Two aspects of American public high school education--vocational instruction and the training of low aptitude students--are in need of a "searching examination, city by city and town by town," according to James B. Conant '14, President Emeritus.
Conant spoke on "The Revolutionary Transformation of the American High School" last night before an overflow crowd in New Lecture Hall. His address, the annual Inglis Lecture on Secondary Education, was sponsored by the Graduate School of Education.
"I should start by questioning the dogma one often hears that all the youth, irrespective of academic ability and interest, should complete grade twelve," Conant suggested. "Above all, the relation of education to employment of youth 16 and over must constantly be kept in mind."
These and other problems have their roots in the "irreversible revolution" between 1905 and 1930 which set the pattern of American secondary school education for the rest of the century, Conant stated.
"The curriculum of almost all public high schools in 1905 was strictly academic," Conant pointed out, but by 1930 the "widely comprehensive high school," due to its offering of many vocational subjects, turned out students "whose only academic credential for college preparation was a high school diploma."
Another problem mentioned by Conant was the question of how to provide an education for those students who cannot attend classes on a full-time basis. He pointed out that part-time enrollment of students was employed for a number of years prior to World War II, but finally gave way to separate vocational schools.