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7 Goals That High Schools Should Embrace

As I research for my new book, I come across some amazing stuff. Just a couple of weeks ago, I discovered some “gold” on an educational website. It was a document, created in 1918, called: “The Cardinal Principles of Secondary Education.”

Almost a century ago, high schools were a new idea. Some had started, but there were no guiding principles for them. One-room schoolhouses were in decline and enrollment was increasing in the high schools that did exist—so a commission was formed to create a standard for new schools. Along the way, this commission drafted seven cardinal principles (or goals) for teenage students at the schools.

Check these out and see if you don’t agree—we need to return to these relevant standards today.

7 Goals for High Schools

  1. Health – The school should encourage good health habits, instruction, and activities for students.
  2. Command of Fundamentals – These are writing, reading, oral and written expression, and math.
  3. Worthy Home Membership – This principle calls for the development of those qualities that make an individual a worthy member of a family.
  4. Vocation – Students should get to know themselves and a variety of careers so that they can choose a suitable vocation. Students then understand the relationship between vocation and community.
  5. Civic Education – Students should develop an awareness and concern for one’s own community and its needs for social and moral development.
  6. Worthy Use of Leisure – Education should give students the skills to enrich their lives with music, art, drama, literature, social issues, and recreation.
  7. Ethical Character – This involves instilling in students the notion of personal responsibility and initiative in their morals and behaviors.

Wow. I’d sure want my kids to attend a high school that pursued and achieved these goals, wouldn’t you?  Perhaps we had the right idea ninety years ago and should return to those fundamentals!

Your thoughts?



  1. Christian Scott on August 26, 2011 at 7:03 am

    Perhaps Audre Lorde was onto something when she wrote “There are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt.”  Our challenge is to reignite the human spirit to once again see the value in the Cardinal Principles.

    • Tim Elmore on August 30, 2011 at 8:54 am

      I know for me one of the most challenging things about these principles is that they haven’t changed in generations – the really challenge is how to pass them along to the next generation.

  2. Jackie on August 26, 2011 at 8:27 am

    Printing for my high schoolers to read. Breakfast discussion!

    • Tim Elmore on August 30, 2011 at 8:55 am

      Great! I’d love to hear how they responded…

  3. Steve Barnaby on August 26, 2011 at 4:18 pm

    While  fundamentally agreeing,  I hope that when you list “written expression” that you mean critical thinking skills. I know that in some circles the concept is held up to ridicule.  But as a long time business person, I find that it is one of the most essential skills necessary for employees in effectively performing in the work environment. Unfortunately, critical thinking also is one of the skills most lacking.  I also would include “oral expression.”  A day-to-day challenge  is employees and managers who lack the ability to communicate effectively in diverse and often conflict-ridden situations. Finally, I whole-heartedly support the concept of sound body/sound mind, something we have neglected in the educational system.  Far more time needs to be spent in helping students learn how to remain physically fit.  Our neglect of this issue has resulted in an obese, lethargic and sickly population.  After all, our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit.  We need to treat them with the same ardor that we treat our souls.

    • Tim Elmore on August 30, 2011 at 9:12 am

      I agree – critical thinking skills are essential – written & oral expression are often the most direct way to sharpen these skills. Our challenge is to move students from having a great deal of information, to having the experience necessary to understand/apply the info.

      Great point about mind/body relationship – developing one without the other is definitely short-sighted.

  4. Clay Morgan on August 27, 2011 at 9:19 am

    Cool stuff. Tweeting this one.

    • Tim Elmore on August 30, 2011 at 9:18 am

      Thanks for passing it along, Clay!

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7 Goals That High Schools Should Embrace