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The Theory of the Junior High School



HE theory of the Junior High School arose from the focusing of thought upon three defects in our educational system, namely, defects in articulation between the elementary and secondary school; the large amount of retardation and elimination; and the late provision made for recognizing individual differences.

The transition from our present elementary school to the high school means the breaking up of well established social groups among pupils and the sudden forming of new social groups. The necessary readjustments are very difficult in most cases and are very similar to those which face the college freshmen or the boy who moves to a strange town. In the elementary school the pupil has practically all his study and work under a single teacher who knows him in all his activities. On passing to the high school he suddenly finds himself with three or four teachers, no one of whom knows him in such way that his various activities may be coordinated. The high school freshman also finds himself confronted with studies absolutely different in all respects from those of the eighth grade. The studies of the eighth grade have been pursued for many years and he is familiar with them, while in the first year of high school the subjects are all unfamiliar and studied from a viewpoint and by methods unknown to the pupil.

The teachers in the elementary schools have received their training in the normal schools while the high school teachers are college graduates. Those who receive their training in normal schools emphasize methods and the pupil; the college graduates received very little professional training while the subject matter has been emphasized. This causes a distinctly different type of teaching in the high school from that of the elementary school. The methods of discipline also differ very widely in the elementary school and high school. Inglis says "that no justi

fication can be found for the sudden and abrupt change within three months from the maternalism of the elementary school to the individualism of the high school."

"The present form of articulation between elementary and secondary education violates the most important laws of continuous and gradual development of children. Changes in development must come but the sudden abrupt changes between our elementary and high schools demand a capacity for adaptation and readjustment not found in the average boy and girl."*

The theory of the Junior High School attempts to correct the defects in articulation by making possible a closer relationship between each successive grade and the preceding one as far as teaching material and subject matter are concerned. The following gradual changes are made possible: the gradual change from the one teacher plan of the grade school to the many teacher plan of the high school; the gradual change from largely supervised work in the earlier grades to the more independent work and responsibility in the later grades; the gradual introduction of new subject matter and its proper relationing to the old; and the gradual introduction of the election of studies and courses.

The second defect that the Junior High School attempts to remedy is the problem of retardation and elimination. Inglis, in "The Principles of Secondary Education," gives the following statistics:

90% of the pupils remain in school until 12 or 13 years of age. 4/5% of the pupils remain in school until 14.


of the pupils remain in school until 15.


of the pupils remain in school until 16,


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of the pupils remain in school until 17. Another view of elimination is given as follows:

3/4 of the pupils who enter school reach the 6th grade of




of the pupils who enter school complete elementary school.
of the pupils who enter school enter high school.

1/8 % of the pupils who enter school complete high school.
A view of elimination in the seventh and eighth grade: 2/5 of

Inglis, Principles of Secondary Education.

the pupils who enter the 7th grade never enter high school; 1/4 of the pupils who enter the 8th grade never enter high school.

The boy or girl who leaves school at the close of the sixth grade has received very little training which will enable him to meet his or her needs in life. The same is true of those who leave school after completing the eighth grade.

The theory of the Junior High School provides for a reorganization of the subject matter of the seventh and eighth grades so as to provide a more contentful form of education for those who leave early. The Junior High School makes possible the introduction of prevocational and some vocational education, and also the encouragement for boys and girls to complete their education through the Senior High School.

The Psychology of individual differences indicates that provision must be made earlier in the school than our present high school period to adapt the work to the different capacities, interests and needs of the pupils. Because of this factor of individual differences the sudden change from elementary to secondary education is dangerous not only to the individual but to society.

The theory of the Junior High School makes provision for: an earlier introduction of different studies for different groups of pupils; promotion by subjects; for the introduction of forms of instruction which may give pupils an opportunity to discover and test out their capacities, interests and needs; educational direction and vocational guidance. The needs of the boys and girls who leave school can be met far more satisfactorily by the Junior High School than we are now doing under our present system of eightyear elementary and four-year high school. The needs of the backward child and the bright exceptional child can also be met under the provisions of the Junior High School.

Whether or not the theory of the Junior High School will solve these three vital problems only the future can tell. The rapid increase in the number of Junior High Schools since 1910 show very clearly that educators have confidence in the theory. In 1910 two cities reported Junior High Schools, 365 registered in 1915-16.*. The theory of the Junior High School presents at least three

The Fifteenth Year Book, Part III. The Junior High School.

difficulties. The first of these is the division of our school system into three departments: elementary, junior and senior high schools, involves the danger of making two critical points of transition rather than one. Great care must be taken lest the evils found at the one point of division may not be increased by the creation of two points of division.

One of the greatest if not the greatest problem involved is the changes in teachers, methods and textbooks. At present we have few teachers who have been trained for Junior High School teaching. Our present Junior High Schools are taught by former elementary teachers or high school teachers.

In one case we have a junior high school building in which the teaching and methods are the same as the elementary school. In another case we have a junior high school building where teaching and methods are the same as the old four-year high school. In neither case do we have a real junior high school that meets the needs of junior high school boys and girls who are different from elementary pupils and still different from senior high school students. Just as teachers are few so there are few suitable textbooks for the work of the junior high school and the present elementary and high school texts will not serve our purpose if we intend to really meet the defects of articulation between our grade and high schools.

The third difficulty with the Junior High School is that it will not solve the problem of adolescence. We cannot organize definitely our schools on the basis of the phenomena of adolescence because of the great variability of age at which puberty begins. Where does adolescence begin? Inglis in "Principles of Secondary Education" finds that if all the boys of the age of thirteen could be grouped into one school grade we should find from 41 to 55 per cent. immature (prepubescent), 26 per cent. to 28 per cent. maturing (pubescent) and 18 per cent. to 31 per cent. mature (post pubescent). If we apply the same tests to the boys fourteen years of age-we find 16 to 26 per cent. immature, 24 to 25 per cent maturing and 46 to 60 per cent. mature. For fifteen-year old boys 12 per cent. are immature, 22 per cent. maturing and 65 per cent. mature. In order to include 2-3 of the boys three ages groups would have to be taken. Inglis also finds among boys in

the freshmen class, 25 per cent immature, 20 per cent. maturing and 55 per cent. mature; in the 8th grade 35 per cent. immature, 23 per cent. maturing, 41 per cent. mature; in the seventh grade 50 per cent. immature, 25 per cent. maturing and 25 per cent. mature.

On the theory that adolescence begins at twelve or thirteen, the fact remains that we do not get a large proportion of the twelve and thirteen-year olds in the seventh grade. Inglis found, from an examination of 35,000 pupils in six cities, that in the seventh grade there were only 21.6 per cent. of the twelve-year olds and 27.5 per cent. of the thirteen-year olds. To quote from Inglis, "Principles of Secondary Education," "It is to be noted that until the factor of selection operates strongly in the later years of the secondary school the proportion of pupils belonging to any age group which is found in any single grade of the school is rarely as great as one third of the entire age group found in the entire school system.

The great variability of the age at which puberty begins and the age grade distribution of pupils prevents any complete organization of our schools on the basis of the adolescent needs.

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