Monday, August 27, 2012

High school, 1950

[“Students sitting in circle listening to teacher outside on campus of New Trier High School.” Photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt. Winnetka, Illinois, June 1950. From the Life Photo Archive. Click for a larger view. Or choose the jumbo economy size.]

There’s a maturity and sense of purpose in this photograph that I find difficult to reconcile with “high school.” But New Trier was and is no ordinary public high school. In a country committed to equality of opportunity, every school would be able to offer its students the possibilities available at New Trier.

Jonathan Kozol contrasts life at Chicago high schools and life at New Trier in his book Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools (1992). A November 2011 Chicago Tribune article sugests that little has changed since 1992: in 2011, the poorest school districts in Illinois spent less than a third of what the wealthiest districts spent per student.

[Notice the second suited man, seated at 12:00. Perhaps the class is team-taught. Notice too the striped socks at 3:00, the surfing shirt at 8:00, and the matching dresses at 11:00. Twins, or best friends?]

comments: 1

Elaine said...

An interesting perspective: in 1962 (might have been '61, or '63) the principal of DeKalb County, Ga.'s Briarcliff HS called a student body meeting and presented the 'honor code' used at New Trier. I was one of the students present. Students debated (at times, heatedly) the pros and cons of this proposal. After more than an hour (maybe more) Principal Harold Shuler stated, "At this point, YOU would have to talk ME into instituting this code."

As with many highly-touted schools (or businesses, or people, or places, etc.), New Trier has not always lived up to its PR or its ideals.

The US does more educational research than any country you could name, but we put almost none of our findings into practice. We know what makes a superior high school experience, but we seldom use the results to improve our schools. I regret to say I simply put our kids into the public schools and hoped our home life made up for the gaps.

As motivated students our two children got a lot out of their HS classes (both were National Merit scholars) but those were not easy years for either of them. Sometimes the best we can hope for is that our offspring live through high school, alas.

Now just 29 and almost 32, both 'kids' are doing exciting work in their fields and pursuing interests in their spare time. Maybe I will ask them how their high school experiences assisted them (or not) toward their current successes....