The Once and Future School: Three Hundred and Fifty Years of American Secondary Education

By Jurgen Herbst | Go to book overview

6

Midwestern Democracy

The Democratic Imperative

By the second half of the nineteenth century the high school's purpose had everywhere become a subject of vigorous dispute. As we saw in chapter 5, in western New York and Michigan academies had been replaced by high school departments of union schools and were eventually transformed into public high schools. In the trans-Appalachian areas of the country, schoolmen and parents fought hard to gain public tax support for the high school as connecting link to the colleges and universities, even though the great majority of the schools' students did not go to college. In the eastern cities where most high schools functioned as people's colleges it was the influx of female students that brought to the fore a concern with the college-preparatory function of the school. Though more and more high schools had come into being through a gradual extension upward of the common schools, throughout the decades from 1850 to 1880 they still remained "uncommon" schools for the nations' select youngsters. By 1890 they enrolled only 6.7 percent of the country's fourteen- to seventeen-year-olds.

During the 1880s, however, the number of public high schools had increased more than tenfold. A trend became apparent, and Americans, particularly the nation's schoolmen, began to interpret the rising demand for the high school as what I shall call "the democratic imperative." 1 The strength of this imperative initially derived from the desire of economically favored middle-class parent-taxpayers to provide opportunities for their children's social advancement. It was not to take long until parental

-65-

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The Once and Future School: Three Hundred and Fifty Years of American Secondary Education
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • List of Tables ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Preface xiii
  • 1 - The Origins of Secondary Education 1
  • 2 - Grammar Schools, Colleges, and Academies in Early America 11
  • 3 - The Nineteenth-Century Liberal Arts College 27
  • 4 - The People's College 41
  • 5 - State Systems of Secondary Education 53
  • 6 - Midwestern Democracy 65
  • 7 - Between Town and Gown: the High School in Wisconsin 79
  • 8 - Growing Pains 93
  • 9 - The Committee of Ten 107
  • 10 - From Manual to Vocational Education 117
  • 11 - The Legacy of Vocational Education 131
  • 12 - Toward the Comprehensive High School 141
  • 13 - The High School Under Siege 157
  • 14 - The High School in Search of Itself 171
  • 15 - End of an Era 187
  • 16 - From the Twentieth to the Twenty-First Century 201
  • Notes 215
  • Index 249
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