I didn't set out to become a report card collector, specializing in student records from old vocational schools, but that's what's happened. In addition to the 395 Depression-era files from the Manhattan Trade School for Girls, I also stumbled across a small stash of 1950s report cards from Cass Tech, a vocational school in Detroit. (I'll explain how I found the Cass Tech files -- and will give further info on how I found the Manhattan Trade cards -- in the Slate series next month.)
By and large, the Cass Tech files aren't as interesting as the ones from Manhattan Trade -- with one exception. Each Cass Tech student record includes a "Non-Fraternity Membership Statement" like the one shown above (here's a larger view, so you can read it). It cites a 1929 state law that prohibits
any organization [in the public schools] whose active membership is composed wholly of chiefly of pupils in the public schools of this state and perpetuating itself by taking in additional members from the pupils in the public schools on the basis of the decision of its membership rather than upon the right of any pupil who is qualified by the rules of the school to be a member of and take part in any class or group exercises…
In short: Don't join a private club that excludes other kids. But if such groups were already banned, why was it necessary to make the students -- and their parents! -- sign a promise not to join them? And why was the ban enacted in the first place? Was it just to ensure that all kids would have equal access to school activities, or was there something larger at work? (If the law had been enacted in, say, 1952, it would be easy to view it as an outgrowth of McCarthyism. But it was enacted back in 1929, which doesn't seem like a particularly anti-secret society period.)
I've spoken to one Cass Tech student from this period (not the one whose signed form is shown at the top of this entry), and he had no memory of any of this. I've also tried Googling the statute in question -- the Public Acts of Michigan of 1929, Section 7664 -- to see if I could glean any legislative history, but I came up empty.
If anyone from Michigan knows more about this, I'm all ears.