Edwin James Houston's minority report to the Committee of Ten
Long, Bryan Keith
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The Report of the Committee on Secondary School Studies (1893) is widely recognized as one of the most significant documents in American curriculum history. However, current interpretations of the document consistently ignore an anomaly of the report. Understanding of the recommendations of the Committee of Ten needs to be broadened to include consideration of the minority report of Edwin James Houston. Houston was a lifelong teacher who spent most of his career working at Central High School of Philadelphia. His experiences and his beliefs about schooling were substantially different from the college professors on the geography conference of the Committee of Ten seeking to entrench the traditional college preparatory function as the primary role of the public high school. Houston prepared a minority report challenging the geography conference’s recommendations and in effect the recommendations of the entire Committee of Ten report. This study employs historical research methods to establish the context of the Committee of Ten report, explore the life and work of Edwin James Houston, analyze the Committee of Ten report focusing on the geography conference, and analyze Houston’s minority report. Conclusions and recommendations for further research and practice are offered. One of the most significant findings of this study is that Central High School and Houston offered a successful, progressive education oriented toward broad subjects that encompassed many areas. This was superior for life-preparation to narrow specialization as typified by the college preparatory schooling. This study is significant for the curriculum field because it helps to correct the current interpretation of the Committee of Ten and points out another viable option to the recommendations of the report. This study is also significant in that Houston’s proposal for dealing with subject matter through integration and application is relevant to current efforts to improve student achievement as embodied in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002. The Essentialism characterized by the Committee of Ten report is very similar to current curriculum reform efforts such as No Child Left Behind. A historical perspective suggests that these efforts may be misguided and in need of reconsideration.