Cardinal Principles of Secondary Education - American EducationA statement of broad policy goals for American public high schools, issued in 1918 by the Commission on the Reorganization of Secondary Education. As waves of poor immigrants from Europe thronged to the United States in the 1890s, American urban public high schools were unable to cope with ever increasing numbers of unruly, illiterate, unskilled adolescents. In addition to teaching the rudiments of English, high school English teachers were forced to teach youngsters basic hygiene, nutrition, the obligations of citizenship and moral and ethical behavior.
Until then, the official goals of American secondary schools had been to teach students, regardless of national origins, a core of basic academic subjects, including English, mathematics, science, history and foreign languages. In the 19th century, when fewer than 10% of all children attended high school in the United States, that task was relatively simple. As late as 1910, about 90% of American children older than 12 worked in mines and factories and on farms.
Overwhelmed by the sudden influx of adolescents, high school teachers asked for new teaching guidelines from their national organization, the NATIONAL EDUCATION ASSOCIATION. In 1913, the NEA appointed a blue-ribbon panel to recommend reforms and, five years later, it issued a policy statement that listed seven new teaching goals for American high schools: health, command of fundamental processes, worthy home membership, citizenship, ethical character, vocation and worthy use of leisure. The report signaled the end of the academic core curriculum as the sole basis for universal public school education in the United States. The commission’s report led to the introduction of vocational training in U.S. public schools as a viable educational alternative for adolescents. It also led to the introduction of guidance departments to help adolescents make intelligent choices between academic and vocational education.
The commission report also ended the traditional eight-year elementary school. Elementary education was thereafter cut to six years and junior high schools were built for seventh, eighth and, in some communities, ninth graders. The junior high school not only eased severe overcrowding of elementary schools, it also allowed teachers to deal more effectively with the special problems of early adolescents.