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A historical study and critique of the activities and influence of the National honor society

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A Thesis
Presented to
the Faculty of the School of Education
University of Southern California
In Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Degree
Master of Science in Education
Phyllis Roberts
September 19^1
UMI Number: EP54293
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T h is thesis, w r it t e n u n d e r the d ir e c t io n o f the
C h a ir m a n o f the cand ida te}s G u id a n c e C o m m itte e
a n d a p p r o v e d by a l l m em bers o f the C o m m itte e ,
has been p re se n te d to a n d a ccep ted by the F a c u lt y
o f the S c h o o l o f E d u c a t io n o f T h e U n iv e r s it y o f
S o u th e rn C a l i f o r n i a in p a r t i a l f u l f i l l m e n t o f the
re q u ire m e n ts f o r the degree o f M a s t e r o f Science
in E d u c a tio n .
Guidance Com m ittee
D. Welty Lefever
C hairm an
Louis P. Thorpe
C. C. Crawford
THE NATURE OF THE PROBLEM............... . .
Introduction. . . . . .
Statement of the problem.
Delimitation of the study
Procedure................... ..........
RELATED LITERATURE.........................
Studies relating to honor societies . . . .
Democracy in education...................
Character education .....................
Mental hygiene.........
Extra-curricular activities
Summary . . . . .
.. ..........
Definitions of motivation
Development of the study ofmotivation. . .
Motivation in school. . . . . . . . . . . .
Scientific research on rewards and
Criticism of awards as extrinsic
.. .....
Introduction. .
The historical development of the
The sponsorship of the society.
. . . . . .
The constitution.........................
A criticism of the organization..........
INITIATION........ . .......................
Systems for selection of members..........
Induction ceremonies.....................
Summary . . . . .
Two types of
chapters . . . . . . . . . . .
Promotion of
scholarship*.............. *
Tutoring activities . . . . .
Promotion of citizenship.................
Journalistic activities.........
Guidance and orientation activities . . . .
The organization of the Junior Honor
Society . . .
The present status of the National Honor
Modern trends in awardingpractices . . • .
Summary . . . . . . .
Conclusions.......... ....................
Introduction* As long as there has been group edu­
cation, certain members of the high school student body have
excelled others and, consequently, have been singled out for
McKown says *
The competitive spirit and consequent demand for
special recognition early found its way Into schools
and their activities* The ancient Chinese system of
education was built upon competitive examination; the
early Greeks and Romans held contests in physical
activities, poetry, music, and oratory. Honors, prizes,
and scholarships in the purely academic field of edu­
cation are as old as the universities themselves*1
Each year a very large number of high schools through
out the United States award letters, pins, or chevrons for
outstanding performances in athletics, music, and debate*
Many select annually for special recognition in yearbooks
and newspapers those students who have been outstanding as
Numerous schools have for years followed the
custom of recognizing outstanding scholarship.
practice is emphasized especially at commencement time when
valedictorians, salutatorlans and others ranking high In
scholarship are given recognition.
1 Harry B* McKown, Extra-Curricular Activities
(New York: The MAcmlllan Company, 1939)» P» 502.
About the beginning of this century, furthermore,
honorary clubs and societies began to spring up over the
In 1936 the National Survey of Secondary
Education announced that ‘’honorary activities in high
schools had increased 560 per cent since the year 1910.1,2
For many years these familiar customs of making awards were
apparently regarded as natural and desirable by the public.
In the past few years, however, school administrators
have probably given more thought to the implications of
democracy in education than ever before.
Hawk says:
The amazing indoctrination of youth in other lands
to their national idealogles, the challenge of demo­
cracy on many fronts has caused administrators to re­
examine the entire progress of the school in relation
to the purposes of education in a democracy, to the
end that youth will develop a dynamic zeal for the
American way of life.3
Educational thinkers and research workers have also
been focusing attention on all factors which may stimulate
or retard growth of the individual.
This concept includes
emotional, social, Intellectual, and all types of personal
Almost everything in the old order of schooling
has been subjected to criticism and change— honors and
2 M. R. McDaniel, "National Honor Society an
Essential," Bulletin 20 of the Department of Secondary
School Principals of the National Education Association.
March, 193^»P* 11*
3 Herbert 0. Hawk, "Democracy in School Life,"
American School Board Journal. 10:19-20, September, 19^0.
awards included.
If democracy is a way of life in America,
then logical reasoning has brought educational leaders to
the conclusion that education in a democracy is an experi­
ment in democratic living*
School life Itself must be a
democratic experience, educators feel— an adventure in
democratic living.
As a result of such thinking, edu­
cational literature of the last few years has been concerned,
to some extent, with the
effects and Influences of awards
on the schoolsociety*
The question
literature has presented seems to be this:
which this
do honor
societies have a place in a really democratic system of
Statement of the problem*
This study is a critical
analysis of honor societies and award systems in general
with the history of the National Honor Society as its basis*
By means of a historical study of the activities and
influence of one such organization in the light of modern
educational philosophy, the answers to several questions
are sought*
The questions are as follows:
1# What were the
causes and purposes in founding
such an organization as the National Honor
4 ibid.. p. 9-
How was it developed?
Has it supplied a genuine need during the various
stages of its history?
How has it adopted itself to changing conditions?
What have been the advantages and faults of this
and similar organizations?
Has the society's influence been sufficiently
worthwhile to warrant its continued existence?
Do this and similar honor societies belong to
the modern school in a democracy?
Delimitation of the study*
with the National Honor Society*
This study deals only
Any conclusions reached
will apply to it specifically but may apply to others of
like nature*
Since this organization emphasizes character,
leadership, and service in addition to scholarship, it is
different from a number of others.
Many schools have
affiliated with the National Honor Society in an attempt
to further the development of character and the recognition
of it among their students.
Ordinary scholarship organi­
zations and honor rolls for high grades are not, therefore,
the main subjects of this study*
The methods employed in securing data
for this study have been as follows:
The proceedings of the National Honor Society
as they appear In the bulletins of the Department
of Secondary School l*rinclpals of the National
Education Association have been read.
Material from various agencies has been collected,
Induction ceremonies.
Methods employed In selecting members.
Activities of the various chapters.
Copies of constitutions and chapter charters.
Related literature dealing with the following
topics was carefully reviewed.
Mental hygiene of award giving.
Democracy In education.
Extra-curricular activities.
Important Items of Information were obtained
through correspondence with Secretary Church
of the National Honor Society*
The results of the, study of these materials as
summarized In connection with the questions to be answered
are given in the following pages of the thesis.
In addition to being a history of the
National Honor Society, this study Includes a critical
analysis of the activities and Influence of this and
similar organizations*
A review o* literature related to
the subject is presented in order to determine whether sueh
practices as making awards and selecting some students for
membership In honor societies are suitable and desirable
in a modern9 democratic school situation*
Studies relating to honor societies* As early as
1924 Hughes1 carried on an investigation for the purpose of
showing similarities between honor society and non-honor
society pupils.
A total of 450 junior high school pupils
and 500 senior high school pupils were studied and
The study dealt, in general, with applications
of ratings of individual capacities, interests, and
attitudes as well as a consideration of certain scholastic
The results of this investigation revealed some very
pertinent data.
For one thing, it was found that there
was a striking agreement in the set of findings for the
junior high school group and for the senior group.
coefficient for each trait was of about the same magnitude,
and the order of the traits in relation to intelligence
was found to be substantially the same for the two types
of schools*
The findings showed also that certain desirable
1 W* Hardin Hughes, ^Organized Personnel Research,n
Journal of Educational Research. 10:386-98, 1924.
trait a are moat likely to be found, among persona having a
high Intelligence quotient and least likely to be found
among those whose intelligence quotients are low.
It was
found also that members of the honor society did possess
In unusual degree the desirable traits of the rating scale
In comparing the honor group with the average non-honor
society pupils of high intelligence, it was found that the
general intelligence and general scholastic achievement
of the honor group were lower.
The non-honor pupil of
superior intelligence was round to be slightly below
average in trustworthiness and obedience but most nearly
approached the honor student in quickness of thought,
strength and control in attention, and retentiveness of
Such evidence seemed to prove that the honor
society was fundamentally an honor society but not neces­
sarily a maximum scholastic achievement society and that
teachers' marks for scholastic achievement are based in
large measure on the student's possession of desirable
made a comparison between the pupils of
an honor society and a group who were not members in one
Edna B. Godfrey, WA Study of the Honor Society,"
(unpublished Blaster's thesis, University of Southern
California, Los Angeles, 1929), 87 PP*
junior high school*
The purpose of her study was to deter­
mine the similarities and dissimilarities existing in each
An effort was made to see whether desirable or
undesirable traits modified marks given for school achieve­
Both the honor pupils and the control group were
selected from the same grades and were of approximately
the same age and the same Intelligence.
Correlations were
made between grade averages and intelligence quotients*
between intelligence quotient and each trait rating for
each group, between average grades and each personality
trait for each of the groups, and between each trait and
each other trait for each group.
Results of this study showed that the honor group
as a whole received much higher -ratings for industry,
initiative, and cooperation than did the control group.
The main conclusion of the investigation was that there is
a tendency, on the part of teachers particularly, to over­
estimate pupils, who though low in intelligence, are
superior in respect for authority and perseverance.
A study of factors influencing election to honor
societies was made by Hanson in 1936*^
Its main conclusion
3 Marion 0. Hanson, "A Comparison of the Various
Factors that Influence Election to the Honor Society in the
Pasadena Junior High Schools,H (unpublished Master's thesis,
University of Southern California, Los Angeles, 1936), 88 pp.
xo be that girl students stand a better chance of
being eligible for membership than boys-
Boys making the
honor society, however, compared very favorably with the
girls in all factors studied*
Evidence was also presented
to show that ability to achieve, as indicated by teachers'
marks, is accompanied by desirable character traits,
corroborating the conclusions of Hughes
and Godfrey.
Democracy in education* As early as 1921 when the
National Honor Society was being organized, Dewey
democracy as an e^ual opportunity to develop one's
Since then It has been called an everlasting
experiment in social living as well as a means to an end,
which is the development of individuals so that they may
function effectively in their physical and social environ­
The modern democratic school has attempted to create
the most natural environment for the child.
Its exponents
have agreed that all pupils should participate and benefit
from their experience♦
They have aimed toward an integrated
Hughes, o£. clt.
5 Godfrey, o£. clt.
® John Dewey, Democracy and Education (New York:
The Macmillan Company, 1929), pTT^fl
and well-rounded personality for each, child.
In the years after Dewey wrote his conception of
democracy, educators began to place a great amount of
emphasis on the inferior student.
Problem children were
usually poor students, and they made all teachers conscious
of their presence and aware of the fact that they were not
getting the maximum benefit from their school experience.
Studies were made, consequently, and new curricular changes
were brought about in order to Increase the school's
effectiveness with inferior students.
During this time
those who belonged to the upper fourth of the school
society were left to care for themselves.
As a result
these pupils, in many cases, were believed to have developed
some bad habits and were not thought to be doing their best
when they reached secondary school.
Between 1900 and 1920 administrators and teachers
realized that the schools seemed to be made for average
pupils with considerable emphasis on training the subnormal
Consequently the superior child had little incentive
to do his best.
He was undoubtedly bored, and it is
possible that he may have developed habits of laziness and
carelessness which may have carried over into adulthood.
William Wetzel, Biography of a High School (New
American Book Company, 1937), p7 124.
At any rate, schools over the country began to give awards
and honors for high marks to stimulate a greater interest
in scholastic achievement*
The practice of granting such recognition rapidly
became very common throughout the country*
It now seems
doubtful that much consideration was ever given to the
factors which should determine whether or not the practice
is desirable educationally*
If life In a democracy means
that each individual is equally important, the schools
should give each student democratic experience*
If some
students are constantly faced with the disappointing fact
that they are inferior to others and can never hope to
attain a letter, a scholarship, or a place on the honor
roll, will they be able to know and appreciate the enduring
values of the principles of democracy?
It would seem that
the answer to this question is a negative one and that the
practice of granting honor awards for various kinds of
achievements is not truly democratic.
Character education*
Education in recent years has
also emphasized the development of character.
Courses in
character education have found their way into the curricula
of many schools*
Dewey has also said that nthe establish­
ment of character is a comprehensive aim of school
instruction and discipline.11
Citizenship at the present
time requires that one possess the kind of character which
enables the individual to readjust himself continuously in
order that he may have personal growth.
Many schools throughout the country have employed
such devices as the National Honor Soeiety to help further
the development and recognition of character.
administrators have felt that such organizations have had
a significant influence on character development through­
out the whole school.
Ashby, in a recent article, has
criticized this opinion:
The hope, presumably, is that in the process of
seeking an award the pupil will engage in valuable
experiences. The aspiration to gain the award is
expected to be transferred by strange alchemy into
love and knowledge of the subject matter and into
strength of character.9
He has doubted this theory, saying that the whole
matter rests on an extremely doubtful psychological basis,
and transfer of this kind is questionable.
It would appear then that there is no positive
proof that honor society membership and rewards build
They may give self-confidence and encouragement
^ Dewey, o p . clt.. p. 402.
9 Lloyd W. Ashby, f,Awards Away.” School Executive
Magazine. 59*26-7, April, 1940.
10 Ibid*
to some who receive them, hut it is doubtful that awards
always serve as a positive means of character development*
Mental hygiene*
The term, mental hygiene, is defined
. • • the phase of applied psychology and psychiatry
concerned with the prevention and correction of such
personality disturbances, be they mild or serious, as
are amenable to control and cure.11
The practice of granting honor awards for various
kinds of achievements has been Investigated by mental
hygiene experts to discover what effects it has had upon
students who receive them as well as on those who do not*
They have wondered if those who receive them become haughty,
proud, and conceited, or if the award is an Inspiration to
greater effort*
They have been more concerned about those
who fail to receive rewards; they have wondered if the last
group tend to become indifferent or if they are encouraged
to meet life's' problems fighting*’1'2
Whenever awards are given, there are always bitter
heartaches among the "near great" who are rated immediately
below the honored group.
It is extremely probable that
L* P. Thorpe, Psychological Foundations of
Personality (New Yorks McGraw-Hill Company, 1938), p* 390*
12 Heth G* Smith, "Why We Continued or Curtailed
Honor Awards," The Clearing House, 115283, January, 1937*
sueh a disappointment might cause inferiority complexes
in members of this group*
According to Thorpe:
A child has certain fundamental emotional cravings
sueh as the need for affection and understanding, the
need for security, the need for attention and approval,
for successful achievement . . .
If the
circumstances of the childrs home and school life are
such that they tend habitually to thwart or to deprive
him of any or all of these legitimate satisfactions or
to over-accentuate any of them, the results show them­
selves in nervousness, in the development of unhappy
personality traits, or In misbehavior.*3
It would hardly be expected that a truly democratic
school would desire to foster any practices which would
lead to the development of an inferiority complex.
A few schools have attempted to Investigate the way
students feel about failure or success*
No valuable
results were found because those who receive awards will
not admit they feel superior, and those who fail to receive
recognition will not admit their disappointment. Smith
reported an investigation made in Richmond, Indiana, In
1937* which resulted in the curtailment of many honor awards
in the high school there.
He reached the conclusion that
there are these three possible reasons for giving honor
(1 ) encouragement or motive to do better work;
(2 ) recognition of services given the school by the pupil;
Thorpe, o£. clt.. p. 407*
Smith, op. clt.
(3 ) help in developing a school spirit that is necessary
for real school success.
They decided immediately that the first two reasons
are based on false premises.
If we consider the scholarship award separately we
are forced to admit that about the only factor the
pupil contributes to good scholarship is effort.
Nature determined his I*Q*, and society furnishes the
school. Why then, recognize the gifted pupil who
works hard and fail to recognize the less brilliant
pupil who plods along, often in the face of discourage­
ment and always somewhat at a disadvantage?
Finding one's niche and fitting into it well is
probably the best possible citizenship* Why give an
honor award to the pupil whose niche happens to be one
of leadership and neglect the pupil who was intended
by nature to follow the leadership of others?1®
The third reason, onthe other hand, had many
to be said in its favor.Because good
school spirit is a
very significant factor, it was agreed that anything which
fosters it is worthy of consideration.
Taking the opposite stand, Hannan quoted the United
States Office of Education as follows:
His [the pupil's] accomplishment, though apparently
small, should be recognized * * * Since a life
situation at any age level is rated by individual or
public opinion, the earlier a child learns to accept
criticism or7evaluation, the better he is equipped
for living.
16 Ibid.. p. 283.
Lester T. Hannan, "Twentieth Century Criticism
for Nineteenth Century Attitudes^" School and Society.
47:52-3 , January 8 , 1938.
On the basis that recognition is constantly given
for successful achievement in life, Hannan has further
defended the practice of giving awards*
He went on to
T8hile human nature and human ability remain as they
are,, we cannot escape the fact that some individuals
will, and by right ought to, stand out head and
shoulders above the rest of the group in which they
may be living or working* In that this is true,
there is no valid reason why full recognition should
not be given similarly to successful school work*18
It is obvious that no definite conclusions have been
reached In regard to the harmful effects of giving honors
and awards.
Since there is a possibility that the practice
may contribute to unhappiness or conceit in youth, this
point is one upon which attention Is being focused by
students of mental hygiene*
Extra-currleular activities*
In many places the
National Honor Society has been regarded as a single phase
of the extra-curricular program.
Fretwell, who wrote a
book on the subject, defined the extra-curricular phase
of school life as "those legitimate activities of the
school not otherwise provided for."1^
The high school
18 Ibid.. p. 52.
E. K. Fretwell, Extra-Purrloular Activities In
Secondary Schools (Cambridge, lifessachusetts: Riverside
Press, 1931), P* 8 .
curriculum of earlier years followed a set type of program,
which was designed largely to prepare all its population
for college entrance.
When a need was felt for something
which the school had failed to provide, a new extra­
curricular activity was organized to take care of the
Many of these activities, for example, publishing
a school paper, have become regular courses in the
curriculum, while new clubs and organizations have replaced
The extra-curricular program has been credited with
having a strong effect in encouraging some students to
remain in school who were not particularly successful in
scholastic endeavor.
It has appealed to all types of
students and still appears to serve a very definite purpose
in education.
A consideration of school honor societies
has touched many factors connected with education.
In the
first place, honor societies are often considered part of
the extra-curricular life of the school.
The extra­
curriculum has served a worthwhile purpose and, in general,
is highly esteemed.
In the second place, it seems that a
system of granting awards, which some cannot possibly
attain because of conditions over which they have no
control, Is not democratic.
Awards have been considered
in the past as aids to character development, but there
appears to be no proof that they serve this purpose.
Mental hygienists are interested in the effects of honors
upon the child’s emotions.
Generally speaking the custom
of granting awards may have had an adverse effect on some
pupils while it was motivating others to do well.
For a time in the 1920* a American
educators were giving most of their attention to pupils of
lower intelligence.
They were concerned with adapting the
school and its methods to the capabilities of the lower
I.Q. groups in order to encourage them to remain in school
They realized suddenly that the upper 10 per cent
of the student body or the gifted pupils had been getting
along with little attention, and it was thought that these
more able students were developing habits of carelessness
and were not doing their best.
they needed a motive to work.
Educators concluded that
As a result of this decision,
honor societies and other types of recognition were intro­
duced to serve as motivation for scholastic achievement.
Since the National Honor Society has been considered as a
form of motivation, a study of the concept of motivation
seems fitting here.
Definitions of motivation.
The psychological con­
cept of motivation appears to be definitely connected with
the school practice of granting honors and awards.
number of writers have given their definitions of
Fryer ealled it r,a measure of the drive, the
urge, the persistence aspect of the reaction.”^* Dewey
said, ”A motive is that element in the total complex of a
man's activity, which if it be sufficiently stimulated, will
result in an act's having specified consequences.**
general psychologists have closely associated their study
of motives with that of interest.
Development of the study of motivation. Herbart
early formulated a theory of Interest.
He thought of the
mind as "an absorbing force working upon an outside
Interesting object.”'* By the beginning of the twentieth
century interest as a mental capacity had been given an
important place in the doctrine of all educators.
came to think of it as a mainspring of development and were
eager to acquire new ways of Interesting and motivating the
school society to maximum accomplishment.
Hall was interested in the motivation concept from
the- industrial education point of view.
these phases from the utilitarian angle.
He thought of
Dewey used these
earlier studies as bases for his conclusions in connection
A Douglas Fryer, The Measurement of Interests
(New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1931T7 P* 352.
John Dewey, Human Nature and Conduct (New York:
Henry Holt and.Company, 1922), p* 120.
^ Fryer, o p . clt.. p* 444.
with education.
Although interests, incentives, and motives have
some relationship, they do differ from each other.
Fryer says, “Interest is many-sided in its expression.
It is essentially utilitarian, it is attached to a goal
idea, and it aids in learning.
The English psychologist, Stout, expressed the
opinion that interest was motivation or mental striving
toward an end.
A distinction between incentive and
motivation was made by Wilson, who wrote:
Incentives are superficial and external in relation
to one's efforts; motives are vital in determining
effort. The incentive Is proposed to the child to
stimulate him, while the motive arises out of his own
efforts in self-expression and self-realization.»
For a long time, according to Dewey, theorists in
instruction overlooked or even denied the need of motiva­
They had assumed those with sufficient force of
will and effort would get the maximum benefit from school
When they did become aware of the importance of
motivation in education, teachers were urged to make lists
* Ibid.. P» 445.
5 Ibid.. p. 446.
6 Ibid.. p. 459*
7 Harry B. Wilson, The Motivation of School Work
(Bostons Houghton Mifflin Company, 1916), p. 21.
of motives and to find one of these for each lesson but
never jba it*
The tragio error made by educators for a
long time was that they were so interested in the results
of growing they neglected the process of growing*
Motivation in school*
It would appear obvious that
the right kind of motivation is of supreme importance in
school life as well as in life after school*
Overn has
It is the approach to the building of character and
moral Ideals. It is the starting point in developing
permanent social interests, appreciations, ideals and
attitudes, which In themselves, after they have been
developed, serve as further motives for social conduct
both in and out of school* 9
Some of the motivations used in school work have
been marks, prizes, awards, teacher reproof, teacher
praise, publicity, honor rolls and the desire to excel*
The latter has been found a desirable and praiseworthy
procedure so long as the pupil competes with his own pre­
vious record.
Some of the other methods used have not been
so highly regarded in recent years.
their prestige as motives for study*
School marks have lost
Some schools have
John Dewey, Interest and Effort In Education
(Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1913)*p. 6l*
^ A* V* Overn, The Teacher in Modern Education
(New York: D. Apple ton-Century Company, 1935), p. 35*
dispensed with them entirely while others use brief reports
concerning the pupilfs progress.
In 1921, Dewey wrote:
Records and high marks are at best artificial aims
to strive for. They accustom children to expect to get
something besides the value of the product for the
work they do. The extent to which schools are compelled
to rely on these motives shows how dependent they are on
motives which are foreign to truly moral activity.10
Scientific research on rewards and punishment.
Punishment-reward techniques have been utilized for
countless ages in the control of human behavior,
especially to impress upon youth those behavior
patterns which are prescribed by custom and taboo.
A number of experiments on the effects of praise and blame
have been made, and the results of these have been made
public* In 1924, Hurlock
made an experiment on 408
children in the third, fifth, and eighth grades of the
Hew York City schools.
She divided the children into
three comparable groups on the basis of age, sex, and
native Intelligence.
She sought to determine the effects
of continued praise or reproof on their accomplishment in
arithmetic addition.
After carrying on the experiment,
Dewey, Human Hature and Conduct, op. cit., p. 153*
Paul T. Young, Motivation of Behavior (New York:
John Wiley and Sons, 1936), p. 315*
Elizabeth Hurlock, BThe Value of Praise and
Reproof on Incentives for Children,11 Archives of
Psychology. No. 71 (New York: Columbia University Press,
she came to these conclusions:
1. Praise and reproof seem to have heen about equal
In their effectiveness for a short period of time.
2. Over a longer period praise was definitely
established as the superior Influence.
3* Older children tend to respond more to both
praise and reproof than younger; this has definite
Implications in secondary education.
4. Average and inferior children respond better
to praise.
5* Reproof has the greatest effect on children
rated as superior.
6. Some incentive is more essential to superior
students, but both praise and blame are suitable for
this purpose. 3*3
the results of this study appear to give proof
that praise and reproof are motives and largely determine
The study also gives clues concerning the way
attitudes may influence learning.
Emotionalized attitudes,
particularly emphasized by Briggs,
is still a virgin
field for research.
Prom this study it would also appear that students
with high I.Q. 's would respond as well or better to
reproof as they would to praise, awards, and prizes.
13 ibia.
(New York:
p. 57*
Briggs, The Emotionalized Attitudes
Teachers' College, Columbia University, 1940),
results would limit the importance of all rewards in edu­
The study has suggested also that dull children
seem to need praise more urgently than the bright.
dull child is apt to he working up to capacity in school
while the bright child is not.
It would appear that any
teacher , after noting such conclusions as the above
mentioned, would do well to remember to take an attitude
of looking for and appreciating excellences in a pupil1s
work whenever they appear.
Furthermore, she would do well
to remember that reproof in the way of kindly suggestion
is better than simply saying nothing in the way of evalu­
ation of what the pupil has tried to do.
According to
Mur sell, MIt is by comments on the success or failure of
the pupil's effort that the teacher performs some of his
most effective services in organizing mental capacities.11
Criticism of awards as extrinsic motives. Most of
the literature on awards, prizes, and honors as forms of
motivation in education has been based on the supposition
that the whole matter rests on sound educational and
psychological bases.
Of late educational theorists have
James Mur sell, The Psychology of Secondary School
Teaching (New York: W. W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1932),
p. 415.
emphasized the Intrinsic rather than the extrinsic satisfactions and rewards.
Thorndike attempted to clarify the
distinction between these two types when he said:
Roughly the former
[intrinsic] are thosewhich are
due to the activity Itself as engaged in by the person
in question, whereas the latter are added to it and
would not be present unless brought into action by
forces outside the activity and the actor— the material
to be learned and the learnee.^
As an ideal awards
are intended to be
recognition for outstanding work in some special area.
Unfortunately their purpose has been misconstrued, and most
schools have used them for incentives to encourage good
work rather than badges of recognition or reward for work
already done.
Not many pupils have entered into the life
of the school solely for the sake of earning awards.
would seem obvious that no sensible person would argue
that the value of football is to be found in the letter
earned; however, the letter and sweater, which are usually
the reward for participation in the activity, have been
known to motivate some students to enter it.
Dewey was one of the first advocates of Intrinsic
(New York:
E. L. Thorndike, Interests and Attitudes
D. Appleton-Century Company, 1937)/ P* 152.
Lloyd W. Ashby, "Awards Away,
59*27, April, 1940.
Sohool Executive.
Commenting on his ideas, Thorndike wrote
this i
Insofar as the task of education is to develop or
strengthen certain interests as more or less permanent
features of a person^ make-up, the more intrinsic the
interest can he, the less dependent upon outside aids
and circumstances the better* Even when the task is to
develop an interest purely as a temporary means to get
something else learned or done, Intrinsic interests are
somewhat stronger and more dependable*1®
In "Schools of Tomorrow" Dewey
has discussed a
likely result of extrinsic motivation.
It Is what he calls
a division of the mind or double-mindedness, a double
standard of reality which hampers in most of us integrity
and completeness of mental action.
In such a situation
a split is set up between conscious thought and attention
and impulsive, blind affection and desire.
School conditions favorable to this division of the
mind between avowed, public and socially responsible
undertakings and private ill-regulated and suppressed
indulgences of thought are not hard to find* Stern
discipline and motivation through rewards extraneous
to the thing to be done have a like effect. Anything
that makes schooling merely preparatory works in this
Nearly all psychologists have agreed on some aspects
of motivation.
The student of motivation, It would seem,
Thorndike, o£. cit., p. 152.
Dewey, Democracy and Education, op. cit.
. p. 209-
'believes definitely that behavior and learning are
motivated; but he seeks to understand and explain these
concepts so that education can make the most of his
A study of some of the most common types of
school motivation discussed in this chapter might leave a
question in one's mind*
That query might be, what is the
result of a cessation of this type of motive when the
student leaves the direct Influence of the classroom?
Grades, the fear of teacher disapproval, or family pride
in scholastic success are obviously not operative when the
student leaves school and goes away to be independent*
Whether or not the school had exercised proper motivation
would, undoubtedly, be shown by the manner in which this
individual motivates himself after his school days were
Allen has considered it Interesting and helpful to
note that there are:
. * . levels of motivation as well as levels of
achievement. Great achievement comes only as a result
of great motives stimulated by broad, strong and vital
motivation. Great motives are, of necessity, honest
and unselfish and have the best interests of world
society at heart. 1
^ M. S* Allen, ''Student Motivation in the Major
Social Functions Procedure,w Education. 59*179-82, November,
The old saw that “nothing succeeds like success" is
often heard, and the success idea has been considered
motivational. According to Dorcas,
the old saying is not
without merit.
He told how this could be proved by pairing
children on a basis of ability into two groups and giving
them two successive tasks to perform.
Those that succeeded in performing the first task
correctly are apt to succeed in performing the second
correctly provided the results in Task A are known
before Task B is attempted. The level of aspiration
is modified by success and failure, and experiences of
success and failure are relative to the level of
Summary. Judging from the many ideas and opinions
concerning motivation in school, a number of conclusions
are reached.
They are:
Motivation is important in education and life.
Educators long thought they had to find motives
for school activities rather than in them.
Many awards, honors, and prizes have been used
for motivation.
Both praise and reproof act as incentives to
R. M. Dorcus and K. Dunlap, Aspiration, Interest,
and Achievement," The Business Education World, 21:287-91,
December, 1940. .
23 Ibid.
Motives to b© psychologically sound and purpose­
ful, should be intrinsic rather than extraneous.
It would appear that motivation at best is something
to be built up by the very agencies through which learning
is guided.
It must obviously depend on a well-organized
school, good instructional procedures, and a proper atti­
tude on the part of the teacher.
The study of motivation
in connection with this problem is summed up in this state­
ment of Allen:
If we take it for granted that the sole purpose of
education is to make possible richer, more complete
living for the student and for social progress on the
part of the student, is it not essential that we, as
teachers, should examine more searchingly and honestly
our instructional procedures for irrelevant motivation—
that is, recourse to gold stars, grades, punishments,
honor rolls, or anything els© except an acceptance by
the student of the fundamental relationships of school
activities to the major functions of life and his own
dominating interests?*4
Allen, o£. cit., p. 182.
Introduction. Near the beginning of the present
century when the great increase in enrollment of the
secondary schools of the country stimulated the develop­
ment of the social aspects of the high school through
extra-curricular activities, forward-looking educators
felt that scholarship was not receiving its rightful
emphasis among the social and athletic activities which
already were holding the center of the stage.
For a num­
ber of years incentives to improve scholarship had been
part of the administrative routine in the form of honor
rolls, special privileges, delivering valedictory and
salutatory addresses, letters of congratulation and
scholarship awards.
At this period in the history of edu­
cation, administrators believed that it was necessary to
provide a motive for every phase of education.
school had its own system of recognition, and the same
routine was usually followed year after year.
effort was made to provide social stimulation of scholar­
ship by having the desire to Improve come from the student
body itself.
1 0. C. Harvey and H. E. Patrick, Bulletin 67 of the
National Association of Secondary School Principals. 21:7.
The historical development of the society*
In I9O3
Phi Beta Sigma, the first high school honor society that
had as its primary aim the encouragement of high scholar­
ship, was organized by five girls of high scholastic
standing in the old South Side Academy in Chicago, Illinois.
Owen, then principal of the academy, acted as faculty
director of the group.
The organization continued even
after the academy became part of the University of Chicago
High School in 1904.
It still exists as an independent
society although it conforms closely to the rules and
regulations of the National Honor Society.
As high schools in the country were eager to imitate
the activities and accomplishments of Phi Beta Kappa in
colleges and universities, the new idea spread rapidly*
Similar organizations sprang up in various parts of the
country; they had slightly different requirements for
admission, but the development of scholarship was a primary
goal in all.
One of these groups was the Cum Laude Society, which
was organized In 1906 by Harris at Tome School in Fort
Deposit, Maryland.
Another was the Oasis Society founded
also in 1906 at the Polytechnic Preparatory Country Day
School in Brooklyn.
In 1910 the Arista Society was
organized by Gunnison at Erasmus Hall, a high school in
After these organizations had become more common
throughout the country, schools lying in the same area were
able to agree on similar standards of scholarship and
recognition for the entire group.
After the organization
of the Mimerian Society in 1910 in the Manual Arts High
School in Los Angeles, the movement spread rapidly in
It culminated in the organization of the
California Scholarship Federation of thirty-five high
schools in 1921-1922.
The Pro Merit© Society was established in 1916 by
thirty head masters in western Massachusetts, and in the
next year the Ephoebian Society was organized for graduates
of Los Angeles high schools*
In 1919 the Mareelleans
Society was founded in Fargo, South Dakota.
the sponsorship of the society* When the successful
operation of local and district honor societies had been
noted by educators, the newly organized National Association
of Secondary School Principals gave consideration to honor
societies in general at their Chicago meeting in 1919*
Masters, then principal of Omaha Central High School in
Omaha, Nebraska, was appointed chairman of the committee
on a National Honor Society*
Some of the first conclusions
of the committee were the following:
1. If the fundamental principle of the National
Honor Society is sound, it should be national in its
2. A national society ought to be stronger and
mean more than any local organization.
3* A national honor society of secondary schools
is a logical outgrowth of the wisdom and experience
of the past fifteen or twenty years.2
The National Honor Society proper was not organized
until after the meeting of the National Association of
Secondary School Principals in Cleveland the following
At this meeting the committee made its report and
presented an outline of a proposed constitution.
The out­
line met with the approval of the association, whose
members gave their president the authority to name a
committee on constitution and organization.
The following
made up the committee:
Chairman--J. G. Blasters, Omaha, Nebraska
Merle Prunty, Tulsa, Oklahoma
C. B. Briggs, Lakewood, Ohio
George Buck, Indianapolis, Indiana
H. V. Church, Cicero, Illinois
Edward Rynearson, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Eaton of Youngstown, Ohio, and McDaniel of Oak Park,
Illinois, were added the next year.
2 Ibid.. p. 461.
^ Edward Rynearson, “Honor Societies in Secondary
Schools,11 School Review. 30:456-66, June, 1922.
In 1921, Rynearson reported that the committee had
decided that scholarship alone was too narrow a basis for
election to the National Honor Society.
After consider­
able discussion, the committee fixed upon character,
leadership, scholarship, and service as the fundamental
virtues most useful to society and, therefore, most worthy
of encouragement.
The constitution.
The committee finally made the
following constitution which laid down general rules regard
ing officers, eligibility and the like, but In the main it
left details of government to each individual chapter.
Revision of February, 1926
Name and Purpose
Section 1.
The name of this organisation shall be
the National Honor Society of Secondary Schools.
Section 2.
The purpose of this organization shall
be to create an enthusiasm for scholarship, to
stimulate a desire to render service, to promote
leadership, and to develop character in the students
of American secondary schools.
General Control
Section 1. The general control of this organization
shall /be vested in a National Council*
Section 2. The National Council shall consist of
nine members elected by the Department of Secondary
Sehool Principals* The secretary of the Department of
Secondary School Principals shall be a member, ex­
The nine elective members shall be
chosen for a term of three years, three being chosen
annually. Immediately after the first election they
shall be divided into three classes for the one, two,
and three-year terms.
Section 4. Five members shall constitute a quorum
of the National Council.
Section 2* The National Council shall each year
nominate three members to be elected by the Department
of Secondary School Principals to succeed those whose
terms expire.
Local Organizations
Section 1. These organizations shall consist of
chapters in“the secondary schools of the United States,
supported by public taxation or endowment with
standards equal to those accredited by such agencies
as the North Central Association of Colleges and
Secondary Schools, the New England College Entrance
Certificate Board, the Association of Colleges and
Preparatory Schools of the Middle States and Maryland,
the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary
Schools, etc.
Section 2. Each chapter, before its admission to
the National Honor Society, shall have its organization
approved by the National Council.
Section 2* Each chapter shall, for continued
membership, conform to all rules made by the National
Section 1. This organization shall have an
approprlate^emblem, selected by the National Council,
and this emblem shall be uniform throughout the
United States.
Section 2*
This emblem shall be patented.
Section 2* The distribution of the emblem shall be
under the exclusive control of the National Council.
Section 1* Each chapter of this organization shall
contribute whatever amount may be assessed by the
National Council, not to exceed five dollars ($5*00)
Section 1. Members of chapters shall be known as
active and graduate.
Section 2. Membership in any chapter shall be
based on scholarship, service, leadership, and
Section 2* Candidates eligible to membership in
a chapter of this organization shall have a scholar­
ship rank In the first third of their respective
Section 4. To be eligible for membership the
student must have spent at least one year in the
secondary school electing such student.
Not more than fifteen per cent of any
senior, or graduating class, shall be elected to
membership in a chapter.
Section 6. The election of not more than five per
cent of 'the-!1A class may take place during the sixth
semester. The election of not more than ten per cent
may take place before the end of the seventh semester.
The remainder may be chosen during the eighth or last
semester before graduation.
Section 1. The election of members in each chapter
shall be by the faculty, or by the principal and a
committee of four or more members of the faculty whom
he may select.
Section 1. The officers of each chapter shall be
a president, vice-president, secretary, and treasurer.
Section 2. The secretary shall certify to the
National Council the number graduated in each class
and the names of those elected to membership in the
Faculty Supervision
Section 1# All meetings shall be open meetings and
shall be held under the direction of the principal or
by some member of the.faculty selected-by him.
Section 2. The activities of the chapter shall be
subject to the approval of the principal.
Executive Committee
Section 1* The executive committee shall consist
of the officers.of the chapter and the faculty sponsor*
Section 2. The executive committee shall have
general charge of the meetings and business affairs
of the chapter, hut any action on the part of the
executive committee shall he subject to review by the
Section 1. This constitution may be amended at
any meeting of the National Council, or by mail by
an affirmative vote of seven members.
After the report of the committee had been accepted
and the plan approved, the American Torch Society was
The name was later changed to the National Honor
Although the constitution had been written and
adopted in 1921, the organization did little until after
the Chicago meeting in 1922 when the form of the charter
was approved and the emblem adopted.
It would appear that at this time all schools were
seeking new motivation for scholarship and other desirable
traits so the National Honor Society met with approval
among secondary schools of the country and has since had
a healthy growth.
In 1921 Chapter Number One was granted
to the Fifth Avenue High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania*
Fifteen years later, in 1937, there were 2,202 chapters
with a total enrollment of approximately 250,000 members.
Unlike most aspects of secondary education which are
constantly changing to keep up with a changing world, in
the first twenty years of its history only three changes
have been made in the constitution of the National Honor
Originally membership in the chapters was limited
to the highest one-fourth of the senior class; later it was
changed to the highest one-third.
At first 5 per cent of
the eleventh grade could be. chosen during the last month
of the Junior year.
In 1936 the model constitution was
changed to permit their election at any time during the
last semester of the Junior year.
In 1936 the model
constitution was revised to provide special regulations
for small schools.
It permitted them to fix the scholar­
ship average necessary and to admit members of the sophomore
class as members on probation, so long as they satisfied all
corresponding requirements placed upon members from the two
higher classes.
The National Honor Society Is directed by a National
Council of ten, three of whom are chosen each year at the
February meeting of the National Association of Secondary
School Principals.
The Council directs the activities and
formulates the policies of the organization.
Setting up
a chapter in a school has never been difficult if the
administration favors such an organization.
If the constitution is in the proper form and the
school is of approved grade, a charter will be granted.
The charter is authority for the school to elect its mem­
After each election a list of members must be sent
to the headquarters.
After these things have been done,
the school may consider itself a part of the National
Honor Society.
A criticism of the organization.
The fact that the
National Honor Society had a membership of 250,000 in 1937
might suggest that it was a faultless organization with
only desirable characteristics.
Apparently throughout the
years many administrators have felt that it was ideal.
the light of modern thinking, the organization and its
policies might be considered, to some extent, faulty.
In the first place it is generally believed that
education in a democracy should consider and provide equal
Material giving directions can be obtained by
writing the Secretary of the National Honor Society whose
headquarters are at the University of Chicago, 5835
Klmbark Avenue, Chicago, Illinois. The application blank,
the charter fee of five dollars, and two copies of the
constitution must be sent in.
opportunity for every individual*
Since the National
Honor Society has stressed scholarship as on© of its
requirements, it would seem that it is undemocratic.
cause of inherent limited ability, a great percentage of
the school population can never hope to earn membership
even though they possess all the other desirable qualities.
leadership has been used as another requirement of
the National Honor Society.
Wise leadership has always
been desirable in any democratic body, but there are many
fine citizens who are excellent followers but not leaders.
On this topic Overn has said:
It may be a mistake to motivate everyone possible
toward leadership if that -Work is understood to mean
the leadership of other individuals who are to conform
to some personal standards which the leader sets up.
Education is supposed to uphold common standards which
have been accepted generally in the democracy. The
leadership always should simply point everyone to the
common ideals and induce as closely as possible a
conformity with them. It should not be dominance. It
should point the way toward independence toward thought
and action, the only uniformity being a harmony with
accepted common standards.-*
It would seem obvious that some of the world*s
problems are the result of selfish and unwise leadership.
Motivation of such a characteristic is, therefore, a prob­
lem with many angles.
J A. V. Overn, The Teacher in Modern Education
(New York: D. Appleton-Gentury Company, 1935), p. 4-7.
The very nature of the qualifications for election
to the National Honor Society have made judging them a
difficult task.
Ideally it would seem that they would all
he determined in terms of the needs of the Individual
pupils, and since their needs are legion, any artificial
system of awards would he so complicated and cumbersome
it would not he practical#
The National Honor Society was an out­
growth of independent scholarship organizations throughout
the United States.
In 1921 it was organized hy the
Department of Secondary School Principals of the National
Education Association and has been sponsored by them
throughout its history.
Because its requirements are only
scholarship, leadership, service, and character, it would
seem that it Is not truly democratic.
Making a fair
selection of members would seem to be a difficult and al­
most impossible task, because of the character of the
The National Honor Society has changed very little
since its organization.
Since concepts of education are
changing constantly, recent literature has indicated some
dissatisfaction with the society and all school awards in
As teachers and administrators were feeing called
upon annually to make selections of students for the
National Honor Society, In attempts to fee fair to all they
have tried to develop some objective bases for selection
of candidates.
In most places only teachers who have had
direct contact with the pupils have been permitted to vote
on their ©lection.
large schools have indicated that the
difficulty in rating a student was caused fey the failure
of the teacher to remember him.
Systems for selection of members. Being aware of
the possibility of unfairness and unpleasant results of
membership selection, different schools have devised a
number of selection systems.
These have Included rating
charts, committees on qualifications, and score cards*
McMurray, in reporting on "A Method of Choosing Members?
has said:
With such intangible and uncertain bases as we have
for grading character, service and leadership, each
of which is to be counted of equal importance with
scholarship, it seems to me that we should use a
system of grading which will most nearly result in a
majority decision of participating teachers and which
will limit and equalize the power of any one teacher
in arriving at the final standings of the various
The society^ report in Bulletin 56 . which appeared
in April, 1955, pointed out that it was never the intention
of the founders of the society to demand absolutely
accurate evaluation-
Such was obviously impossible in the
absence of scientific instruments for measurement.
purpose was to insist that a student have a more rounded
life with scholarship as one of the main objectives.
rating scale was suggested by which a teacher could vote
on each student.
It was as follows*
5 “ highest
4 - above average
3 • average
2 - below average
1 - lowest^
The same report included an outline of requirements
for the three qualifications other than leadership.
character requirements were as followss
^ C. D. McMurray, "A Method of Choosing Members,”
Bulletin 58 of the National Association of High School
Principals. 195557 December, 1935*
Bulletin 56 of the National Association of
Secondary School Principals. April, 1935*
3 ibia.
Meets Individual pledges and responsibilities
to school and teachers promptly*
Demonstrates highest standards of attitude
toward honesty and reliability*
Constantly demonstrates desirable qualities of
Cooperates by complying with school regulations.
Upholds principles of morality and ethics.
leadership list of requirements Included the
following i
Demonstrates leadership in classrooms*
Demonstrates leadership in promoting school
Successfully holds school offices or positions
of responsibility.
Contributes ideas which improve the civic life
of the school.
Exerts the type of leadership which directly
influences others for good. 5
In the field of service, the following requirements
5 ibid.
were given:
Willingness to render any service to the school
when called upon.
Willingness to do committee or staff work.
Readiness to show courtesy hy assisting teachers,
visitors, and students.
Willingness to represent the school in interclass or inter-school competition.
Willingness to render^worthwhile service to the
school and community.
The National Council considered these requirements
as general and desirable in any school situation.
at the least, have interpreted the meaning of the terms—
character, leadership, and service.
The fourth quali­
fication, scholarship, has always been determined by means
of the marking system.
It has been understood throughout
all the chapters of the Society that if at any time before
graduation a member failed to maintain the standing of the
society, he should be dropped from membership.
Some schools have used the method of allowing all
eligible candidates for election to vote on each other.
Some have combined this method with a check list system for
use of teachers. Fleehor , of Washburn High School in
8 Ibid*
L. A. Fleenor, "Methods of Selecting Members,"
Bulletin 48 of the National Association of High School
Principals. §1:21, May, 1937*
Minneapolis described this method and stated that final
selections were not to be made known by advisers until all
were selected.
He even suggested announcing the members
by starring their names on the commencement program*
Advantages he noted in using the above method were theses
Selection does not depend upon personal
preference of one person or a small group.
Selection la rather objective and mathematical*
Candidates and faculty feel that fairness and
merit usually prevail.
A wholesome effect is made upon many pupils
early that they may attain merit and recog­
Parents and unsuccessful candidates understand.
Pupils make direct contact with problems in
human conduct since they must be rated and
There were a few possible disadvantages, however:
The method requires considerable preparation
and mathematical computation.
Rankings are not always of relative weight*
In the final analysis it is Impossible to define
and measure qualities which are included.
Some inaccuracy can enter into the ratings.^
Blackburn, in her book, Our High School Clubs,
® Loc* cit*
Loc* cit*
^ Lura Blackburn, Our High School Clubs (New Yorks
The Macmillan Company, 192$).
has mad© the suggestion that a Committee on Elections
composed of five faculty persons he appointed.
These should
he chosen early in the year to work the greater part of the
year on selections.
Their major task is to prepare a
tentative list of candidates; this list should he handed to
each teacher early in the semester.
A questionnaire about
each candidate is to he filled out hy every teacher.
following form was suggested:
How have you known him?
The votes of all teachers would he considered and
tabulated hy the Committee on Elections who would then
announce the selections.
Blackburn has pointed out also that:
One of the serious problems of the Committee on
Elections Is to see that It Is the positive rather than
the negative qualities of a student which win for him
a place in the National Honor Society.11
In 1934 Bonecutter12 reported on the selection
11 Ibid., p. 141.
0# S. Bonecutter, ^National Honor Society
Election and Initiation,*1 The Kansas Teacher» 38*9* January,
method used in Great Bend, Kansas.
In the first place,
four faculty committees were selected.
Each committee was
charged with rating the eligible students on one of the
four Honor Society attributes.
No one committee was aware
of the score awarded each student by any of the other
The Committee on Service used as its guide a
complete list of all the activities engaged in by each
student in the upper third of the class.
The Committee
on Leadership made use of the activity list also.
Committee on Character was selected carefully with a view
to obtaining members best acquainted with the individuals
The ratings given each eligible student by
the various committees were then consolidated, and the
highest ranking students based on their total score were
then elected to the National Honor Society.
The judgment of four separate committees, each
independent of the other, is a forward step toward
objectivity in selecting National Honor Society mem­
bers. •*•5
One of the reasons for the great variety of methods
of selecting members has been that the National Council
has never set any definite standards.
It has preferred to
allow each individual student body to work out its own
loc. cit.
satisfactory solution to the problem.
The reason for this
is obviously that no fair and scientific means of election
has ever been devised.
The large number of systems in use
seem to give evidence of this fact. Cannon
in reporting
the results of her survey said that 50 per cent of the
schools were using the point system of selecting honor
Of the group studied, 25.3 per cent indicated
the choices were based only on faculty rating, and 8*4 per
cent allowed a combination student-faculty vote.
Lynch3*^ criticized the unfairness of honor society
selections by case study methods.
First, he described
Olive Mason, who was the third highest in scholarship in
her class of one hundred.
She had served as editor of the
school paper, secretary of the commercial club, treasurer
of the art club and vice-president of the home economics
She was described as conscientious, dependable and
unassuming, and was average In dress and appearance.
was not admitted to the honor society on the grounds of
^ Helen Cannon, ”A Survey of Junior High Rewarding
Practices,” California Journal of Education. 16:41-6,
January, 1941.
James Lynch, ‘‘The Trouble with Honor Societies,”
Clearing House. 15*339-41, February, 1941.
personality and leadership.
fourth in a class of 125•
Alice Daws stood twentyShe was a cheer leader and a
member of the girls* glee club.
She had a sprightly atti­
tude and was very fashionable in dress*
She was accepted
immediately into the honor society without question.
Fox was rejected by the honor society because of low ratings
in service and leadership.
In scholarship he was first in
a class of 125, and he was greatly interested in science.
He was president of the science club and had been stage
manager for the dramatic club.
In contrast, (Jerald S.
was seventeenth in a class of one hundred.
He was described
as tall, dark, and handsome and played the piano in the
school dance orchestra.
He was also on the track team.
was elected to the honor society at once.
Common sense and logic, it would seem, would conclude
that, In spite of all the rating charts and devices, such
practices are unfair and unscientific.
Induction ceremonies.
The council has never made
any definite ruling regarding ceremonies of induction or
In Bulletin 67. these remarks on the subject
An impressive ceremony of initiation is one of the
best methods of instilling the aims and Ideals of the
society into the new members and the school at large.
These ceremonies should be public. There is no uniform
ritual# In recent years the ceremony has been dignified
and has tended toward simplicity.1*
The following example of an induction ritual is that
used in Phillips High School, Birmingham, Alabama:
(The curtain rises to soft music, revealing on the
center of the stage a large gilded replica of the Honor
Society emblem. Pour figures representing Scholarship,
Leadership, Character, and Service, dressed in robes of
gold, purple, white, and red, respectively, stand in
pose about the symbol. Two heralds, appropriately
garbed, announce with a bugle call, the Spirit of the
Honor Society who is dressed in red and white, and
holds a burning torch*)
Spirit of the Honor Society:
I am the spirit of the Honor Society:
The flame of my ideals
Has lead men to aspire
To sublime heights
And spurred them on to rich endeavors.
Thru ages many have I breathed into their souls
The pureness of my passion
For the good, the noble, and the true.
To-day I represent the principles
Upon which schools are founded
The mighty ends
Toward which they strive.
My emblem is the keystone
Which, like the builder, do I fit
Into the perfect arch of Education
To hold it firm and ever true
To the high aims of Life.
I forward bear the flaming torch,
The symbol of my purpose
To bring the gleaming light of Truth
Into the shadows of the world
Lighting the altars of Youth
With the pure fires of Idealism,
^ Bulletin 67 of the National Association of
Secondary Schoo1 ft*Incipals. p# 59*
The followers of my torch
By visions of my noble aims inspired,
Shall ever strive to reach
The four sublime and lofty goals
To which I lead.
Come forth, beings four
Who form my very essence
Come, and now proclaim unto the world
Your missions*
Scholarship, you first — —
(Dressed in gold)
I have been the impelling power
Of noble minds in ages.past,
Who searched for truth in all its forms,
And with their golden stores
Of knowledge,
Enriched the lives of men,
Dispelled the poverty of ignorance.
I am the inspiration of the present
That ever bids the minds of youth
To delve with earnest purpose
Into the riches of Man’s learning
And thence to add
Some treasure of their own discovery
For the ennobling of the Future.
Spirit of the Honor Societys
And you, 0 Leadership —
(Dressed in purple)
I am the power of personality
That, with the earnest energy
Of an inspired purpose,
Blazes the new and upward paths
Of Progress.
I set my seal upon the great,
Who, in Statecraft, Art, or Science,
Or in any field of high endeavor
Have bettered the thoughts and deeds of men.
To-day I would my challenge clear
To you, the vanguard of the Futures
Call forth the noble forces of your race.
And lead them from the dark
Into the light of day -—
Their day of Destiny*
Spirit of the Honor Society:
Come, speak, 0 Character *—
(Dressed in white)
I am that firm integrity
Of Character,
That comes like tempered steel -Hammered, burned, refined,
From the glowing forge of Life.
I am the priceless total
Of all true attempts:
The growth of heart and mind
And soul
O'er countless narrow bounds*
More than reputation,
Greater than career.
I stand, a shining beacon,
Enduring to eternity,
Who beckon men to build
On high and solid rock
The dwellings of their souls*
Spirit of the Honor Society?
And you, 0 Service
Speak -Service?
(Dressed in red)
I symbolize the altar
Of altruism
By which the richest blessings
From the gods to men
Pave been given*
I form the end and aim
Of school and life;
The noblest purpose which Inspires the acts of men:
The highest calling to which they have listened
Rapt, and heeded.
Lifted from the planes of selfish labor,
Lay your offerings
On my altars —
Ennoble thus the gift, however small,
And thus enrich the race of men.
Spirit of the Honor Society:
And now I call into my train
The students who have proved
Their true desire for noble things
By past attempts and past achievements.
(New members file in, carrying lighted candles. ) Music
begins, stops when all members on stage.-Herald, call out the names of those
Who have attained this honor
Which I now bestow.
(Herald reads names from scroll.)
I welcome you, 0 followers of my torch,
Into this fellowship.
Keep bright the flame of high ideals
And carry forth into the world
The light of wisdom and the light of truth.
(Curtain to soft music.)
Rynearson, who has been called "the father of the
society,” expressed the purpose of rituals and inductions
when he wrote:
The school at large will judge a society to a great
extent by public exercises. The induction of new
members is a great opportunity to create enthusiasm
for scholarship among those who have not been
awakened to the importance of a complete development
Ibid., pp. 42-5
of their powers. On the other hand, those selected
for member ship should he made to realize that because
of their conspicuous leadership, intellectual achieve­
ments, loyalty to high ideals and nobility of
character, they are not to be withdrawn from the
"mass" and form a “class,M but that this added honor
carries increased obligation, that unusual ability
entails extraordinary responsibility, and that they
are greatest who serve the most.3*9
This is the ideal situation, but there is no proof
that any good results come from such rituals.
criticized honor assemblies by saying, “They put some pupils
on a plane above others.
Some are saddened by their failure
after great effort has been put forth, and parents often
have the greatest heartaches.“
It is obvious that attempts have been made
to make fair selections of membership to the honor society.
Many different methods of selection are still in use, and
the point system is preferred.
The fact remains that there
is no scientific method of measuring such qualities as
leadership, character, and service, and for this reason it
would appear that seleotlon of members will never be
entirely fair and democratic.
Edward Rynearson, Bulletin 57 of the National
Association of Secondary School frinolpala. p. 41.
Lloyd Ashby, "Awards Away,
59*-27, April, 1940.
School Executive.
After the selections have heen made, many schools
have elaborate and interesting induction ceremonies*
Although some enthusiastic supporters of the society feel
that these ceremonies impress and encourage the student
body, there is a great possibility that some pupils may
become saddened and discouraged*
Even though the selection techniques and induction
ceremonies were probably designed with the best of in­
tentions, it would seem that they have not made the
National Honor Society a democratic organization.
Despite the fact that the constitution of the
National Honor Society has undergone very little change in
twenty years, the society itself-has broadened its program.
The growth it has made has taken place in this way.
scope of its activities, for one thing, has grown broader.
The fact that a workable program developed might help to
explain the extent of the organization today.
In their article, "Special Types of Activities:
Honor Societies," In the Twenty~Fifth Yearbook of the
National Society for the Study of Education. Terry and
Hagie made this comment:
The intention has been to formulate the standards
of membership in such a way as to emphasize the
development of all, rather than a few, of the virtues
of good school citizenship and to avoid any mistakes
that might follow too close an adherence to the models
of honor societies in colleges.1
Judging from this statement, it would appear that the
directors of the society have felt the emphasis of demo­
cratic educational trends and have attempted to make the
1 Paul Terry and C. E. Hagie, "Special Types of
Activities: Honor Societies," Twenty-Fifth Yearbook of the
National Society for the Study of Education. Part II.
society extend its Influence toward the school as a whole*
Two types of chapters.
The chapters of the National
Honor Society have fallen into two types of organization.
They are:
(1) the strictly honorary-scholastic group,
and (2) the activity unit which carries on a regular program
similar to that of other service groups.
The chief function
of the first group has been to identify and reward secondary
school students whose scholarship Is outstanding and whose
presence and personality have a fine influence on the
The most active chapters have been found In small
and medium-sized high schools.
The chapters of the activity group have made it
clear that they are willing to sponsor any plan of advance­
ment connected with the school and the community.
than one-ha If of the chapters have undertaken a wide
variety of activities.
These have so far fallen largely
into the following classifications:
promotion of scholar­
ship, tutoring, promotion of citizenship, management of
certain school publications, guidance and orientation, and
special group studies and research.
In fact, as many as
114 different projects have been reported to the National
Promotion of scholarship. According to the report
which appeared in Bulletin 67 of the National Association
of Secondary School Principals which was published in
May, 1937# the society had attempted to promote scholar­
ship in three principal wayas
It had tried to identify student ability through
recognition of those students whose work was of
sufficient quality to meet standards required
for membership.
It had fostered chapter activities and projects
designed to realize the Ideals of the society
which, they hoped, have had a wholesome influence
in improving scholarship in the entire school*
3* It had made an effort to teach students the
importance of looking beyond the high school
courses, seeing and striving toward worthy goals
and making the Ideals of the society a means of
self-guidance in their higher education and in
their daily living.2
Devices which were reported as effective in promoting
scholarship were:
1* Helping, encouraging and guiding other students
through such activities as tutoring.
2. Compiling honor rolls and achievement lists.
3* Acting as a scholarship committee for the school
or its student council*
4. Establishing scholarships.
Awarding plaques, medals, banners or certificates
to home rooms having the highest scholarship or
greatest improvement.
Bulletin 67 of the National Association of Second
ary School Principals, May, 1937-
Preparing helps on how to study.
Writing letters of congratulation to high rank­
ing students.
Promoting home room programs, assemblies or
school forums.3
So long as recognizing high scholarship has always
been one of the ma^or functions of the National Honor
Society, it would appear only natural that the organization
should encourage it.
If these devices had served to en­
courage every student to do his best and to improve upon
his own record, they would have served as Intrinsic
If they have encouraged scholarship in order
to winfor the student a certain award It would appear that
they have not been based on sound psychology.
Tutoring activities.
in an article con­
cerning the contributions of the National Honor Society has
expressed the opinion that tutoring is probably its most
significant activity.
He also said that this activity was
unique with this organization.
National Honor Society
members, he believed, were selected on the basis of
qualities which particularly fit them for such an activity.
C. 0. Harvey, wTutoring Activities of the National
Honor Society,” School and Sooiety. 46:637-4*0* November,
Tli© sponsors of the project believe it has served the
schools hy making education effective to a greater number
of the diverse population of secondary schools.
activity has also been beneficial, they have thought, to
the students participating in it because it has given them
opportunities to exercise initiative and organization, and
to cooperate with the faculty and their fellow students.
Harvey believes that it has fostered good will and a spirit
of mutual helpfulness.
The young tutors have, in most schools, been
instructed to aid in helping students to learn to study—
never to prepare an assignment for a fellow student,
more than five students were ever assigned to one tutor.
After a month the coach has followed the plan of checking
with the teacher about the results.
If the results were
reported satisfactory, the work continued.
adjustments were made.
If not, new
At the close of each semester
attempts were made to modify and improve the procedure.
West High in Oleveland, Ohio, reported that 110
students were helped in a month*s time.
The Ensley
Chapter of Birmingham, Alabama, reported that they were
able to raise the school*s standard of scholarship in this
Backward students were aided to become better
adapted to school life, they felt, and there were fewer
In some places students who were having diffi­
culty requested help and later expressed their appreciation
for it.
Enthusiastic supporters of the project believed
that the practice has had a tendency to wipe out any feel­
ing of envy less brilliant members of the student body
might have felt when elections were announced.
resulted in members of the society proving themselves
willing and eager to help less fortunate students.
This plan of tutoring is not without merit, It
seems, as long as the tutors are genuinely altruistic and
It would seem also that some adolescents
bright enough to serve as tutors might possibly become
egotistical and condescending towards those whom they were
helping unless a proper attitude had been developed in the
student body.
Promotion of citizenship. Education for citizenship
has long been one of the objectives of the public schools
of America.
The National Honor Society has, from the
beginning, aimed to provide incentive and recognition for
those students who have ability and the desire to do out­
standing work in their studies.
It has aimed to give
encouragement to the ones who desire to build character
and purpose that will make them an influence for finer and
bettor living.
The organization leaders have assumed that
the activities and projects for promoting citizenship have
helped in the building of desirable traits in the Individual
as well as in the school community.
They have felt that
they have contributed to the solution of one of the most
significant problems of the modern secondary school— how
to open the way for young people to participate in the
social# economic, civic, and political affairs of their
It is an accepted principle of education
that students of the secondary school should be given
experience under guidance in dealing with representative
citizenship problems.
The National
Honor Society, which
is supposed to be made of those students who excel in the
desirable qualities of scholarship, leadership, character,
and service, has tried to provide a nucleus around which
the school could center a program of citizenship
activities which might permeate into the entire life of
the school.
It appears obvious that a group of the
school1s finest thinkers could surely create activities
that would give citizenship training.
In order to be
truly democratic, all the students should have a part in
the activities as well as a part in planning and organi­
zing them*
In view of modern democratic education it
would seem that such citizenship experience as the
National Honor Society has sponsored would he acceptable
so long as the entire student body might participate on
an equal basis*
Journalistic activities*
Many societies have found
publication projects a significant medium for realizing
the cardinal principles of the organization, especially
those of service and leadership*
School handbooks have
been one of the most useful publications sponsored by the
National Honor Society.
They have ordinarily presented
rules, regulations, traditions, scholastic requirements,
and activity programs.
Officials of the society have re­
ported that such a handbook has served the following
1* It is a source of information on school life
as nearly complete as can be made*
2. It is an Integrating force in the school*
3- It is an interpretation of the school activities
to the community.
4. Through exchange with other schools It serves as
a means of exchanging ideas and a source of
National Honor Society chapters have served In
numerous other capacities such as:
They have acted as an editorial hoard for the
school paper.
They have edited the yearbook.
They have prepared a school history.
They have provided Parent-Teacher Association
They have provided home room bulletins.
They have made directories of school regulations.
They have prepared alumni news letters.
They have edited books of study helps.
They have prepared scholastic bulletins for
each grading period.5
Some societies have even assumed the responsibility
of starting and publishing a school newspaper.
This was
done in Wayne, West Virginia; in Gary, Indiana, by the
Emerson chapter; in Glney, Illinois; and in Bellaire, Ohio.
The Lincoln High School chapter of Cleveland, Ohio,
compiled and published a booklet entitled Good Manners.
Graduating seniors of one organization prepared for future
students a volume of good study habits which they had found
useful through experience.
The activities of the various
chapters have been varied and numerous throughout the
years of the Society*s existence.
Because of the flexi­
bility of its program the active chapters have been able
Bulletin 67 of the National Association of Second­
ary School Principals, 21:43.
to try to do those necessary and desirable things that no
other school organization covers.
Guidance and orientation activities*
Those who have
supervised the organization have indicated their feelings
that none of the projects which have been developed in the
various chapters of the National Honor Society has re­
flected the spirit and ideals of the organization better
than those connected with guidance and orientation*
Student handbooks, how-to-study helps, and home room
bulletins earlier mentioned as journalistic activities
have served as orientation material.
The society members
in many schools have tried to do a great deal in orienting
new students to school environment and in guiding them
into wholesome social relationships*
Some groups have
made collections of material about colleges and vocations*
Others have conducted information bureaus and school forums
and have served as Mbig brother” and Mbig sister” com­
The Crofton, Pennsylvania chapter sponsored a col­
lege night program in cooperation with the Parent-Teacher
The meeting was designed to further the
mutual acquaintance of the colleges, parents and students
in regard to such things as entrance requirements,
curriculum offerings, and the like.
Vocational Day at Elkino Park, Pennsylvania, found
members acting as hosts to representatives of trades and
industries who came to discuss with students and teachers
regarding vocations.
Schools in resort towns such as
Gulfport, Mississippi, with many new students entering
during the year have used members of the National Honor
Society as guides, hosts, and friends for the newcomers.
The Hamburg, New York chapter has had as its aim
the encouragement of continuation of education after
graduation from high school.
The members have made it
their task, therefore, to Investigate scholarships, loan
funds and opportunities for earning part of one*s college
The Sheridan, Wyoming chapter has sponsored an
annual Freshman Day when the incoming students— for the
most part from ranches— were given an opportunity to be­
come acquainted with the school.
Since this plan has been
followed, school authorities have noticed a decrease in
the number who drop out because of unhappiness or embarrass’
Members of the society in Lincoln, Nebraska, have
been given the opportunity to help with registration of
new pupils.
The Minot, South Dakota chapter has sponsored
a series of programs on "Problems That Young People Face in
Adjusting Themselves to Live with Others.,f The purpose of
this series, as the members have outlined it, is to help
develop the whole personality.
The national sponsors have felt that the extent of
the services rendered by the chapters of the National
Honor Society has been almost unlimited.
They have also
stated that the purpose of the programs carried out by
many chapters has been to foster in young people the
desirable qualities that lay a foundation for success in
a profession, in getting along with others and in whatever
other activities an Individual may have a part.
Of the two types of chapters, the honorary-
scholastic group and the activity unit, it would seem that
the latter is the more serviceable in a school situation.
The activities of such organizations have touched several
fields; namely, promotion of scholarship, tutoring, citizen­
ship promotion, journalism, and guidance and orientation.
In spite of the fact that the National Honor Society,
on the whole, does not appear to be a democratic organi­
zation, it would seem that the broad, evolving program of
its activity units tends toward the direction of democracy
p. 123.
in education.
Since the activities of the group may possibly
reach the whole school, the entire student body may profit
from its program.
According to modern educational beliefs
it appears that the activity-unit type of chapter would be
more nearly worthy of a position in a modern school than the
At the time when the National Honor Society was being
established in the secondary schools of this country, the
custom of granting awards of various kinds was almost a
School authorities apparently thought they had
found the ideal type of motivation for pupil accomplishment
and for building desirable personality and character traits.
Without any scientific research as basis, educators pro­
ceeded to establish a schedule of awards in the junior high
schools of the country.
The organization of the Junior Honor Society.
than a year after the Senior National Honor Society had
been launched, chapters in various parts of the country had
extended Honor Society activities by forming organizations
that would include underclassmen.1
In 1924, Terry and
undertook a survey of practices of local chapters.
One phase of their survey was a discussion of replies to
0. Harvey and H. E. Patrick, Bulletin 67 of th
National Association of Secondary School Principals. 21:160"3, May, 1937.
Paul W. Terry and 0. E. Hagie, "Special Types of
Activities: Honor Society," TwentyHFifth Yearbook of the
National Society for the Study of Education. Part II.
the question, "Should membership privileges be extended to
pupils of the lower classes?"
According to Society
authorities the study showed that ten schools had already
organized junior chapters in some form, and more than twothirds of the schools that were questioned believed the
plan desirable*
At the 1925 meeting of the National Council
the president was instructed to study the question of the
junior chapter and report on it in 1926*
In the same year Willis of the Maryland State Normal
School made the following statement in an article in the
School Review:
The underclass honor group seems almost an inevitable
adjunct to a successful chapter of the National Honor
Society. It carries the ideas and ideals down among
the underclassmen until actual membership is within
the time perspective even of a freshman; it provides a
group large enough for effective action even in a small
school; it puts the "stimulation of success" within the
reach of a very much larger percentage of pupils; and
it opens the possibility that the honor society may be
a really vital factor in the lives of the pupils. With
a junior society to do the active work, membership in
the National Honor Society might well be conferred late
in the senior year, an honor similar to graduation it­
self in recognizing the successful completion of a
course of preparatory training . . .
The basis for membership in the junior society might
well be somewhat different from the basis for membership
in the senior group; character, a measurably high
standard of scholarship, leadership, and service. Such
qualifications are harder to measure in the younger
pupils; they may be latent in a boy or a girl who does
nothing but study; they may be threatening to ruin the
scholarship of those other capable pupils who are
temporarily intoxicated by the feeling of power and
popularity. Cannot the junior society be flexible
enough to include the talented and try to bring out
their undeveloped qualities
This statement indicates the attitude of most edu­
cators in 1926*
It would seem that at that time they were
giving most of their attention to extrinsic types of
Willis* remarks are obviously Indicative of
her enthusiasm, but she has failed to prove the truth of
her statement*
Frunty^ reported a recommendation of the Council
urging that the Junior National Honor Society be in no way
connected with the senior society*
Being in the Junior
Honor Society did not guarantee one’s later election to
the Senior Honor Society.
The constitution of the Junior
Honor Society had conformed cloaely in its provisions to
those of the senior society, but there has never been a
direct connection between the two*
It was decided that prospective members were to be
chosen from the upper 10 per cent of the class in scholar­
Members were to be voted into the society by the
school principal and a committee of faculty members.
^ Margaret Willis, ”The National Honor Society,”
School Review, 34:134-5, February, 1926.
^ Merle Frunty, ”The National Honor Society vs
High School Fraternities,” Junior-Senior High School
Clearing House, 4:263-5, January, 1930*
were to be selected on the basis of positive qualities of
good citizenship, scholarship, service* leadership, and
To be eligible the student must have spent at
least one year in the school electing him to the society.
Any member who fell below the upper 10 per cent scholastic
standard or who exhibited unworthy qualities of citizen­
ship, scholarship, leadership, service, or character had
to forfeit his membership.
The Junior Honor Society and the senior society
have always been similar in organization and purposes.
It would seem, then, that there would be the same
criticisms and objections to the junior group that there
are for the other.
It is interesting to note that most of the schools
that have curtailed awards have begun with the Junior
In January of 1941 » Cannon^ made a survey of
awarding practices by sending a questionnaire to 166
junior high schools.
Results of her research showed that
the most consistently awarded item in 1941 was superior
scholarship which fact is in line with traditional
Teachers who answered the questionnaire indi­
cated that the generally accepted reasons for award
^ Helen Cannon, f,A Survey of Junior High Awarding
Practices.n California Journal of Education, l6:4l,
January, 1941.
systems were:
Motivation of better work.
Hecognition of good service.
Development of school spirit.
According to Ashby:
Award systems seldom function in this manner. Since
they are known in advance, they become Incentives for
participation in good work rather than badges of
recognition or reward for work already done.®
Certainly good school spirit is desirable and any­
thing which fosters it is worthy of consideration, but
Smith' has indicated that there is no proof that granting
awards does tend to develop good school spirit.
Cannon from her survey noted a definite tendency
toward group awards rather than individual ones.
reports Indicated that their honor societies had been dis­
continued for these reasons:
Wrong emphasis and discontent.
Motivation for wewards, not work at hand.
Ill feeling.
Lloyd Ashby, 11Awards Away,” School Executive,
59:26, April, 1940.
7 Heth Smith, MWhy We Discontinued or Curtailed
Honor Awards,” Clearing House, 11:283, January, 1937*
Cannon, o£. cit., p* 45.
Many ©motional and physical upsets.
5* - Few benefit; many hurt.
Too great a strain on adolescents.
Impossible to rate fairly.
Ashbyy and Smith
both reported on abandoning
awards in the junior high schools of Richmond, Indiana.
Their decision to discontinue awards was not reached
Their problem was such that they could see three
possible solutions.
They were to allow the system wjust
to grow,11 to arbitrarily (and probably unfairly) limit the
scope and influence of the award system, or to discard
entirely the policy of granting awards.
They decided on
the latter course, and after three years have reported
these results:
Students still wish to participate in
activities of all kinds*
The scholastic record is as good as formerly.
Boys and girls have good reasons for wanting
to participate in various aspects of school
^ Ashby, op. clt.» p. 27*
Smith, op. cit., p. 283.
They participate on the judgment of actual
They participate because they think they
can contribute something to the organization,
and it can contribute something to them.
They participate because they expect to
enjoy the activity.
School activities are of a better quality.
After the senior National Honor Society
was established, school authorities, apparently under the
impression that honor societies were the ideal type of
motivation, decided to organize a Junior Society for
junior high schools.
Because there seemed to be sufficient
enthusiasm for the junior group, the National Association
of High School Principals assumed the sponsorship of the
second organization.
Obviously aware of the fact that adolescence brings
many changes in youth, the Council made it clear that
election to the junior organization did by no means
Insure election to the older group two or three years
Although the junior group was well established in
some schools, it has never been so well known as the
original National Honor Society.
It is interesting to
not© that curtailment of awards and honors has begun In
the Junior high schools-
It seems that some critics have
concluded by now that emphasis on extrinsic awards is
especially unwise among younger pupils-
According to educational philosophers, the function
of education is, ostensibly, to guide pupils into whole­
some and worthwhile social relationships, to direct the
behavior of youth in the light of clearly perceived per­
sonal values and into those avenues of activity which lead
to successful and happy adjustment.
Even though educators
have agreed that they endorse this philosophy of education,
many available reports have shown that they do not follow
it in their school procedures.*1' Fairing has said:
Even with the influx of progressive education
theories, the practice of establishing rewards has
Increased rather than decreased. The newer emphasis
on positive appeals in contrast to negative appeals;
namely punishment, has fostered the growth of reward
The present status of the National Honor Society.
A recent report from Church,
secretary of the National
Honor Society, has stated that in June, 194-1, this
^ Robert Fairing, "Rewards That Defeat Themselves,M
American School Board Journal, 53:79> April, 194-1.
2 Lae. clt* Letter written by Mr. Church on June 21, 19^1*
organization included 2,933 chapters*
The chapters are
located in every state in the Union as well as in Hawaii,
Puerto Rico and the Philippines.
About six hundred
thousand persons comprise the membership of the Society.
Ghurch also reported the addition of 125 new chapters
between January, 1941, and June, 1941*
He did not, how­
ever, report on the number of schools that have dropped
their membership in the organization and it is known that
some have done so.^
A recent bulletin issued by the Society’s national
headquarters has listed what its sponsors consider as the
chief advantages of the organization in a school*
They are
as follows:
It creates an enthusiasm for scholarship through­
out the school.
It encourages a desire on the part of the pupils
to render service to the school and to the
It causes a pupil to evaluate himself and to
see if there are elements of leadership within
It is a stimulus to the student to watch those
acts that develop character.
^ Hastings, Nebraska, and Burbank, California
high schools have dropped out.
It makes a chapter member eligible for loans
of money to continue his career in an insti­
tution of higher learning.
These so-called ”advantages,n it would appear, are,
in reality, hopes or aims.
Since the organization has
never proved by scientific investigation that a chapter of
the Society really accomplishes all these objectives, it
is not possible to believe that these contentions are true
The last named advantage Is the only real one.
The Society’s revolving scholarship loan fund has enabled
some members to secure aid in financing higher education.
This activity of the organization, it appears, is one of
its few genuine contributions to members.
Modern trends in awardIng practices.
The use of
rewards and honors as a means of motivation has been a
time-honored, universal practice.
When an award system
begins in a school, it would seem that its extent is almost
unlimited, since there are innumerable traits and
characteristics that might be awarded.
Just recently educational literature has indicated
a noticeable tendency toward dissatisfaction with awards
and the eventual curtailment and elimination of them.
In 1939, McKown made this statement, f,Kilpatriek,
Spaulding and others have all pointed out the weaknesses in
giving these recognitions.
will have disappeared.*1^
Possibly in time all such awards
McKbwn’s prediction may appear
radical to some, but the trend of recent literature on the
subject seems to indicate that the elimination of awards
is a definite possibility.
Concerning extra-curricular activities, Jones wrote,
l,Extrinsic motivation, such as credit awards, is not neces­
sary to the development of the interest and effort of youth
in these activities.”^
Another comment concerning award trends was given
in this statement, ‘’Material rewards and penalties are
playing an increasingly smaller role in the modern, wellgoverned school.”^
After her survey of junior high awarding practices,
Cannon came to this conclusion, ,fA noticeable tendency
exists to de-emphasize rewarding and to stress pride in
It is obvious that these comments are
5 Harry B. McKown, Extra-Curricular Activities
(New York: The Macmillan Company, 1939)'> P • 5^3*
^ Galen Jones, **Extra-Curricular Activities in
Relation to the Curriculum,11 Teachers * College Contri­
butions to Education, No. o67» 1935*
7 H. A. Riebe, M. J. Nelson, and C. A. Kittrell,
The Classroom (New York: The Cordon Company, 1938).
® Helen Cannon, ”A Survey of Junior High Awarding
Practices," California Journal of Eduoatlon. 16:46,
January, 1941.
indications that there is a tendency to break away from
extensive awarding practices.
Some literature has Indicated attempts on the part
of certain schools to replace present practices with a
more democratic system of service awards.
It would seem
that such an award is superior to the traditional ones
based largely on scholarship*
The service award is within
the reach of every pupil irrespective of special talent.
It is democratic insofar as it may be earned by everyone
in the school who desired to put forth the effort re­
Ashby’s report on the results of reward elimination
in the junior high schools of Richmond, Indiana, seems to
indicate that rewards are really not necessary.
Elimination of them tends to place emphasis on
reflective thinking, cooperation, and participation
rather than on competition, which leads to defeat for
some as well as victory for others. We believe that
the elimination of awards tends to create a situation
more in line with what must be achieved if democracy
is to be meaningful in or out of school.10
Even though comparatively few schools have gone so
far as to eliminate awards entirely as yet, current
^ Jesse Rathbun, "School Service Awards," Sierra
Educational News. 34:20, May, 1938.
10 Lloyd Ashby, "Awards Away," School Executive,
59:27, April, 1940.
literature in general does seem to point to these common
Teachers are still aiming at' legitimate
intrinsic motivation for participation in
various activities*
They desire democratic recognition of students
of varying abilities*
They hope that each student can have an allaround development*
They are eager for the encouragement of felicity
between the school and parents.
Although the headquarters of the National
Honor Society have reported a continued increase in member­
ship, they have not indicated the number of schools that
have discontinued their chapter activities.
Recent edu­
cational literature has indicated dissatisfaction with
present award practices and has described attempts to
replace them with more democratic procedures.
The service
award has been used by some schools, and a few have
eliminated awards entirely, especially on the junior high
school level.
The problem undertaken in this study was
a critical analysis of honor societies and award systems
in general with specific emphasis on the National Honor
The National Honor Society came into existence in
1921 under the sponsorship of the National Association of
Secondary School Principals.
It was the result of a
desire to have in the secondary sehool an organization
similar to Phi Beta Kappa in colleges and universities.
In addition to scholarship, It also was designed to recog­
nize the qualifications of character, leadership, and
Although the National Honor Society has had chapters
throughout the United States It is but one phase of the
custom of granting awards in education*
Because of recent
emphasis on democracy in education, the traditional
practices of granting awards are among those now under­
going critical scrutiny by mental hyglenists and school
Traditional educators have long sought motivation
for every phase of school life.
They have tried to find
a motive for every lesson rather than in it.
Ideally election to membership in the National Honor
Society would be recognition for work well done, it has
been used as a motivation for better work.
Because of the
requirement of high scholastic rating, a large percentage
of the school population, through no fault of their own,
can never hope to attain membership in the Society.
that reason, if for no other, the organization is un­
Schools have long tried to work out democratic,
fair methods for selecting members of the organization.
Many different techniques are in use, but none are entirely
satisfactory because it is obviously impossible to measure
scientifically such qualifications as character, leader­
ship, and service.
Even with the best methods available
today some students who might be called "near great*1 are
made unhappy because of their failure to be selected,
while some who are selected as members might tend to be­
come conceited.
Mental hyglenists are especially concerned
with the effects of such award systems on those who do not
receive honors as well as on those who do.
Some schools have worked out elaborate initiation
ceremonies while others merely announce the selection or
give special recognition to new members at the time of
The chapters of the National Honor Society seem to
have fallen into two classifications, the strictly
honorary-scholastic group and the activity unit.
One of
the most noteworthy phases of the work of the Society
seems to have heen the contributions of the actlvity-unit
They have tried to be of use to the whole school
by attempting to encourage better scholarship, to promote
citizenship, and to carry on guidance and orientation
A study of their program reveals that it has
been flexible and changing throughout the twenty years
of its existence to meet the needs of a changing society*
After the National Honor Society had become
established in the secondary schools of the country, a
junior society was organized on very similar lines.
has never been so well known nor widespread as the older
organization, but a number of junior high schools have
had chapters.
Current literature has revealed that when schools
have begun to limit awarding practices, they have started
in the junior high school.
A junior high school National
Honor Society, therefore, would undoubtedly be eliminated
before the older organization.
A critical study of the history of
the National Honor Society as well as literature relating
to the activities and influences of such organizations
has revealed many things and suggested a number of problems
for research.
In the first place, the founding of the
organization seems to have been the logical outgrowth of a
general trend of the times.
Educators, as a result of
their belief that everything had to have a motive, desired
to motivate better scholarship in high school.
awards, and honors for outstanding achievement in school
were the custom of the times; so one more honor group seems
to have been a normal development.
The National Honor Society attempted to take a step
toward bein& a democratic organization when it recognized
three qualifications in addition to scholarship— leader­
ship, character, and service.
The main fault with this
basis is that these characteristics are qualities which
the school does not develop.
Furthermore, there is no
accurate scientific method of measuring such traits.
Any organization whose membership came to include
about six hundred thousand persons was, without doubt,
influential in the schools where its chapters were located.
Beyond that, the numerous activities of the activity-unit
chapters obviously must have made the organization's
influence felt throughout the entire student body in the
schools having such types of chapters*
The National
Honor Society seems, therefore, to have been organized
to satisfy a demand; and it probably, in part, owes its
twenty years of existence to its flexible program of
Although the sponsors of the Society have claimed
that having a chapter in a school is very advantageous,
there is no proof that the organization accomplishes all
the things they have claimed for it.
Being selected for
membership in the organization undoubtedly brings happiness
and pleasure to many persons.
Many other fine citizens
deserving of recognition fail to receive this honor because
their grades are not quite high enough or because of
numerous possible reasons.
Failing to be selected may
bring very great sorrow to some worthy people, and this
experience may do considerable harm to their personalities
and future lives.
All awards and honors which each pupil can never
hope to attain are, according to modern theories of edu­
cation, undemocratic.
If there is to be perfect democracy
in education, such organizations as the National Honor
Society cannot be expected to remain in existence without
As long as the National Honor Society requires
high scholarship, membership in it cannot be attainable
by all, and any organization which continually points out
to some that they are inferior to others has no place In
a school which is genuinely democratic.
For this reason,
it seems that curtailment of all undemocratic awards in
education is advisable; and if there must he awards,
service awards which can he earned by all who wish to work
for them should be developed.
Interesting and worthwhile results would undoubtedly
be obtained if research could be made to determine the
amount of encouragement election to the National Honor
Society gives to people.
It would also be interesting to
compare over a period of years the success of a group of
Honor Society members with that of a similar group who
just failed to be selected as members.
Because of the
fact that recent educational literature has indicated that
there is considerable dissatisfaction with award systems
now in existence, the future will undoubtedly see consider­
able research and study of these traditional practices as
well as ultimate elimination of many— and even all of
them— the National Honor Society Included.
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Johnson, Edgar £., Point Systems and Awards.
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