A Report on Vocational Training in Chicago and in Other Cities

Chapter 13: Reasons Given by Pupils for Leaving School

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Of the 6,536 pupils who entered the Chicago high schools in September, 1905, only 1,470 were graduated four years later. This is a loss of 77.5 per cent for the four years.

Various reasons may be assigned for such a large percentage of loss. Some interesting information on this question was secured, from 491 themes written by fourth-year pupils in ten high schools of the city, on the subject, " Why Do Pupils Leave the High School?" Some of the reasons given in these themes are presented below.

The number of pupils who give as a reason " To go to business college " is 341, or 69.5 per cent. Some quotations on this point from the themes are as follows:

I think that the reason people drop out of high school is that the courses given do not thoroughly prepare them for the business life which most of them enter when they leave school. They feel that they would be better employing their time if they took a course at some business school. At the end of our high-school course can we do any one thing well? I can not. We are taught a little of everything, but not enough of any one thing to do us any good, while upon leaving a business school we would feel that we had not wasted our time and our money.

Then, again, pupils wish to obtain a business education, which is not treated thoroughly enough in the high schools. Therefore they quit to go to business college.

Third, the inability to adapt the course to their after life. The question of whether they need just the kind of education which they are receiving in the high schools or whether a course of study more adapted to their chosen vocation would not serve them a better purpose and be more lastingly beneficial to them in their struggle for a living, presents itself. The business college seems to offer a solution, therefore many students leave yearly for these institutions.

After the pupils have had some work in stenography in the high school they leave usually after the third year, to go to business college, so as to receive a good finish to the work which they expect to do in the business world.

Probably one of the most obvious reasons why many students leave high school before graduation is that those who enter for a commercial course find that the high-school course is inadequate to serve them. The commercial course in the high school does not give the student enough practice, so that


he can go out into the world and obtain a position. The business college furnishes a fuller course, and the student feels he is wasting his time in the high school when he can do a greater amount of work in less time somewhere else.

Others who are too young to go to business college or to work are sent for a year or two to high school, where they take up as much of a commercial course as they can, and then leave for a more thorough business course.

I think that if a more extensive business course was undertaken in high school there would be fewer leave-takings.

Of the many reasons for which pupils leave high school, the principal one is to obtain a business education preparatory to entering the commercial world. Since very few commercial studies are taught in the preparatory schools, those desiring to pursue a business life deem it a waste of time to spend four years in the high school when they can enter a business or commercial college and take those studies relative to their future work.

I know one boy who stopped high school because the course did not have enough studies that would be helpful to him as a business man . . . . He dropped out and immediately started to a business school, where the course pertained more to business. His parents are rather well-to-do and the young man could go to am- school he wanted to. For instance, if he preferred to enter the university after high school and then enter a business college, he could do so. To sum up. I think that there should be more practical knowledge. that is, knowledge that could be helpful to the business man; and then the number of "quitters" would decrease.

Some pupils come to high school so that they may obtain better salaries when through. After hazing spent a year or two they find that they are not being fitted for a definite work, and leave to seek employment or enter a business college. The majority of pupils go to business college to learn commercial studies because it covers too long a space of time to study it in high school.

Many students find, during the first or second year of the course, that the studies they are pursuing do not prepare them to work or to work efficiently. It is interesting to note that 296, or 60.3 per cent, -give as a reason why pupils drop out, that they see no connection between their high-school work and their future vocation. We quote here a number of statements bearing on this point:

Some pupils, after receiving a year or two of the general education afforded by the high school, leave them to prepare for some specific branch of work, for, really, the high schools do not fit the pupils for any position. These people want knowledge that they can turn into dollars and cents.

One of the reasons why some pupils do not finish the high-school courses is because they realize that the curriculum is inefficient. Since high-school pupils may be divided into two classes, those who intend to further their education by entering college and those who intend to seek employment after graduation, the curriculum should therefore provide for two separate courses.


Most high schools, however, do provide for a course which is an excellent preparation for college, but the course for those who are preparing for the business world is deficient.

The courses given at present are inadequate for a commercial life. At the end of a year a student taking the commercial course has obtained only a smattering of knowledge-many unrelated facts which are of no real value to him. He then leaves school feeling that he can gain more by practical experience.

When a high school has several different set courses, the pupil is forced to decide in the beginning which course he wishes to take up. The fact that he knows that he will be fitted for a certain calling when the course is finished furnishes an incentive to him to keep up in his work.

It has been shown that a greater per cent of manual-training pupils graduate than of those who attend any other high school. A very probable reason is that a certain course is laid out in the former school which has some definite bearing on the pupil's future a work. In a carefully arranged course the pupil makes no mistake in choosing his subjects, and is encouraged by the fact that he expects to be able to do something when he is through.

The boys leave the high schools and enter the technical institutes, the manual-training schools or the business college. The girls seek the business colleges, art schools and schools of music. By beginning these studies, which will enable them to earn money during the time that they would have put in the high schools, the boys and girls of eighteen or nineteen are able to start in earning their living much sooner than if they were graduated from a public high school and after that had to prepare themselves for wage-earning. This, then, is the reason t;-hl- students leave high school in the middle of the course. The course is not practical or of very much use except to those who are going on into colleges and higher schools. There is very little in the ordinary high-school course which is directly beneficial to one preparing to enter the business world. That is why classes which as freshmen number from 800 to 1,000 dwindle, till at graduation they barely touch the 100 mark.

What of the pupil who knows that at any time he may have to relinquish school for a position and, considering his assets, realizes that the algebra, science, history and possibly Latin that he has taken as requirements for his diploma will, if he drops school at the end of two years, be for all practical purposes useless in office or factory work?

To avoid this reason for dropping out, I would suggest that courses of study which qualify for some particular goal be mapped out by those competent to judge of what the goal requires, and that, omitting everything superfluous, that course, chosen by the pupil at entrance, be adhered to by compulsion throughout. Besides, a bureau of information ought to be established at the schools, of which all pupils are aware, which would aim to advise and inform students on any points in connection with the curriculum and its relation to a vocation.


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