Scholars and practitioners have recently asked whether large comprehensive high schools contribute to student alienation. At the same time, some school administrators have stressed the importance of school spirit to create a powerful sense of community and as a way to mitigate feelings of student detachment and anonymity. This paper considers a historical case from 1916-1941 at Ithaca High School, in Ithaca New York, to see how students and administrators defined school spirit. Using an underutilized artifact—school newspapers—it uncovers the social dynamics within the school. Select students writing in the school newspaper articulated three dimensions of school spirit: participation, loyalty, and pride. Their views reflected those of the administration. Frequent complaints about the perceived absence of school spirit, however, indicate that not all students at I.H.S. embraced this seemingly elusive ideal. This paper suggests that the ideal of school spirit never came to full fruition at I.H.S., because its very definition was undemocratic and static. It concludes that in order for current and future attempts to establish and nurture school spirit in comprehensive high schools to succeed, they must include all members, and that its definition must be open to revision.


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pp. 42-51
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