School Guidance and Counseling in the 21st Century: Remember the Past into the Future

Article excerpt

As the 21st Century unfolds, the United States continues to undergo substantial changes in its occupational, social, and economic structures. Occupational and industrial specialization continues to increase dramatically. Increasing company size and complexity is the rule rather than the exception. This often creates job invisibility and makes the transition from school to work, and from work to further education and back to work again, more complex and difficult.

Social structures and social and personal values also continue to change and become more diverse. Emerging social groups are challenging established groups, asking for equality. People are on the move too, from rural to urban areas and vice versa, and from one region of the country to another in search of economic, social, and psychological security. The United States is becoming increasingly diverse.

All of these changes are creating complex challenges for students as they anticipate the future. A rapidly changing work world and labor force; violence in homes, schools, and communities; divorce; teenage suicide; substance abuse; and sexual experimentation are just a few examples of the complex challenges students face today. They are not abstract aberrations. They are real and have and will continue to have substantial impact on the personal/social, career, and academic development of students (Gysbers & Henderson, 2000).

As these and other changes are taking place in society, many organizations and groups of interested and involved individuals are providing programs and services at national, state, and local levels to help students deal effectively with these complex challenges. Within the education community, school counselors have been and continue to be in the forefront of efforts to assist students to respond to these complex challenges through their work within the structure of comprehensive guidance and counseling programs in school districts across the country (Gysbers & Henderson, 2000).

To understand how school counselors are working with students within comprehensive guidance and counseling programs, it is important to first understand how guidance and counseling evolved in schools. The thesis of this article is that much can be learned from the past that will help professional school counselors structure and implement guidance and counseling programs to assist students to deal with the complex challenges they face today and tomorrow. Remember the past into the future.

The first part of this article focuses on the evolution of guidance and counseling in the schools from the beginning of the 20th Century. It describes the contributions of many people, the influence of legislation, and the impact that social and economic changes have had. It is organized around the changing purposes and organizational patterns for guidance and counseling from then until now. The second part of the article analyzes this evolutionary process and highlights some insights from the past, giving specific emphasis to the implications these insights may have for the future work of school counseling. The article closes with a vision for school guidance and counseling programs and the school counselors who work in them.

The Evolution of Guidance and Counseling in the Schools

The Purposes of Guidance and Counseling "Guidance is a coat of many colors" (Miller, 1961, p. 3). In the beginning, the early 1900s, the term for school guidance and counseling was vocational guidance. It had a singular purpose. It was seen as a response to the economic, educational, and social problems of those times and concerned the entrance of young people into the work world and the conditions they might find there. Economic concerns focused on the need to better prepare workers for the workplace while educational concerns arose from a need to increase efforts in schools to help students find purpose for their education as well as their employment. …