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Shopping Mall High School is a term used in reference to consumer-oriented secondary educational institutions offering an abundance of student choice within its program. This most often includes choice of schedule, classes, a wide variety of subject matter, subjulty, and extracurricular activities (sports and hobbies). Schools dubbed shopping mall high schools make such numerous and different accommodations for students in an attempt to allow students to achieve the customized, individualized education and training they desire. Shopping mall high schools offer various curricula in order to maximize holding power, graduation percentages, and customer satisfaction.
The concept of a shopping mall high school was first introduced in the best-selling 1985 book, The Shopping Mall High School : Winners and Losers in the Educational Marketplace by authors Arthur G. Powell, Eleanor Farrar, and David K. Cohen. The book is the second report from "A Study of High Schools," and is the successor volume to education reform leader Theodore Sizer's Horace's Compromise. Albert Shanker, former president of the American Federation of Teachers, called The Shopping Mall High School "a sobering analysis of current conditions in our secondary schools and how they got that way." In The Shopping Mall High School, the authors argue that high schools have come to resemble shopping malls in terms of variety, choice and neutrality. The book, often required reading for education majors in the 1980s and 1990s, exposed the realities of the comprehensive high school and set off a debate that would later incorporate themes about school vouchers and the marketplace.
As high school enrollment increased and diversified during the 20th century, researchers have concluded that standards became lower, resulting in the less-challenging and more-accommodating shopping mall high school style. In their book, The Failed Promise of the American High School 1890-1995, authors David Angus (education historian and professor in Education Studies at the University of Michigan) and Jeffrey E. Mirel (also a professor in Education Studies at the University of Michigan) report that by the 1950s, education aimed at the lowest common denominator become the norm in America's high schools.
Author and Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Southwest State University, H.M. Curtler, identifies two main factors that have resulted in "the dumbing-down of high school and college curricula" and the subsequent increase in shopping mall high schools: "the major effort in the late 1940s to focus attention in the schools on the disadvantaged student in the guise of teaching what was called real-life experience," and the correlative de-emphasis on traditional literate knowledge. This approach was linked to progressive educational theories that soon spawned the "self-esteem movement" prevalent today, turning attention away from traditional educational standards to the students themselves.
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