This paper is about student councils and their development at Beverly High School. It shows steps taken by Beverly to provide such education, and their ways of obtaining it. By using such information as Beverly High School literary journal The Aegis, and other School Committee reports, this paper will show what affect civic education has had within the school system. Books that have previously been written on or about similar topics proved to be a big part of the gathered information.
Though this topic has been researched before, no one has ever used Beverly High School as his or hers focal point. Other books, like William R. Wards Student Participation in School Government focus on the affect civic education can have, especially when incorporated in a form of a school government. In addition, Harry C. Mcknown’s The Student Council was big on the history of student councils and the first working example of a school government. The best source of information came from documents found in the Beverly Educational Archives in Beverly High School. These documents included issues of The Aegis, school news issues and school committee reports that all had reference to Beverly’s Student Council. They documented the date of origin of student councils within Beverly and many gave short histories about their accomplishments throughout the years.
According to William R. Ward’s book Student Participation in School Government, “Wise school government will result in self control, thoughtfulness for others, and cheerful obedience to law.” This is the more modern function or belief of civic education that most people derive. The introduction of civic education to America was primarily to help the wave of immigrants coming from other countries to learn the “American ways” of living. Civic education was a way to help control the threat of an overwhelming foreign-born population, which was making a large amount of the native-born uneasy. Even though immigrants brought new ideas, customs, religions, and languages, there was still a feeling that their ways of living needed to be more Americanized. Civic education was not just a way to make people take on American customs just to satisfy the uncertainties of the American people. It also helped them because if they were going to live here, they did need to be educated about American ways, especially the way the country governs. For adult civic education, some took civic classes during the day, but because most immigrants had labor-intensive jobs, many took classes at night. Civic classes were not only for adult immigrants; they were also enforced within public schools that were accepting immigrant students. How they were enforced was up to the school.
There could be different courses dedicated towards the subject, or, one of the more common ways is to incorporate a Student Council. This is a form of a “puppet” government within the school that students ran. The officers, who in most cases included a president, vice president, treasurer, and secretary, are voted in by their student peers. Students of the school went to these officers with their issues and/or problems and the officers tried to make a change. The reason it is called a “puppet” government is that it does not traditionally make that much of a difference. It is simply just a way of giving students a basic example of how our government is run.
The first concept of a Student Council began “in 350 B.C. in which Plato gathered a group of young philosophers around him and established his ‘Academy.’ In it the student leaders were elected every 10 days on secret ballots by the students themselves.” This process of having a student run institute, in which students elect their own leaders amongst themselves was one of a kind and lasted in Greece for over 900 years. In this case, student councils were not used as a way to teach a certain way of living, or for economy of administration. It was used as a way to help organize and educate the students, which is the biggest difference in comparison to the concept of student councils of today.
Between the late 1800’s and the early 1900’s, cities began to have greater populations of foreign born. “As early as 1880, most of America’s large cities had large majorities of residents that were either foreign born or the children of foreign born including the figures cities: for Chicago, 87%; for Detroit and Milwaukee, 84%; for Cleveland and New York City, 80%; and for Boston, 75%.”
Public schools, along with immigrant language schools, had a great deal of civic classes and Student Councils. Private schools did not have many (if any at all) civic classes or other courses toward school democracy. Was it because they did not believe that there was a threat of an overwhelming foreign-born population? No. It was because private schools had no need for such classes because their schools consisted of only native-born students. In a public school, like Beverly, Massachusetts, there was a need.
Beverly first began their student council in the year of 1925. In the School Committee Report for that corresponding year, the principal states: “This year, a student council has been organized which is performing its duties in a most serious and satisfactory manner… It is promoting and supervising school activities and stands ever ready to represent student opinions to the faculty and to the principal.”  This idea of a student council was incorporated into Beverly High School to help try to represent the way America is governed. Beverly did just that. There system was set up into two sections of student government. One lower, which was the House of Delegates and one higher called the Student Council. As stated in Appendix D, student’s issues began in the House of Delegates (which originated from homeroom discussions) and were voted on amongst the delegates. If passed, the issue or issues were moved to the student council. From there, the Student Council would also vote on them. If they were once again passed, the issues were brought to the attention of the active principal. The principal had the final say if there would be a rule change.
Every student within the school had the right to be represented. The student council was even a well diverse mix of the classes. In its early years the council had eight seniors, six juniors, four sophomores, and two freshmen. By the early 1940’s, the freshman count was eliminated and the sophomore count moved up to six. Within these chosen few, there was a president, vice president, treasurer, and secretary. The House of Delegates contained representatives from every homeroom. Their job was to take issues from their fellow students from the homeroom discussions. From there, they would take these issues and vote on them within the House of Delegates and that is how a potential rule change all begins.
In Beverly Student Council history, just like in the real governmental system, the positions seemed to be rather gender biased. In reference to figure 1 and figure 3, as well as other studied years, the president in most cases was of the male sex and the secretary was of the female sex (with the exception 1946 with the secretary being of the male sex). That reflects the society at the time and the male-based system it had. It seems that in society women did not, or were not supposed to, play any kind of a role in the political spectrum
As a whole, students involved with the student council were either average or above average in comparison to the student body in terms of intelligence. In the chosen years of 1944 and 1946, around the time when Beverly became apart of the NASC, though not all of the Student Council members had the highest IQ scores, not one of them had an IQ score lower than 100, the lowest being a 103 by a senior. One interesting fact is that the majority of the members were born of parents that were both American. There were a few exceptions being two Italian students and one Canadian American. The parent’s occupation was one aspect that varied on both the students in the Student Council and the rest of the student body. The mother’s occupation, for the majority of the kids, was a homemaker. In the father’s case, the jobs ranged from a laborer or a blacksmith to an engineer or a chemist. In one student’s case, it even went as high as the mayor of Beverly.
The student councils main job was organization. They organized most of the school fundraisers, dances, and other social functions. They also attended meetings at the National Association of Student Councils (NASC). This program originated in 1931. It was lead by a student named Warren Shull, who was named the first national president. Its main goals were to help promote student participation in high school administration, to help organize high schools, to form an active department of the National Education Association (NEA), to help make the relationship with administrators and students closer, and to work toward international goodwill.Beverly did not join this association until 1946. This is also the first meeting they attended.
This type of education, which teaches ones role within the society, is not only within civic education or in forms of student government. This concept is also incorporated in everyday organizations. John Dewey covers this matter in his book entitled The Democratic Conception in Education, he states:
There are political parties with differing aims, social sets, cliques, gangs, corporations, partnerships, groups bound closely together by ties of blood, and so on in endless variety… From this standpoint, many a minor political unit one of our large cities, for example, is a congeries of loosely associated societies, rather than an inclusive and permeating community of action and thought.
John Dewey is saying that even in the simplest groups or everyday gatherings (like family) there consists some type of democratic conception in which everyone within knows the role that they play. In all cases there are rules or ways of get things done. Whether they are set in stone or unconsciously known, these rules are followed and must be followed in order to get things accomplished in an orderly fashion.
In Beverly’s case, as in the student councils of the time, a form of a school government that is student ran was excellent practice towards how America governs. It helped teach the students the right way to go about getting something changed if there were a problem, and showed them how the chain of command really works. School government did not only help students while they were in school, but helped them become better citizens out side of the school as well.
1.Bailyn, Bernard et al., The Great Republic. Lexington: DC Heath, 1985.
2.Beverly High School News. 29 September 1933.
Beverly Public Schools. School Committee Report, 1925.
4.Dewey, John. The Democratic Conception in Education. (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1916) < http://www.ilt.columbia.edu/publications/dewey.html> (21 January 2003)
5.George E. Mathes, The student Council: Who Needs It? 1975.
6.Harry C. Mcknown, The Student Council. New York, London: McGraw-Hill book Co., 1944.
7.William R. Ward, Student Participation in School Government. Poughkeepsie, New York: A. V. Haight Co., 1906.
 William R. Ward, Student Participation in School Government (Poughkeepsie, New York: A. V. Haight Co., 1906) 1.
 Harry C. Mcknown, The Student Council (New York, London: McGraw-Hill book Co., 1944) 1.
 Harry C. Mcknown, The Student Council (New York, London: McGraw-Hill book Co., 1944) 2.
 Bernard Bailyn et al., The Great Republic (Lexington: DC Heath) 120.
 Beverly Public Schools. School Committee Report, 1925.
 George E. Mathes, The student Council: Who Needs It? (1975) 1.
 Beverly High School Aegis. 1946.
 John Dewey, The Democratic Conception in Education. (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1916) <http://www.ilt.columbia.edu/publications/dewey.html> 21 January 2003.