Teacher dating high school student

The origins of this long-running argument can be traced to , when the influential Committee of Ten, a blue-chip panel of educators, issued a report proposing that all public high-school students receive a strong, liberal-arts education. The reality is that, quite some time ago, our high schools were set on a course of diversification.

On this issue, we can learn much from history. Committee of Ten v. Cardinal Principles There is little dispute about the historical importance of the report of the Committee of Ten. Appointed by the National Education Association NEA , the committee, composed mainly of presidents of leading colleges, was charged with establishing curriculum standardization for public-high-school students who intended to go to college.

During the previous half century, from roughly to , the public high school had gradually emerged from the shadow of the private academy. And the Committee of Ten was convened to bring some order to the varied curricula that were growing with them.

Under the leadership of Charles Eliot, president of Harvard University, the committee undertook a broad and comprehensive exploration of the role of the high school in American life, concluding, significantly, that all public-high-school students should follow a college preparatory curriculum, regardless of their backgrounds, their intention to stay in school through graduation, or their plans to pursue higher education.

While the Committee of Ten did suggest different programs of study for high schools for example, programs specializing in classical languages, science and mathematics, or modern languages and introduced the concept of electives to American high schools, its guiding principle was that all students should receive the same high-quality liberal arts education.

It is not hard to see where the battle lines would have been drawn, even then, especially as a wave of new immigrants was bringing tens of thousands of foreign adolescents to our shores. But the reality was that soon the number of students aged 1417 attending high school soared, rising from ,, less than 6 percent of the age group, to 4,,, almost 51 percent of the age group, between and see Figure 1. In the middle of this demographic revolution, in , another NEA group, this one called the Commission on the Reorganization of Secondary Education, issued a manifesto that turned the fundamental belief of the Committee of Ten on its head.

It called for expanded and differentiated high-school programs, which it believed would more effectively serve the new and diverse high-school student population. First, it assumed that most new high-school students were less intelligent than previous generations of students.

Second, it claimed that since these new students lacked the intellectual ability, aspirations, and financial means to attend college, it was counterproductive to demand that they follow a college-preparatory program. Put simply, the Cardinal Principles proponents believed that requiring all students to follow the same academic course of study increased educational inequality. The proposed solution to these problems was curricular differentiation, a policy that allowed students to follow programs and take courses suited to their interests, abilities, and needs.

As we know now, the Cardinal Principles team won. And they won because supporters of comprehensive high schools defined equal education as equal access to different and unequal programs.

Proponents of comprehensive high schools argued that these curriculum options would encourage increasing numbers of students to stay in school and graduate, already a standard by which to judge high-school effectiveness. Unlike the Committee of Ten model, in which all students followed similar college preparatory programs, in the Cardinal Principles model equal educational opportunity was achieved because all graduates received the same ultimate credential, a high-school diploma, despite having followed very different education programs and having met very different standards in the process.

Economic Imperatives By most big-city high schools in the country were offering four high-school tracks: But most American high-school students were still following a college preparatory course of study, though few went on to college: In , for example, more than two-thirds of the classes taken by American high-school students were in the traditional academic areas of English, foreign languages, math, science, and social studies.

Industrial arts and home economics, the most widely touted vocational courses, accounted for less than 9 percent of student course taking. In essence, high schools in this period balanced important aspects of both the Committee of Ten and Cardinal Principles.

These schools maintained strong academic programs, but they also offered enough vocational and elective courses for students to have some curricular choice. Unfortunately, this situation changed drastically in the s. The collapse of the national economy, particularly the collapse of the youth labor market, forced a huge number of adolescents back to school.

By , 7,, students between the ages of 14 and 17 were in high school, more than 73 percent of the age group. Amid this unprecedented enrollment surge an increase of some 2. The economic crisis and the resulting enrollment boom combined to produce a profoundly important shift in the nature and function of high schools.

Increasingly, their task was custodial, to keep students out of the adult world that is, out of the labor market instead of preparing them for it. As a result, educators channeled increasing numbers of students into undemanding, nonacademic courses, while lowering standards in the academic courses that were required for graduation.

Though justified by claims that these curriculum changes increased equal opportunity of education, in reality they had a grossly unequal impact on white working-class young people and the growing number of black students who entered high schools in the s and s.

These students were disproportionately assigned to nonacademic tracks particularly the general track and watered-down academic courses. The Hell of Democratic Intentions As David Angus and I discovered in researching our book on the history of the American high school The Failed Promise of the American High School, , these curriculum policy changes led to changes in student course taking. Between and , academic course taking dropped from 67 percent to slightly more than 62 percent.

The most telling aspect of that shift: Health and Physical Education PE courses increased from 4. Over the next half century health and PE was the fastest-growing segment of course taking. By it was second only to English in the percent of student course taking nationwide. Stimulated by the Life Adjustment Movement, the dilution of the high-school curriculum continued apace. In nonacademic courses accounted for about 33 percent of the classes taken by U. One stunning fact puts into perspective this dramatic growth of the nonacademic segment of the curriculum: Despite the sharp decline in the share of academic course taking, indeed, because of this decline, education leaders in the s and s declared that significant progress was being made toward equal opportunity for education.

Pointing to growing high-school enrollments and graduation rates as evidence of the success of their policies, education leaders reiterated that getting diplomas in the hands of more students was far more egalitarian than having all students educated in discipline-based subject matter. Still, as early as the late s, researchers were discovering high correlations between track placements and social class. And by , a study of the Detroit public schools found that students from the poorest families in the district were eight times more likely to be in the general track than children from upper-income families.

As the cold war bore down on the nation, this transformation of the high school from a ladder to success into a vast warehouse for youth should have alarmed many Americans.

Part of the reason for this complacency lay in the apparent success of the curriculum reforms, a success defined more by quantity than by quality. Between and , the number of students in grades 9 through 12 more than doubled, from 6,, to 14,,, from Citing these enrollment increases, defenders of the comprehensive high school, primarily school superintendents and professors in schools and colleges of education, declared that the institution was functioning well.

Clearly, they argued, the relevant, less-demanding curriculum was attracting larger numbers of students and keeping them in school longer. The percentages of student course taking in academic subjects continued to fall. Between and , foreign language course taking across the country plunged from 9. Mathematics dropped from Indeed, there were dramatic increases in the percentages of students taking less-demanding courses in all areas. Put simply, by the early s, most students in American high schools were getting, at best, a second-rate education compared with that of the generation before them.

The Social Life of the Teenager and Its Impact on Education excerpts , Coleman identified a series of problems that resulted from the separate society that high school had created for teenagers. Most troublesome, he said, was that within the new adolescent society peer groups often superseded adult authority in shaping behavior. Not surprisingly, the young people who set the standards for their peers were those with athletic prowess, good looks, and winsome personalities, not those who devoted the most time and energy to doing well in school.

In a sense, the rise of this important peer group dovetailed nicely with the changes that educators had introduced in high schools over the previous 30 years: The confluence of institutional and cultural anti-intellectualism, which was incessantly reinforced by similar messages in films, television, and music, would bedevil American high schools for the rest of the century.

This drift toward increasing anti-intellectualism did not go entirely unchallenged. In October , following the launch of Sputnik, criticism of high schools became front-page news, spurring a high-profile debate about problems of secondary education.

Even though this debate coincided with the passage of the National Defense Education Act NDEA , designed to stimulate interest in math, science, and foreign languages, the percentage of students taking foreign language and math courses actually fell slightly between and Throughout these years, education leaders effectively defended the comprehensive high school, declaring time and again that demanding greater academic courses for all students would lead to a wave of dropouts and, thus, to greater education inequality.

In , another Harvard president, this one retired, James Conant, published a widely cited study that seemed to validate these views. The Conant report, The American High School Today, effectively ended the debate about the quality of American high schools for the next two decades. But equally remarkable is the modest influence of the major social movements of the s and s. Despite loud demands for greater education equality, access to first-rate college preparatory programs for large numbers of minority students remains an unrealized goal.

Before the s, most young black people, particularly those in the South, had few opportunities for any high-school education. But despite a series of unanimous Supreme Court decisions meant to reverse this trend, in the ensuing years large numbers of black students failed to gain access to the best programs the newly integrated schools offered.

Indeed, in many large cities during the s and s, the problems facing minority high-school students actually worsened, as their schools became battlegrounds for such issues as busing and identity politics, issues that overwhelmed more routine efforts to improve the quality of education. Given these developments, it was not surprising that academic course-taking patterns of high-school students nationwide barely changed between and , increasing about 2 percentage points.

A number of new education policies contributed to this stability in course taking and to the declining quality of high-school education. Such actions further diminished the role that academic courses played in high-school education. Third, educators began giving credit toward graduation for such courses as Consumer Math, Refresher Math, and Shop Math, watered-down material that had not previously satisfied a graduation requirement.

In other words, even when the share of math course taking rose, the increases were coming largely from students taking less-demanding math courses, not algebra, geometry, trigonometry, or calculus. Finally, but most important, during the s and s educators gradually shifted the onus of course and program selection away from guidance counselors and other education professionals and onto students and their parents.

This policy greatly expanded student choice and clearly fit into the counterculture zeitgeist. It also enabled educators to duck accusations that they were responsible for reproducing inequality, since course and program selection now rested with students and their parents rather than with educators.

Back to the Future By making choice the driving force behind high-school programs, as Arthur Powell, Eleanor Farrar, and David Cohen noted in The Shopping Mall High School , the schools came to resemble education shopping malls, with students searching for bargains that is, courses that were easy, relevant, and satisfied graduation requirements.

In some ways, the s mark the low point of high-school development in the United States. A small percentage of students got a reasonably good education, but most adolescents drifted through their high-school years unchallenged and uninspired. It also reintroduced several key ideas from the report of the Committee of Ten, which assumed that academic courses had greater education value than other courses.

By , 45 states and the District of Columbia had raised high-school graduation requirements, 42 had increased math requirements, and 34 had boosted science requirements. These changes reduced the choices that students could make in their course selections and thus marked a dramatic shift away from the policies of the previous half-century. They also produced the most substantial changes in student course taking since the s.

In , for example, only By , however, the number of graduates who followed that regimen of courses had shot up to Even more impressive was the fact that the percentages for African American These changes were positive steps away from curricular differentiation and toward greater curricular equality.

Unfortunately, despite these changes in high-school course taking over the past two decades, student achievement in core liberal-arts courses has not shown dramatic improvement, and American students have repeatedly fallen short on international comparisons of achievement, particularly in math and science. Despite substantially more high-school students taking more difficult mathematics courses between and , the overall mathematics scores for year-olds in that period remained unchanged.

Similarly, the Program for International Student Assessment PISA recently released data comparing mathematical literacy and problem-solving skills for year-olds in 39 developed countries: American students ranked 27th.


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