The Cardinal Principles of Secondary Education were issued in 1918 by the Commission on the Reorganization of Secondary Education. The focus of this commission was to form objectives for secondary education. It was decided that segmented subjects and their subject matter were a way to achieve the decided goals but that they were not the one and only way. The commission was also instrumental in starting a standard of forming goals before reforming schools. Changes were needed because of increased enrollment in secondary schools. A new focus that would take into account individual differences, goals, attitudes, and abilities was adopted. The concept of democracy was decided on as the guide of education in America. Work on the Cardinal Principles was started in 1915 and finished in 1918. The seven Cardinal Principles of Secondary Education are as follows:

1. Health

A secondary school should encourage good health habits, give health instruction, and provide physical activities. Good health should be taken into account when schools and communities are planning activities for youth. The general public should be educated on the importance of good health. Teachers should be examples for good health and schools should furnish good equipment and safe buildings.

2. Command Of Fundamental Processes

Fundamental Processes are writing, reading, oral and written expression, and math. It was decided that these basics should be applied to newer material instead of using the older ways of doing things.

3. Worthy Home Membership

This principle "calls for the development of those qualities that make the individual a worthy member of a family, both contributing to and deriving benefit from that membership" (Raubinger, Rowe, Piper, West, 108). This principle should be taught through literature, music, social studies, and art. Co-ed schools should show good relationships between males and females. When trying to instill this principle in children the future as well as the present should be taken into account.

4. Vocation

The objective of this principle is that the student gets to know him or herself and a variety of careers so that the student can choose the most suitable career. The student should then develop an understanding of the relationship between the vocation and the community in which one lives and works. Those who are successful in a vocation should be the ones to teach the students in either the school or workplace.

5. Civic Education

The goal of civic education is to develop an awareness and concern for one's own community. A student should gain knowledge of social organizations and a commitment to civic morality. Diversity and cooperation should be paramount. Democratic organization of the school and classroom as well as group problem solving are the methods that this principle should be taught through.

6. Worthy Use Of Leisure

The idea behind this principle is that education should give the student the skills to enrich his/her body, mind, spirit and personality in his/her leisure. The school should also provide appropriate recreation. This principle should be taught in all subjects but primarily in music, art, literature, drama, social issues, and science.

7. Ethical Character

This principle involves instilling in the student the notion of personal responsibility and initiative. Appropriate teaching methods and school organization are the primary examples that should be used.

Naming these seven objectives does not "imply that the process of education can be divided into separated fields" (Raubinger, Rowe, Piper, West, 106). Therefore all of the seven principles are interrelated. In order for these principles to be successful the student must have a willingness to follow these and an ethical character that will allow this learning to take place.


Raubinger, Rowe, Piper, West. The Development Of Secondary Education. New York: Macmillan, 1969.

Prepared by Melissa Scherer