Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 73.djvu/32

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28
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY
THE HIGH SCHOOL COURSE[1]
By President DAVID STARR JORDAN
STANFORD UNIVERSITY

IT has been lately said by an honored teacher that the weakest part in our educational system is the high school. It has less unity in theory and less definiteness in practise than any other, and those who have charge of its administration are less sure that they are doing the right thing, than is the case with other types of schools. "As a forcing house between grammar school and college," says a recent writer, "the high school hasn't time to do anything very well." Hence it may be well to try to do fewer things, thus saving time to do some things better.

If we were to start at the beginning of education we should change a good many things. Especially should we distinguish between the college and the university in making the former the stepping-stone to the latter. But accepting our colleges and universities as they are, at the same time discarding the results of tradition and of half-hearted experiment, what should the high school do? By high school we mean the instruction in the public school for four years of school life from the age of 13 or 14 to that of 17 or 18, resting on the primary and grammar school on the one hand and presumably leading to the college on the other—in most cases the last of the years in which a student lives at home and goes to school.

The high school as thus defined has these duties clearly indicated: to give a rounded development of physical and mental powers, so that no line of talent shall perish by default; it should indicate and emphasize that form of ability which will count for most in the conduct of life and it should do its foundation work with such thoroughness that the higher education may be built upon it with the certainty that the attainments shall be solid so far as they go. This is all that the colleges and universities have the right to ask, and for them to specify certain classes of subjects regardless of the real interest of the secondary schools and their pupils is a species of impertinence which only tradition justifies. To demand thoroughness of secondary instruction and to enforce this demand in any practicable way is the duty of the college, but the question of what the high schools shall teach is a question for these schools to decide for themselves. In general, the high-school

  1. Address before the California State Teachers' Association, Santa Cruz, 1907.