Mr. Beatty’s Thesis
In 1940, after having served his first five years as principal of Cliffside School, H.C. Beatty embarked on a project that would help earn him a Masters of Arts Degree in Education from the University of North Carolina.
He did a study of those students who graduated from Cliffside High School in the years 1934 to 1939 inclusive who did not go to college, who remained in High Shoals Township.
During that period 161 students graduated. Each year, Mr. Beatty reported in his 166 page thesis, less than 18 percent of them went to college, about 23 percent moved to other communities, and the rest stayed in the local area.Comprehensive questionnaires were distributed in person to, and interviews were conducted with, 94 of the 96 of those graduates still living in High Shoals Township. Interestingly, 56 of the 94 were girls; 38 were boys.
In recent years, he wrote, the problems facing high school graduates have become so acute that many educators and laymen have begun seriously to question the ability of secondary schools to adequately train the youth to fit into the complicated social an economic order.
In other words, were the schools providing the guidance and teaching the skills these not-college-bound graduates needed to live and work in their own home town? The objective of the study was to find out.
One factor that greatly influenced the graduates’ lives after high school, he pointed out, was that the town of Cliffside “was theoretically nothing more than a textile corporation…(therefore) the officials are interested only in those business concerns which are needed to serve the community. This limits the number of business houses to those needed to serve the textile people, and the few farmers in the immediate community.” The point being, employment opportunities were greatly limited.
The findings were predictably grim. The schools provided no specific training for jobs the graduates could realistically get. While in school the students had indicated interest in occupations that required further training, usually out of the range of opportunity.
Many of the graduates felt that their high-school courses had been of no particular value to them in their present work, but were interested in continuing their education in advanced business courses, part-time and post-graduate courses in high school and evening classes (much of which was beyond the ability of the school to provide). The majority of the graduates felt the need for counseling, occupational information and placement service.
The study concluded with a long list of things the school could do to address the graduates’ “very definite problem.” One was the idea of offering an organized guidance program, to include counseling, exploration of opportunities, placement services, etc.
Another was adding post-graduate and evening classes to the curriculum.
Left unstated was the incredible cost of the resources the list would require. Who among the eight teachers on the faculty would handle the additional planning, counseling, instructing and community outreach called for in the plan?
Still, it was an interesting survey. Some of the findings were:
- About three fourths of the graduates were living with their parents. More girls than boys.
- Thirty-four percent were married. About 28 percent of these were living with their parents.
- About one-fourth of the graduates found jobs immediately after graduation, and the boys were unemployed on an average for less than six months, while the average period of unemployment of the girls was between 13 and 18 months.
- Prominent among other types of work of interest to the graduates were secretarial and general office work, nursing, bookkeeping, and aviation (three boys wanted to be pilots).
- Seventy-two of the 94 graduates finished school before the age of 18. Some were as young as 14. In 1940, hours of work and night duty were limited for those under 18, so the Company was more likely to hire older graduates.
- Fifty-five graduates got jobs in the mill. All but four of them stated that their fathers worked in the same plant, which seems to indicate that the graduates followed the occupation of their fathers, and were assisted by them in finding employment.
- More than 55% of the graduates had fathers working in the mill: 19.2% in the weave room; 9.6% in the spinning room; 5.3% were overseers.
Only four years later these trends would change, as our boys began to leave for war and more of our girls were needed in the mill. And a decade later, the GI Bill and a changed economy provided a way for many of our returned veterans and recent graduates to afford a college education. This was both a blessing and a curse: a blessing for the individual; a curse because many of them left town for good.
This article first appeared in the Nov-Dec 2007 2007 issue of the Cliffside Historical Society’s newsletter.