Thursday, August 25, 2011

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A few posts ago I featured the odd-seeming Non-Fraternity Membership Statement that was included in the student records I found at the old Cass Tech building, an abandoned school in Detroit (the photo shown above is what Cass looked like when two friends and I explored it last summer; most of it has since been torn down). Two readers have helped shed a bit of light on this.

First, Erik Shmukler found the original 1929 Michigan law that served as the basis for the anti-fraternity statement, along with a 1930 court case that affirmed its constitutionality. Here's his summary of his findings:

The brief synopsis of the reasoning behind the law is that these organizations [i.e., fraternities and such] were considered disruptive to the educational atmosphere of public schools. I was hoping for some amazingly worded stuff that referenced some kind of sensational crime wave perpetrated by marauding gangs of high school frat boys, but alas, I can't find anything other than what seems to be a bunch of adults concerned that kids wouldn't pay attention in school.

It seems that the biggest change since 1929 is that the onus is now on the school officials to make sure there are no secret organizations, as opposed to penalizing kids for joining them. I'm trying to connect the dots between 1929 and the present day in terms of changing the focus from kids to the adults, but I'm having trouble filling that in.

Interesting. You can see the original law and excerpts from the court case -- all of which Erik copied and pasted from Lexis-Nexis -- here.

In addition, Chris Powers turned up a 1956 issue of the National Association of Secondary School Principals Bulletin that includes a 12-page article about secret societies in public schools. Unfortunately, the article costs $25 to view -- too steep for me. But if anyone out there feels the urge, let us know what you find.

Big thanks to Erik and Chris for their contributions -- much appreciated.


  1. I have read the article about Secret Societies in American High Schools. The stated reasons for opposing these clubs were 1) the undemocratic nature of the clubs 2) reinforcement of undesirable class distinctions, 3) ill effects on student performance and attendance. One of the school's purposes was seen to be the promotion of democratic ideals that rose above class distinctions. The clubs were described as either "secret" societies or Greek letter societies. There was no history of hooliganism or vandalism cited. There were some odd comments as well about the need for "heterosexual" activities and the sometimes "immoral" activities of the clubs. I'm not sure if this was coded talk about homosexuals or not.

    By the way, loving this blog.

  2. Very nice review! I hope you can explore this topic more.
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