From the Archives: San Diego’s First Junior High Schools Opened 100 Years Ago

One hundred years ago, Memorial and Roosevelt Junior High – San Diego’s first colleges – opened on September 18, 1922. La Jolla Junior-Senior High, designed by William Templeton Johnson, also opened in 1922.

The middle school trend is part of a new educational philosophy focused on the development of young adolescents.

From the San Diego Union and the Daily Bee, Tuesday, September 19, 1922:

New junior high schools exemplify latest system of teaching students what they are able and willing to learn

The superintendent explains the idea of ​​practical instruction in capable citizenship.

By Mary Elizabeth Irwin

With the opening of three new colleges yesterday, San Diego has not only gained new visible and architectural evidence of a school system already known far and wide for its scale and for its progressiveness, but it is entering a field of educational pioneering a wonderful promise.

A junior high school is more than a name or a building. It is an idea and an ideal. It is a revolution and a vision. It removes the old habit of recitation. It encourages research as part of the teaching project plan. It develops originality. It tailors education to the individual needs of each student. In the words of Henry C. Johnson, superintendent of city schools, the slogan in a nutshell is “teach students how to study”.

The college idea is only four or five years old, but it is growing rapidly. Denver, Colorado, Oakland Calif., Lincoln, Neb., Rochester, NY and Trenton, NJ are among the cities that have adopted it. Los Angeles has a few colleges and is considering more. Virtually all major cities that have a prominent place in educational circles are studying and considering their creation. Concretely, this means a complete reorganization and a reclassification of ranks.

In the old system, there were eight levels of high schools, four high schools. Under the new plan, there are six elementary classes, three junior high, three senior high. The lower secondary cycle accommodates the seventh, eighth and ninth years.


“From the seventh grade,” says Superintendent Johnson, “every child will begin to show likes and dislikes. It is then time to introduce the options. In the new conception of education, there is no failure in the child. The failure is with the subject or with the teacher by not teaching the right subjects. there should be no such thing that a student “fails”. If a student doesn’t have a knack for math, after they’ve learned elementary math, don’t waste their time on a subject they hate and have no aptitude for. Changing his path according to his own individuality. He is interested in a particular subject. Find out what it is. Let him focus his efforts on that. The purpose of a school is to make good citizens, not to award degrees.

“If the student shows a total lack of interest in literature, is bored with the classics, take him out of academic lines and teach him business English. If he does not absorb the culture, then teach him something that will at least be useful to him. Teach him to write a letter, to speak correctly, to “sell his line”. Be practical. Children are practical.

“One of the serious flaws of the old ‘mass education’ system was that it was too rigid. He did not take into account the very different personalities of a group of students. The same lesson was assigned to everyone, in half a dozen pages of a textbook. students were supposed to be educated at home. They went to school to recite. Memory was all that was needed to carry them through a 15 minute recitation period. But memorization is more or less mechanical. It is not thinking.


“One of the biggest new ideas in education is that of supervised study. We are applying it in the new colleges. I believe that school is the place of study, not home. The home does not have facilities, even in well-to-do homes there is no place reserved for children to study A child cannot concentrate in a corner of the living room with the rest of the family talking , moves around, minds own activities. There should be quiet. The home does not have a reference library. Study should take place in an environment created to facilitate study and with a well-equipped library at hand. handy for reference and research.