Creating the Dropout: An Institutional and Social History of School Failure

By Sherman Dorn | Go to book overview

4
"Social Dynamite"

In the spring of 1962, National Education Association (NEA) employee Daniel Schreiber spoke about dropouts at a panel of the annual convention of the National Association of Secondary-School Principals. Portraying dropouts as "running away from work half-done, from school half-completed," he declared: "How American education solves the problem of school dropouts . . . may well determine America's future" ( Schreiber 1962b: 234). Schreiber was one of the primary crusaders who made a headline issue of high school dropouts, and his speech evoked many of the themes that 1960s writers echoed in discussing the "dropout problem." Dropping out was a serious problem for several reasons, Schreiber explained. First, the population expansion of the 1950s increased the absolute numbers of dropouts, even if the proportion of students graduating from high school stayed constant or increased slightly. Second, technological improvements were rapidly making unskilled work obsolete. As unskilled work disappeared, Schreiber thought, workers would have to know more to get a job, a fact confirmed (he thought) by the companies who "require a high-school diploma" for employment. Although the proportion graduating from high school had increased dramatically, dropping out was becoming more of a problem. Because "we live in a viable, dynamic, and fecund country," Schreiber said, the decreasing proportion of dropouts was becoming a larger dilemma ( Schreiber 1962b: 235-36).

In 1962, Daniel Schreiber had been the director of the NEA Project on School Dropouts for less than a year. He was, at the convention of principals, speaking to his professional peers. Schreiber had been a junior high school principal in New York City and the head of Higher Horizons, the city's first cultural enrichment program ( Dan Schreiber, 71, educator 1981). The NEA chose him to head the research project when it received a grant from the Ford Foundation to establish a center for research and information on dropping out.

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Creating the Dropout: An Institutional and Social History of School Failure
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Tables vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Long-Term Demographic Patterns 11
  • 2 - The Changing Mission of High Schools 33
  • 3 - Early Attitudes toward Attrition 51
  • 4 - Social Dynamite 65
  • 5 - The Limits of Dropout Programs 81
  • 6 - Omissions 99
  • 7 - Dropout Tides 119
  • 8 - The Demeaning Dropout Debate 131
  • Bibliography 147
  • Index 165
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