Is the American High School Serving Today’s Youth? (1949)


Is the American high school serving today’s youth? This question, the title of the lead article in the March 1949 issue of Educational Leadership, is posed by former ASCD Publications Committee Chairs Paul Grim and Vernon Anderson, who seek answers in a survey of secondary students and educators.

Read the article: Is the American High School Serving Today’s Youth? (PDF)

When students were asked to finish the statement “The five most important things I expect the high school to do for me include…”, the top response was related to vocational training—either learning or finding a trade or profession. The second most highly ranked response was in the realm of what the authors classified as “human relations,” or, in the words of one respondent, “help me get along with other people.” College preparation was third in importance, and subject matter was—surprisingly—fifth. Interestingly, these survey responses closely mirror answers to a follow-up question that asked students to state how high school was helping them. For this question, human relations, vocational exploration and training, and social development were students’ top three responses.

When educators were asked variations on these questions—what the high school should do, for instance—they highly ranked solving life problems and building democratic classrooms and strong school-community relationships. One can’t help but wonder how this survey would look if administered to today’s students and educators—and how the results would look when juxtaposed against the prevailing education reforms of the moment.


  1. David,

    I agree that these survey results would be interesting considering the change in the type of learner in the 21st century. As a high school assistant principal and researcher who is interested in student voice, I think that the college and career preparation would be evident along with more general goals like “preparing for success in adult life”. Perhaps I could pose this question to some students in my high school and see what they say. As verified by a variety of scholars including Allison Cook-Sather, Dana Mitra, Michael Fullan, Michael Fielding, Jean Rudduck, Tyrone Howard, John Hattie, Sonia Nieto, Jonathan Kozol and many others, students have very insightful, informed commentary on schooling, teaching, and learning–but they are rarely consulted about what they think.

    Thanks for this post!


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