Secondary Schools

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1958 Article

The term "high school" is a technical one in American education. In the history of American secondary education, Latin schools were slowly replaced by English grammar schools, which came to be known as academies. In New England the academy movement began with the establishment of the Phillip's Academies in 1778 and 1781. By 1833, 14 states had established 497 such schools. The academy movement attained its greatest influence in the period 1830-1870. The academy generally was a democratic school, with a broad curriculum, supported by fees and gifts, operated as a boarding school, open to boys and girls, and established by groups of private citizens. The academies were slowly replaced by the "free academies," supported by taxes, and by high schools. In 1821 Boston established an English classical school which three years later came to be known as the "English High School" and which introduced the specific use of the term which has become universal for this type of school in the United States. The essential features of the high schools were support through public taxation and control through publicly elected officials. In time the name was adopted for some Canadian secondary schools, although the more common name is Collegiate Institute.

Strictly speaking Mennonite parochial secondary schools were therefore not high schools, although the term has been used in a number of instances as shown below: Eden Bible and High School; Alberta Mennonite High School; Bethany Christian High School. The term "academy" has been generally used for Mennonite secondary schools.  -- MG

1990 Update

In the United States and Canada secondary schools are more commonly called high schools and usually contain grades 9-12, although some high schools may have only grades 10-12. Secondary schools, both public and private (church), have been established in other parts of the world but this article will deal only with those located in Canada and the United States.

In North America the first secondary schools were religiously oriented although today most of the secondary schools are public schools. In the United States, public secondary schools developed largely after the Civil War. During the latter half of the 19th century, as state governments established public elementary schools, Mennonites endeavored to meet the next need, secondary education. Therefore, the first era for the establishment of Mennonite secondary schools was in the 1890-1920 period when academies were begun. Most of these later became colleges.

Table 1. Academies (secondary schools) which later became colleges, 1893-1920

School Location Established Control

Bethel College North Newton, Ks. 1893 General Conference Mennonite Church
Bluffton College Bluffton, Ohio 1914 General Conference Mennonite Church
Eastern Mennonite University Harrisonburg, Va. 1917 Mennonite Church Board of Education
Freeman Junior College Freeman, S.D. 1903 Corp. of Mennonite Churches of S.D.
Goshen College Goshen, Ind. 1903 Mennonite Church Board of Education
Messiah College Grantham, Pa. 1909 Brethren in Christ
Tabor College Hillsboro, Ks. 1908 Mennonite Brethren
Upland College Upland, Cal. 1920 Brethren in Christ


The second era for the development of Mennonite high schools began about 1940 and lasted approximately 20 years. The high schools of this era were established in direct opposition to public high schools. This differed from the earlier era which established academies because there were no public high schools. The schools founded after World War II were usually located in large Mennonite communities and were often organized and controlled by district conferences. The support for Mennonite high schools developed because of the pressures brought on by World War II, compulsory school attendance laws, and the gradual assimilation of Mennonites into society.

Most of the later Mennonite high schools were designed to protect, safeguard, and isolate Mennonite youth from secular society. If students were placed in a carefully controlled environment during the impressionable and formative teenage years, there was a better chance that they would remain in the Mennonite church. In addition, the Mennonite high schools were established as a reaction to the decline of the religious or moral element in public education. In many rural Mennonite communities the public high school student body was greatly influenced by Mennonites. However, with an increasingly industrialized society, with a growing mobility, and with the importation of threatening ideas into the Mennonite community there developed a greater need for Mennonite high schools. One school's stated purpose as it began early in this era was, "to counteract the influence of the public school on the youth, especially the far-reaching effects of militarism." Later, this same school stated its purpose in a more positive way, as did most Mennonite high schools: "to correlate the teachings of the Bible with all other subjects, to provide a proper learning environment, to foster an evangelistic spirit, and to prepare young people for future service in the church and community." Although General Conference Mennonites in Canada are involved in a variety of secondary schools, in the United States it is primarily the Mennonite Church (MC) and, to a lesser extent, the Mennonite Brethren, who have been involved with private Christian secondary schools.

In the 1970s and 1980s a national movement for the establishment of Christian schools did not leave Mennonites unaffected. Even though every school is established for unique reasons, these latter schools were often formed as a reaction to public school conditions. None of these schools were established by conferences; rather, they were established by congregations or special interest groups.

Table 2. North American Mennonite Secondary Schools, 2001

School Location Established Control

*Academia Menonita San Juan, P.R. 1961 Academia Menonita School Board
*Academia Menonita Betania Aibonito, P.R. 1947 Association of Mennonite Schools of Puerto Rico
Anchor Christian High School Shippensburg, PA 1972 Anchor Christian School Board of Directors
*Belleville Mennonite School Belleville, PA 1945 Belleville Mennonite School Board of Trustees
*Bethany Christian Schools Goshen, IN 1954 Indiana-Michigan Mennonite Conference
*Central Christian Schools Kidron, Ohio 1961 Ohio Conference of the Mennonite Church
*Christopher Dock Mennonite High School Lansdale, PA 1953 Franconia Mennonite Conference
Clinton Christian High School Goshen, IN 1950 Clinton Christian School Association
Conestoga Christian School Morgantown, PA 1952 Conestoga Christian School Board of Trustees
*Eastern Mennonite High School Harrisonburg, VA 1917 Virginia Mennonite Conference
Elliott Prairie Christian School Woodburn, OR 1948 Hopewell Mennonite Church
Faith Mennonite High School Kinzers, PA 1975 Faith Mennonite High School Board of Directors
*Freeman Academy Freeman, SD 1903 Freeman Academy Board of Trustees
Greenwood Mennonite High School Greenwood, DE 1928 Greenwood Mennonite churches
Hartville Christian High School Hartville, Ohio 1956 Hartville Conservative Mennonite Church
*Iowa Mennonite School Kalona, IA 1944 Iowa-Nebraska Mennonite Conference
Johnstown Christian School Hollsopple, PA 1944 Johnstown Christian School Board
Kraybill High School Mt. Joy, PA 1948 Lancaster Mennonite Conference
*Lancaster Mennonite School Lancaster, PA 1942 Lancaster Mennonite Conference, Atlantic Coast Conference
Maranatha Christian School Watsontown, PA 1971 Maranatha Christian School Corp.
#Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute Winnipeg, MB 1945 Mennonite Brethren Churches of Manitoba
#Mennonite Collegiate Institute Gretna, MB 1889 Association of Mennonite Churches of Manitoba
#Mennonite Educational Institute Abbotsford, BC 1944 Mennonite Brethren
Mountain View Christian School Springs, PA 1973 Mountain View Mennonite Church
*New Covenant Christian School Lebanon, PA 1999?  
*Philadelphia Mennonite School Philadelphia, PA    
Plumstead Christian School Plumsteadville, PA 1948 Plumstead Christian School Board of Trustees
*#Rockway Mennonite Collegiate Kitchener, ON 1945 Rockway Mennonite School Association
#Rosthern Junior College Rosthern, SK 1905 Rosthern Junior College Board
*Sarasota Christian School Sarasota, FL 1958 Sarasota Mennonite churches
*Shalom Christian Academy Chambersburg, PA 1976 Shalom Christian Academy Association
#Steinbach Christian High School Steinbach, MB   Steinbach Bible College Board
Terre Hill Mennonite High School Terre Hill, PA 1985 Terre Hill Mennonite High School Board
*#United Mennonite Educational Institute Leamington, ON 1945 United Mennonite Educational Institute Board
*Western Mennonite School Salem, OR 1945 Pacific Northwest Mennonite Conference
#Westgate Mennonite Collegiate Winnipeg, MB 1958 Westgate Mennonite Collegiate Board

*Member of the Mennonite Secondary Education Council
#Member of Canadian Association of Mennonite Schools

The 25-year record of the enrollment in Mennonite Church (MC) high schools, 1961-86, shows almost constant growth, despite a declining Mennonite Church (MC) high school population pool in the 1970s and 1980s. By the 1980s one out of three Mennonite Church (MC) youth was in a Mennonite high school. From 25 percent in 1961-62, the percentage of Mennonite Church adherents of high school age who attended Mennonite high schools dropped to 20 percent in 1969-70, but rose steadily after that point, reaching 36.6 percent in 1986.

Mennonite secondary schools have a range of philosophies and emphases. Most, however, would not philosophically support the earlier premise of existing primarily to protect Mennonite young people. The emphases would be much more on integrating faith with all other dimensions of life and to prepare for service in the church and world. The Mennonite Board of Education's (MC) philosophy of education states, "The people of God are a distinct people with a distinct calling and unique educational goals. They must educate to transmit their history and make their identity clear; train in the skills needed to carry on the work they consider important; teach the values they consider important; help the young develop his/her own personal view of reality."

The Mennonite Secondary Educational Council (MSEC) was officially organized in 1961 as the body to which many of the Mennonite high schools belong. MSEC established the following goals for itself: (1) to stimulate long-range planning and goal-setting; (2) to promote understanding of and growth in Christian education with a Mennonite-Anabaptist perspective; (3) to provide and/or direct educational research on behalf of the member schools; (4) to stimulate curriculum development efforts; (5) to provide for personal fellowship of chief school administrators; (6) to establish and maintain a strong relationship with Mennonite Board of Education in order to coordinate the educational efforts of the schools as they relate to the colleges and congregations, and (7) to organize and carry out efforts beneficial to the individual schools, administrators, board members, faculties, and students. These purposes are regularly carried out through a number of programs and activities including an annual Mennonite high school music festival, a biennial teachers' convention, biennial Mennonite high school board workshop, and regular reports to and meetings with the Mennonite Board of Education (MC).


Bauman, Harold E. "Why Do We Have Church High Schools?", paper presented at the meeting of the Mennonite Board of Education, Lansdale, PA, October 1965.

"Census of Mennonite High-School-Age Youth, 1962-87" and "Mennonite High School Enrollments, 1961-87," unpublished material compiled by Mennonite Board of Education (MC), 1987.

Hartzler, John E. Education Among the Mennonites of America. Danvers, IL: Central Publishing Board, 1925.

Hertzler, Silas. "Attendance in Mennonite Secondary Schools and Colleges." Mennonite Quarterly Review 27 (1952): 280-98.

Hertzler, Silas. "Mennonite Parochial Schools," in Proceedings of the Seventh Annual Conference on Mennonite Cultural Problems. Tabor College, Hillsboro, KS, 1949: 68-79.

Hooley, William D. "A Comparison of the Values, Attitudes, and Beliefs, of Mennonite Youth Who Attended A Church-Related High School and Those Who Attended Public High Schools." DEA diss., Western Michigan U., 1974.

Kraybill, Donald B. Ethnic Education: The Impact of Mennonite Schooling. San Francisco: R and E Research Associates, Inc., 1977.

Miller, Ira E. "The Development and the Present Status of Mennonite Secondary and Higher Education in the United States and Canada." DEd diss., Temple U., 1953.

Wenger, A. D. Who Should Educate Our Children? (pamphlet, Mar. 24, 1926).

Current statistics and addresses are found in the directories published by the various Mennonite denominations.

Author(s) Melvin Gingerich
William D. Hooley
Date Published 1990

Cite This Article

MLA style

Gingerich, Melvin and William D. Hooley. "Secondary Schools." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1990. Web. 28 Sep 2020.

APA style

Gingerich, Melvin and William D. Hooley. (1990). Secondary Schools. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 28 September 2020, from


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol 2, p. 740; v. 5, pp. 803-806. All rights reserved.

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