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ERIC Number: EJ742142
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2005
Pages: 30
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-0018-2680
A Case Study in the Cultural Origins of a Superpower: Liberal Individualism, American Nationalism, and the Rise of High School Life, a Study of Cleveland's Central and East Technical High Schools, 1890-1918
Ryan, Patrick J.
History of Education Quarterly, v45 n1 p66-95 Spr 2005
At the beginning of the twentieth century about one in twenty American teenagers graduated from high school; by mid century over half of them did so; and today six of seven do. Along with this expansion in graduation, the experiences of high schooling became more significant. Though diversity existed at the school level, by the interwar period most high schools offered courses in "higher" academic subjects (literature, mathematics, and ancient and foreign languages), while they gave large numbers of students a chance to practice music, drama, and other fine arts. This essay contributes to the existing literature by drawing upon and challenging several elements from previous lines of thought. Following the "contested-terrain" literature, the author has based his interpretation primarily on student writings at two Cleveland high schools between 1890 and 1918. To make claims about the cultural work of comprehensive high schooling, no substitute supercedes the recorded words of students. However, he has not found schools to be a particularly open terrain for cultural contest. This study seeks to understand how students constructed their participation and engagement in high schooling. The author's conclusions are largely consistent with the claims of previous "cultural critics" and some parts of the "social control thesis." Student-writers repeatedly deployed major components of liberal individualism (self-made manhood and female domesticity in particular) in ways that served larger bodies of power such as the professions and the state. A final implication of this study is that American comprehensive high schools reproduced a complex constellation of liberal ideas and fashioned them to serve the dictates of the liberal corporate state. (Contains 1 figure and 42 footnotes.)
History of Education Society. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Educational Policy Studies, 360 Education Building MC-708, 1310 South Sixth Street, Champaign, IL 61820. Tel: 217-333-2446; Fax: 217-244-7064; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Opinion Papers
Education Level: High Schools
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Ohio; Texas