The New Student's Reference Work/Schools, Secondary
Schools, Secondary, of to-day may be said to have originated from the Renaissance. At that time there developed in the aristocracy of Europe an interest in polite social life that found satisfaction in a study of the culture of Greece and Rome and especially of classic literature. The secondary schools sprang into existence, having for their aim liberal culture, or culture in the humanities, as distinguished from the religious or spiritual instruction given in the middle ages. They may be typified by the gymnasia of Germany; by the so-called “public” schools and the grammar-schools of England, most of which are endowed; by private institutions like that of Vittorino do Feltre in Italy; and by the great system of colleges established by the Jesuits all over Europe. In general they gave a course of from eight to ten years devoted almost entirely to the Latin and Greek languages and literatures. Hebrew was occasionally given, and also a little history, with possibly mathematics, logic and ethics, but these subjects were learned almost entirely through classical texts. The development of modern literature and the disappearance of Latin as the language of science and learning rendered this program somewhat antiquated, but it has to a great extent been retained in the classical secondary schools on the ground of the discipline it is supposed to furnish. (See Mental Discipline.) On the other hand, other types of secondary schools have sprung up, laying stress on modern languages, history and science. In Germany the secondary system of to-day comprises the classical school or gymnasium, giving a nine years' course, the scientific school or realschule, the course of which is the same in length or shorter, and various intermediate types. The curriculum of the gymnasium includes religion, German, Latin, Greek, French, history, geography, mathematics, natural history, physics, writing and drawing. The realschulen leave out the classical languages and emphasize science and mathematics. In France the colleges of the Jesuits disappeared because of the suppression of the order in 1764. In their place lycées and communal colleges have been established. They offer a nine years' course, the early part of which is like that in the German gymnasium, but during the last three years the pupil can elect to specialize either in classics, modern languages or science. In England the endowed schools were subjected to a careful state investigation about the middle of the 19th century. The result was the disappearance of many abuses, somewhat better organization and a few steps toward modernizing the curriculum. They, however, remain to-day almost entirely devoted to the classics. Mathematics, history and science are taught, but the historical and scientific instruction is very meager. On the other hand, the English have come to denominate as secondary education, work in sciences, technology and art now given quite extensively as a supplement to the instruction in the elementary schools. In all these typical secondary schools the ordinary age of admission is nine or thereabout. Children are taught before this age in small private schools or by tutors. Very few go from the public elementary system into the secondary schools. The latter remain, therefore, as throughout history, the schools of the aristocratic and professional classes.
Here it is that the system of the United States has come to differ from that of Europe. For the secondary schools in this country are simply one stage in a continuous system. This result has come from gradual growth, for in the beginning American secondary schools were very much like those of Europe. In colonial days they consisted of grammar-schools, which had about the same purpose and curriculum as the English grammar-schools. Especially were they intended to prepare for college. Later they were largely superseded by the academies, which were under private control, although often endowed. These institutions became centers of educational life in various communities, and besides preparing for college better than grammar-schools had done, they constituted finishing-schools for most of those who attended them. Some of them grew into colleges. Their curriculum came to be much more liberal than had been that of the grammar-schools. English, including grammar and, later, rhetoric and literature, geography, natural philosophy, astronomy and, sometimes, chemistry and botany, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, surveying, navigation and history; and, later, modern languages and commercial branches, as well as the classics, were taught. The academies remain an important factor in the education of the United States, but they have been overshadowed by the high schools, the development of which is due to the growth of the idea that secondary education should be supported and controlled by the public. The first of these schools was established at Boston in 1621. Since then they have spread over all the Union, to-day numbering nearly seven thousand. They are supported and controlled by the local communities where they exist. Most of them are coëducational. The course of study usually takes four years, and pupils enter at about 14. As a rule the student may elect among several courses, which are denominated, according to the leading subjects of study in each, as classical, literary, scientific, Latin-scientific, modern-languages or commercial. In recent years there has been some agitation concerning the length of the high-school course. Some would have it cover six years, embracing the work of the last two years in the elementary schools. Others would have it encroach on the college; and graduate, high-school work is actually undertaken in some places, especially where the local facilities for college education are poor. The high schools have been compelled to do very efficient work in college preparatory subjects by the pressure of college demands. In many states, especially in the west — they are inspected by the university authorities, and, if found satisfactory, their graduates are admitted to the university without examination. Thus a system of inspection has grown up, the main one found in the United States for secondary schools. The complaint has become general, however, that high schools are dominated too much by the colleges, so that they aim merely to prepare for the latter and neglect the interests of that vast majority who do not go to college. To-day the tendency is for the high school to become more independent, even to the extent of compelling the college to accept their standards of graduation as qualifying for entrance. Many high schools have been organized to give technical or commercial education. In most cases, however, these schools have simply added the vocational training to a fairly liberal, secondary-school course. Future developments in secondary schools will doubtless comprise far more adequate provision for technical and trade education. In general it may be said that the high school is in a difficult situation, struggling on the one hand with its tradition of classical, disciplinary and aristocratic education and on the other with the democratic demand that it should provide a secondary education suitable for all, taking its students from an independent elementary system and coerced by the need of preparing them for college. It is coming to realize that the solution lies in more independence both in regard to tradition and to other schools. See Education, Modern; Mental Discipline; Schools, Elementary; and Universities.