in youth policy would have, suggesting how various interest groups might respond to such an effort to break the monopoly that high schools have over the lives of young people.
But in the process, Herbst does not discuss a number of other factors that need to be brought into the debate as well. First is the question of national educational standards for the revived "people's colleges" that Herbst would like to see form the academic base for young people's fu- ture careers in education. Without strong content and performance stan- dards there would be no guarantee that these basic secondary schools would provide any better education than most high schools do today.
Unless students left the basic schools with strong skills and sufficient knowledge to make their way in the more eclectic educational world Herbst envisions, our educational problems would worsen substantially. Second is the question of compulsion. Would students who finish the basic secondary school be free not to pursue a further career in educa- tion? Would such freedom contribute to still greater educational stratifi- cation as to a considerable extent it already does in urban school districts with high dropout rates? These questions and criticisms aside, The Once and Future School is a valuable and important book.
Herbst has produced the single best vol- ume on the history of the American high school that we have to date, and, in the process, he raises some provocative questions about what secondary education in this country should look like in the twenty-first century.
Herbst presents some date on social class backgrounds of students in the nineteenth century, acknowledging that in smaller communities such as Racine, Wisconsin, high schools often enrolled larger percentages of blue-collar than white-collar students p. However, in larger cities in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, cities in which the kinds of curricular changes that Herbst describes were most common, white-collar students consistently domi- nated enrollments until the late s Angus Angus, David L.
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