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  • Writer's pictureJohn Shrawder

Institutional Ethics and High School

Updated: Feb 23, 2022

Multinational surveys of happiness show that the average happiness in a nation is determined by health, income, and the strength and ethics of its institutions. The United States scores high in overall happiness but has gaps in institutions relative to other countries like Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom. To improve happiness, a high school’s goals should be to educate its students to increase the income, advance the health, and improve the institutions of the community and the nation.


Gallup and Pew Surveys. Like with other institutions, confidence in public schools has been in decline. The percentage of persons with high confidence in public schools declined from 58% in 1973 to 29% in 2019. The percent with low confidence increased from 11% to 29%. The Pew survey showed that 13% of persons had “a great deal of trust” in K-12 Principals, 32% had “not so much”, and 7% had no trust.

Phi Delta Kappa Survey. We can supplement the Gallup and Pew surveys with those of Phi Delta Kappa. For over 50 years Phi Delta Kappa has surveyed Americans over age 18 on their attitudes about public schools. The 2017 survey will be discussed frequently.

Only 24% of persons give public schools nationally a high grade of “A” or “B”. However, the public give their local schools higher grades. About 62% of parents give schools in their community a high grade while only 48% of non-parents give their schools a high grade. There is a gap of about 25 percent between the public grade of the nation’s school system and the grade of their local school.

Survey participants noted that the biggest problems facing schools are Lack of funding (22%), standards (9%), the lack of good teachers (7%), violence (6%), and drugs (6%).

About 82% of Americans feel public high schools should offer more job and career skills in place of academic classes. The General Public rates the goals of high school as follows.

Private, parochial and home schooling. Parents increasing are seeking alternatives to public schools. According to the national center for education statistics, about 10% of parents currently send their children to private or parochial schools. The PDK survey shows that 39% of parents would sent their children to these schools if they were publicly funded.

According to the US Department of Education about 3.4% of American children are home-schooled. Main reasons for home schooling include

  • A concern about the environment of schools

  • A desire to provide moral instruction

  • A dissatisfaction with academic instruction in schools

  • A desire to provide religious instruction


Like most other institutions, public trust in schools has also declined. Trust in local schools is higher than trust in average schools in the US.

The Public is Wrong—Schools are Performing Better than the Public believes. School leaders must consider that public opinions may be misguided. They must do more to educate the general public on the value of schools to all communities. Leaders must see themselves as representatives of the entire school system not just their own school.

The Public is Right –School need to Improve. However, they must also consider that the loss of confidence may be justified. Schools are funded by all persons in a society so schools need to be responsive to surveys like this.

Opinions of persons age 14 to 30. The opinions of 14 to 30 year olds are rarely solicited. The decline in trust in schools since the 1970s could be because high schools since the 1970’s have measured schools using metrics like test scores, graduation rates, and college acceptance rates. These measure people’s success at age 18 but may not meaningful to people after age 18. Furthermore, schools may not always be aware of the desires of their own students. Schools need to reach out to alumni to understand how their programs have helped people after graduation. This requires schools seek out newer measures on school quality that reflects the quality of student’s lives after leaving high school.

School Metrics. The metrics discussed in the surveys include more Interpersonal skills, job skills, advanced academic classes, arts and music classes and extracurricular activities. These metrics address actions of school can take between age 14 and 18. They do not connect these activities to their potential benefits to a person after age 18. Nevertheless, school leaders should be aware of these metrics. The connections of these metrics to the life of students after age 18 will be discussed later.


The opinion of this course is that the high school curriculum should lead to increased happiness. Happiness is affected by institutions. The happiness surveys show that the Americans are more likely than many advanced countries to feel their institutions are corrupt and untrustworthy. Distrust in institutions has been growing since the 1970s. This is driving down happiness. To improve happiness in America, Science, English Language Arts, and the Social Science curriculum need to address the following issues:

  1. Inaccurate Perception. Is the decline in trust legitimate or were people naïve in the 1970s? What are the proper ethical roles of each institution if it functioned better? How do people form correct and incorrect opinions about an institution?

  2. Institutional Declines. Have institutions become worse? What is the harm caused by this distrust? How should these institutions perform? How should they be changed in the future? How have some institutions escaped the decline in public confidence?

  3. How should individuals rely on each institution? When is an institution harmful?

  4. To lower corruption in the United States, what principles should students abide by if they choose to participate in a particular institution?

  5. What can average individuals do to improve institutions and public trust?

Students need a curriculum that explores these issue. What is the value of each institution? To what extent are they serving the general public? How could average people help to improve them? To improve institutions in the future, traditional courses should be altered in the following ways:

English language Arts – Cover Confidence in The Media

Natural Sciences – Cover Confidence in Science and Medicine

Social Studies – Cover Confidence in the following institutions

  • Education – including high school, college and primary schools

  • Family structures

  • Religion

  • Law

  • Charity

  • Business and finance

  • Government

  • Police and Military

Students need a curriculum that explores these issue.

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